Ant-Man and the Wasp won’t win any awards come winter, but it does something vital for a summer movie: it knows how to entertain.
Director Peyton Reed does a lot of things right in order to achieve the high level of entertainment value, even if the movie’s lasting power may not be on the scale of other Marvel Cinematic Universe films, i.e. Captain America: Civil War or Avengers: Infinity War.
It doesn’t slow down. Though the movie runs around two hours in length, it doesn’t show. Each scene manages to flow from one to the other, moving with nonstop action that never gets overwhelming or hard to follow, other than a little of the pseudo-science babble. The plot itself, mostly just a series of obstacles in a rescue attempt of Hope van Dyne’s mother from the Quantum Realm (just go with it), occurs two years after Ant-Man’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War and therefore sees a house-arrested Scott Lang trying to behave by staying indoors just a few more days. But surprise, surprise, as that’s not to be. He and Hope, both shrinking and growing in a blink of the eye, must find Janet van Dyne (an underused Michelle Pfeiffer), Hope’s long-lost mother. Along for the ride are Hope’s father, Dr. Hank Pym (a solid Michael Douglas), and Scott’s cohorts from the first Ant-Man, the enjoyably comical and fast-talking Luis (the always exuberant Michael Pena), Kurt (a funnier David Dastmalchian), and Dave (owning his little screen time is T.I. Harris). Each of the crew has a little more to do this time around, and it culminates in creating a string of patter that matches the pace of the film.
New to this movie are the always welcome Walton Goggins (who adds as much humor as he does menace) as a baddie and one of the many aforementioned obstacles; Hannah John-Kamen as antagonist Ghost; Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Bill Foster; and Randall Park as Jimmy Woo, the F.B.I. detective assigned to make sure Scott stays at home and also additional funnyman for a movie full of them. (Comic fans will recognize some of those names, though as with many MCU films, there are slight variations from the page.) There’s not a lot to add about the villains. They come off as less of pure evil than just roadblocks, which works for a Marvel movie that wants to be more of a comedy than others.
Another plus for Ant-Man and the Wasp is its use of Hope van Dyne as the Wasp. Evangeline Lilly shines as she carries at least half of the film, especially in moments where she displays that deep connection to a lost, possibly dead, mother, the beating heart of this fluffy summer ride.
Though the film uses a lot of CGI for obvious reasons, it never gets in the way of the action, particularly Ant-Man and Wasp’s continued now-you-see-me, now-you-don’t routine of fighting. Unlike the ending of Black Panther earlier this year (or a worse perpetrator: any scene from any Transformers film), the brawls aren’t hard to follow. That’s an impressive feat considering how much your eye has to take in with the Ant-Man franchise’s movements. Having to know exactly who is where and what size things are isn’t a strain at all.
One of the few flaws seems to be sitting on the character of Janet van Dyne until very little late in the film. The character seems to have an importance that’s bound to be explored in the future of the MCU and Pfeiffer almost feels wasted. It’s a minor quibble, but Janet van Dyne only appears in the third act; however, MCU fans will rejoice in the customary mid and end-credits scenes.
Overall, Ant-Man and Wasp may not have the staying power of other movies; even some from the summer of 2018 in comparison seem much more bold and memorable. What it does do well is bring a lot of joy in its own comedic, brisk, and breezy way.