In the wake of Avengers: Infinity War, the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe hangs in an uncertain balance. Luckily for True Believers, part of the emotional wound the May blockbuster inflicted is tempered with Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel to one of the media company’s most uncertain standalone superhero films, 2015’s Ant-Man. Once again brought to life by director Peyton Reed, the principle cast comprised of Paul Rudd (Scott Lang), Evangeline Lilly (Hope van Dyne), Michael Douglas (Dr. Hank Pym), Abby Ryder Fortson (Cassie), Michael Pena (Luis), is joined with Laurence Fishburne (Bill Foster), Hannah John-Kamen (Ava/Ghost), Randall Park (Donny Woo) and Michelle Pfeiffer (Janet Van Dyne). Oh, and a couple million ants to which a few receive special names by one half of the titular characters.
This review is spoiler-free.
While the first Ant-Man had to go against naysayers due to its director problems when Edgar Wright dropped out of the project, the sequel also has its own battles to contend with, first off being a sequel, and second of all, dealing with the Infinity War smog. By the end of the movie, you’ll know exactly when this one is taking place, and make sure you stay for both post-credit scenes.
In short, the movie leans in to what made the first one a sleeper success. It takes the beloved character of Luis and capitalizes on the cheery personality that made him stand out. Every single time Michael Pena is on screen is a guaranteed laugh. Another giant step in the right direction is the characterization of Hope van Dyne, the Wasp. In the first movie, she never felt fully formed despite Evangeline Lilly’s performance. In this instance, her rough side is laid out, and we delve more into what has caused her pain and her motivation. She pairs better with Scott in this movie due to these changes. Hope steps it up in aggression but he ranger almost resonates in a form of desperation, rendering her relatable rather than detached as she came off in the first movie. Plus, the entire costume design from when she is in costume to donning street clothes also helps her character become more accessible.
Paul Rudd continues to deliver the easygoingness simplicity of Scott Lang. There’s plenty of callbacks to his time spent in Germany in Captain America: Civil War and those implications cast a long shadow onto the events in Ant-Man and the Wasp. As also evident from the title, Lang isn’t the only hero to be burdened with saving the day so while he still perpetuates much of the action, his every action or inaction isn’t the be all end all. In this movie, we’re given more time with Scott and his daughter Cassie, and there are some great comic book nods and foreshadowing in their scenes.
Perhaps because Ant-Man and the Wasp follows up Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther, two of the MCU’s most stylized movies to date, the set designs feel a little lackluster. While San Francisco is a beautiful city, it doesn’t offer much to look at. The quantum realm is a stunning design once again (what up tardigrades!!) but still pales to the colorful counterparts in Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange’s final scene. The film does play nicely with sizes once again and it plays out well in the fight choreography and even physical comedy.
As for the cast newcomers, Walton Goggins’ character Sonny Burch subsists on a basic level of villainy. There’s no point in really feeling worried about what he’s going to do as the slick Southern gentle style variety of villains are about a dime a dozen at this point in cinema. The film does however continue to lean into moral ambiguity, and that’s heavily seen in Laurence Fishburne’s Dr. Bill Foster and Hannah John-Kamen’s Ava/Ghost character. Herding arcs into ambiguity allows the audience to take away and interpret for themselves rather than glean a single greater theme which many of the earlier MCU films tended to veer off into.
The bottom line for Ant-Man and the Wasp is, if you enjoyed the first, you’ll enjoy the sequel. It’s not supposed to feel high stakes for greater mankind, but it does excel in raising the stakes for a few key characters.
The film opens everywhere on July 6.