Ant-Man and the Wasp,” a rescue story with personal rather than galactic stakes, could be seen as anticlimactic on the heels of “Avengers: Infinity War.” But to me, it’s refreshing. This second “Ant-Man” entry, again directed by Peyton Reed, knows its strengths: Action sequences in which people and objects can grow big or small at the press of a button or the toss of a disc, and lovable characters.
It was almost a crime that 2015’s “Ant-Man” relegated the Wasp (“Lost’s” Evangeline Lilly) to a supporting role, but the sequel makes up for it. While she’s an odd choice to be the first female title hero in an MCU film, Hope/The Wasp proves herself worthy as she fulfills her familial destiny and dons her own size-changing suit.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” has marginally more laughs than the original, and they come from a variety of sources. Scott/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) is stuck at home with an ankle monitor, as per a court order for violating the Sakovia Accords in “Captain America: Civil War” (2016). Circumstances force him to leave, and FBI agent Woo (Randall Park) is constantly trying to catch Scott out of his apartment. It’s not always easy to get back ahead of the feds, as his suit is not in peak form.
Other chuckles come from Scott never quite understanding the talk of the quantum realm spouted by Hope and her dad, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas); and Scott’s friend Luis (Michael Pena) thinking this whole dangerous adventure is a blast. Also, Luis brings back “Whasaaaaa!” from those old Budweiser commercials; that’s worth a half-banana right there.
The film’s purest villain is Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), who is a clichéd industrial thief, but “Ant-Man and the Wasp” leans into the cliché and draws humor from it. Burch needs Luis to spill the beans about the location of Hank’s lab. When a henchman pulls out a truth serum kit, Luis thinks it’s cool that he’s about to be dosed with truth serum.
A more compelling antagonist is Ava, a.k.a. Ghost, largely because the perpetually disheveled Hannah John-Kamen does a nice job portraying Ava’s pain of constantly phasing. Imagine “X-Men’s” Kitty Pryde without any control over her power.
Playing behind all of this is that personal rescue story I mentioned. Our heroes aim to go into the quantum realm and find Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), Hank’s wife and Hope’s mom, who has been stuck there for three decades.
There’s so much our heroes have to juggle, and so many opposing forces on their heels. The quantum tunnel is in Hank’s building, which has been shrunk, and which three different cadres of bad guys aim to get hold of. On top of all this, San Francisco law enforcement can’t be too thrilled with the destruction in the streets.
It’s rare to find an action film with things you haven’t seen before, but “Ant-Man and the Wasp” – like its predecessor — constantly delivers amazing sights thanks to its premise. Hope’s SUV goes miniature during a chase, then goes regular-size while underneath the enemy’s vehicle, flinging it away. Hope enlarges a Pez dispenser to wipe out pursuers. Scott goes giant-sized to track down a ferry in the bay.
While people who love the “John Wick” films can delight in this action, the Disney Channel set can enjoy the family themes. Without getting saccharine, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” spends time on the bond between Scott and daughter Cassie (the adorable Abby Ryder Fortson), who has absorbed his trait of wanting to help people. I like that the romance between Scott and Hope is never played for conflict. They like each other, and that’s that, and Rudd and Lilly have the chemistry to sell it. It’s sometimes a source of laughs, as Hank is annoyed when their moony eyes get in the way of the next step in the mission.
There’s no question “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is a corporate product rather than a visionary film. But it’s not a cynical product. The team of five writers confidently craft the rhythms of the plot, action, relationships and humor. You need not shrink in your seat if you enjoy this ride.