Given the cultural significance of “Black Panther” and the sheer scope of “Avengers: Infinity War,” I feel this one was always going to play small-scale third fiddle…
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is the sequel to the 2015 film “Ant-Man” and features Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly reprising their roles as the title characters. Michael Peña, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Tip “T.I.” Harris, David Dastmalchian, Abby Ryder Fortson and Michael Douglas also return as Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen, Randall Park, Michelle Pfeiffer and Laurence Fishburne join the cast. In the film, Ant-Man and the Wasp must hunt down a stolen piece of technology in order to try and save Douglas’ wife from being trapped in the quantum realm (in layman’s terms, she shrunk so small she has been stuck between two atoms for 30 years). Peyton Reed returns to direct.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first “Ant-Man” film and actually think it is one of Marvel’s weaker outings. It just is never as inventive, clever or funny as it thinks it is and plays out like an “Iron Man” remake on a lesser scale. I wasn’t expecting too much from this sequel, even if Marvel is on a streak right now of putting out films that are changing the superhero landscape for good (“Thor: Ragnorok” and the aforementioned “Black Panther” and “Infinity War”), but maybe it was those low expectations that made “Ant-Man and the Wasp” pretty enjoyable.
Paul Rudd is perfect in most everything he does and is really one of the only actors who could pull off a superhero like Ant-Man. He is funny and reluctant yet brave and loyal and is able to have natural chemistry with anyone he is sharing a scene with. Michael Peña, a fan favorite from the first film, returns and again has some standout moments of ADD energy while Michael Douglas is given a few more chances to earn some laughs while also carrying the film’s more emotional scenes. Newcomer Randall Park was probably my favorite addition playing the FBI agent assigned to keep an eye on Rudd following his house arrest, and he without a doubt provides the film with its funniest moments (side note: get me a Park and Rudd “Odd Couple” spin-off show now, please).
Aside from Park, all the newcomers to the cast feel like useless additions that are only there to push the plot. Hannah John-Kamen is the film’s main antagonist but her goals almost feel like a side quest and really only exist to give the film a faux sense of urgency, while Michelle Pfeiffer and Laurence Fishburne portray people from Douglas’ past that, while the mention of their characters is important to the plot, their actual presence is not.
And that is really the film’s biggest issue, that there is no urgency or real weight. The entire plot takes place over about a day and there are certain characters that feel added for the sake of runtime or because the producers wanted to see a tiny car turn into a big car and hurt some bad guys.
That being said, the action sequences are cool (as far, few and in between as they sometimes seem to be) and the going from big-to small-to big again gag is still amusing form the first film.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” was never going to mean as much, have as much to say or be as charismatic as any of Marvel’s other tentpoles but that’s OK. Watching it is more often than not a blast and even if it fades quickly from mind a little (no ant pun intended) mid-summer distraction to hold us over until “Avengers 4” isn’t so much of a bad thing.
Critic’s Grade: B