Ant-Man and the Wasp is the perfect antidote to the world changing events of Avengers Infinity War. The stakes in that movie couldn’t be higher, while Ant-Man and the Wasp have easily the lowest stakes of any superhero movie to date. It brings back all the characters from the first movie for some very personal adventures.
Ant-Man deals a lot with the fallout from Scott’s involvement in Captain America Civil War. Unlike the rest of this team, Scott took a plea deal and ended up on house arrest for a couple years. Incidentally, his involvement also put his friends, Hope Van Dyne and Hank Pym, on the run from the government as well. As the movie starts, he is days away from getting his freedom, but he also starts having dreams of Janet Van Dyne, who was lost in the Quantum Realm years before. This leads to reconnecting with his erstwhile allies and sneaking out on his sentence.
That sets the stakes for this movie. Scott has to get back to his house before he is caught violating his house arrest. Hank and Hope, meanwhile, are trying to put together a rescue mission for Janet. Then there are the villains. The first is Sonny Burch who is trying to steal Hank’s tech with the vague idea of selling it on the black market. Hank’s tech isn’t weapons, though I’m sure it could be weaponized, and Burch doesn’t have any bigger evil scheme than steal Hank’s stuff and sell it to someone else. Then there is Ghost, who needs Hank’s tech to solve her problem of turning intangible. Again, she has no great villainous plot; her goal is just as personal and as sympathetic as the good guys’.
Keeping it low stakes works for Ant-Man. It gives a lot of time for banter between Scott and his friends, a group of ex-cons running a security business, as well as between Scott and Hope and Hank. This works really well mostly because Paul Rudd, who plays Scott, is delightful. The same is true of Michael Pena. Walton Goggins, Laurence Fishburne and Michael Douglas are all also good, though none of them really get enough to do. And no movie has enough Michelle Pfeiffer. The action is largely carried by Evangeline Lilly as Hope. Scott does his part, but Hope does the majority of the fighting and is great in it. The size changing powers are visually interesting and lead to a lot of interesting fight choreography. Again, that is a plus for keeping the stakes low, with it mostly being a lot of hand to hand fighting between one or two people who can change size and a handful of thugs who can’t or with one person who can phase through solid matter.
The villain is another thing this does well. Ghost’s methods are criminal, but she is mostly just opposed to our heroes more than evil. It is easy to understand why she is getting the help that she is from certain characters. All she wants is to have her problem fixed, and she needs Hank’s tech to do it. The conflict arises because her need conflicts with the need of Hank and Hope to get Janet back. It is understandable, logical and compelling.
Where is falters, as much as it does, is that it doesn’t have a whole lot that was not already in the first movie. It re-configures some things and gives us a character in action that we didn’t get to see before, but it is mostly just more of what we’ve already seen. Still, it is well executed and mostly very funny, so it is hard to hold its lack of originality against it.
I doubt this movie will be remembered as among he cream of the Marvel crop, but Ant-Man and The Wasp seems a more compelling movie to return to than the epic but exhausting Infinity War or many of the other larger than life adventures.