Film Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp (USA, 2018) is the perfect antidote from the doom and gloom of Avengers: Infinity War

The superhero film boom continues! After the gloom-and-doom of Avengers: Infinity War, we now have the sequel to the miniature superhero franchise, Ant-Man and the Wasp. Free from the shackles of predetermined disappointment after the absence of original director Edgar Wright from the first film, returning director Peyton Reed and lead actor/co-writer Paul Rudd truly have the reigns to go where they want to go.

With talented franchise newcomers Michelle Pfeiffer, Lawrence Fishburne, Hannah John-Kamen, Walton Goggins and others, will the film succeed in being as good as the fun, light-footed original, if not better?

Set years after the events of Captain America: Civil War and before Avengers: Infinity War, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is in a deep struggle with the consequences of his choices as both a towering(?) superhero and as a working father.

Approached by Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), Lang must once again don the Ant-Man suit and fight alongside the Wasp. The urgent mission soon leads to the quest of finding the missing Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), who is stuck in the quantum realm that Scott ventured in and out of.

But there is more at stake, when a new antagonist by the name of Ava aka Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) comes into the picture, wanting something from Pym that could destroy the chance for the heroes to reunite with Janet again.

Does Ant-Man and the Wasp succeed as a sequel as well as an antidote to the grim feeling that came from Avengers: Infinity War? To stop people from getting antsy in the back, yes, it definitely does.

As sequels usually go, the stories get bigger, the characters become more plentiful, the action becomes more bombastic and of course, the money becomes greener (America-wise). But during the process, the filmmakers would often forget what made the original a success in the first place.

In the case of Ant-Man and the Wasp, it never forgets the novelty and nature of its premise, which is not size, but scale; it never forgets the funny interplay between the ensemble cast and it never forgets that people come to see the man in Ant-Man. Free from the variable Edgar Wright-size expectations  that the original one had, director Peyton Reed and Paul Rudd were free to do their own thing and it really shows.

One change in particular was to give the change the gender of the character of Ghost, permitting more female talent into the fray. Hannah John-Kamen, who’s known for her television appearances in Black Mirror and Killjoys, has been given very small roles in blockbuster films like Star Wars Episode VII: Force Awakens, Ready Player One (where she stood out regardless) and Tomb Raider. Finally given something substantial to do, she inhabits the role of Ghost convincingly, showing the torment and pain of the character as well as inhabit the physicality (the fight scenes in particular) with ease.

Evangeline Lilly (who was kept in the sidelines in the first film) is clearly having the time of her life, getting into the action and hi-jinks as The Wasp, and she predictably (in the best of ways), showing that she is clearly the better of the two leads. The Ant-Man films are essentially about a team but Lilly steals the spotlight.

Another change is that it’s not a rehash of the plot of the original. There’s no longer a major heist plot in the story, but more of a wild goose chase (complete with a visually striking sequence reminiscent of Fantastic Voyage) and the gadgets are all used to maximum effect. Size counts here and anything that’s large will be small and vice-versa. Action scenes involving a kitchen fight to the introduction of Ghost that involves phasing into matter and a car chase that’s part-Hot Wheels, they are all just a hoot to watch and are very well-executed.

Considering all the plots, the action that happen and the many characters that the film keeps track of, Reed and the five credited scriptwriters (Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barber, Gabriel Ferrari) keep the story on track efficiently, if not cohesively. Some plots like the Ghost subplot could have used more time to develop more, considering the potential drama behind it, but it feels quite perfunctory. But the mixed execution of the drama is easily compensated the comedy.

One particularly funny scene involves the Ant-man suit malfunctioning and his stature changes constantly, which becomes a visual treat as well as shows Rudd’s capable physical comedic chops, shown in films like Role Models and particularly, I Love You Man.

Speaking of comedic chops, Rudd shows that he’s perfectly cast as Ant-man. Given more to do in terms of physical comedy, he succeeds in flying colors. And he fits the role of playing a flawed goofball hero as well as imbuing the character with enough humanity that the audience will still want him to succeed. His scenes with Abby Ryder Fortson (who thankfully is given more to do), who plays his daughter Cassie, certainly show that and are genuinely sweet and funny.

The supporting cast still give their all, with Michael Pena standing out once again (and he does the narration gag again with an amusing twist), Walton Goggins playing an amusing scumbag of a character, Randall Park playing an amusingly inept FBI agent, Laurence Fishburne doing more here than he does in the entirety of his screen-time in the DCEU by providing a good foil to Douglas as well as solidifying the drama as well as he can in the Ghost subplot; and of course Michael Douglas actually has his own adventure subplot in the final act, which was quite satisfying. For those who expect Michelle Pfeiffer to own the spotlight will be disappointed, as she is more of a MacGuffin than an actual character.

Overall, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a load of Marvel goodness, with enjoyably spirited characters, exuberant action scenes, character improvements (from the original) and a fun comedic edge that is sure to be an antidote to high-stakes drama of Avengers: Infinity War as well as make you antsy for the inevitable sequel…?

P.S There are two credit sequences – one is an amusing stinger and another is one that references the prior films.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Ant-Man and the Wasp is in cinemas now.