Ant-Man And The Wasp

US (2018) Dir. Peyton Reed

The smallest superhero is back for another big screen adventure following on from his debut in 2015 and his appearance in Captain America: Civil War. Comic book fatigue is setting in for many filmgoers but the premise behind Ant-Man is so unique it might just be able to hold it off, for a while at least.

Set after the events of Civil War, Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) is under a two-year house arrest. Meanwhile Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) are trying to open a tunnel to the quantum realm where they believe Hanks’ wife and Hope’s mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) has been trapped since 1987. Having been in the quantum realm himself, Scott has a dream featuring Janet despite not having met her before and contacts Hank.

Realising this is Janet trying to contact them through Scott, Hank and Hope enlist Scott to help with their work, except their technology is stolen by a suited figure named Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) able to phase between solid objects. Ghost needs to enter the quantum realm to cure her or die, but both plans are compromised by black market criminal Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) wanting the technology for himself.

Ant-Man And The Wasp requires a little recall of the first film and Ant-Man’s contribution to Civil War in order to get some of the references and put names to faces unless you’ve watched the first film multiple times or have a photographic memory. It’s not a vital requirement though as we soon get into action and the characters as always are on hand with some well-timed exposition for us forgetful types.

The time frame of happening after Civil War is a nice touch in terms of the overall Marvel continuity since the other individual films in its wake tended to ignore it, yet raises the question why this wasn’t a standalone affair too. Not a big deal, just a thought since any references to the Avengers and SHIELD are merely incidental with little overall effect on the main story beyond Scott needing to be at home to avoid further police prosecution.

In reminding us that Scott is just a regular chap whose superhero abilities come from a suit, he has to balance being father to 10 year-old daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) with fighting crime but luckily for him, she thinks her dad being Ant-Man is cool and is inspired by him to one day become his partner in helping people. Luckily for us, this isn’t as saccharine as it sounds so we can follow this without a sick bucket.

Elsewhere the other father-daughter relationship has more pressing ramifications as the new piece of tech that will complete the operation of the tunnel to the quantum realm as well as their lab (shrunk via the nano-technology) keeps changes hands between Ghost and Burch. At first the mission was to save Janet but upon meeting Ghost and Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), an old colleague of Hank’s who is helping her, the motive becomes two fold.

Quite bafflingly, Ghost and Foster behave like villains in stealing Hank’s technology and using violent means to keep our heroes at bay, but once Ghost’s story is explained to them via a huge info dump – only Foster agrees to a truce, Ghost remains antagonistic. If she’d been more reasonable Like Foster and accepted Hank’s help, the quantum realm subplot could have been explored with greater depth.

Of course, this is a comic book film and judging by the often-simplistic script – “We’ve got to get out of here. Fast!” – and 12 rating (despite the four letter words), this is aimed at a family audience so keeping things easy to follow is the priority. This doesn’t make it any less a fun romp full of inventive action sequences thanks to the size-shifting antics of our heroes, but adults will find the one-dimensional dialogue at odds with some of the darker edges.

As the title suggests, Ant-Man has a partner this time in the Wasp, who, as you probably already know is hope but as the prologue reveals, her mother was the original Wasp to Hank’s Ant-Man. It was her sacrifice in preventing a disaster that saw her shrink to an imperceptible size and vanish into the quantum realm, and now hope has taken over the mantle, with improved capabilities, including flight.

In the current climate of pushing strong female characters, Wasp is the more kick-ass of the two, throwing kicks and punches with precision to baddies and utilising her superior technology to her advantage in getting things done. This effectively makes Ant-Man the sidekick, not Wasp as well as being the conduit for the comedy, yet nothing is lost by reversing this dynamic, instead a solid and enjoyable to watch team is formed.

This also applies to Janet, her rescue meaning more than reuniting the family – her superior scientific knowledge is necessary for helping Ghost and furthering Hank’s work. It may feel contrived but it does send a positive message to young girls that women can achieve greatness in fields usually designated to the men in the chest-beating world of comic book adventures.

For Michelle Pfeiffer this is an easy gig, spending ten minutes or so on screen whilst also fulfilling the “gravitas” star name remit currently pervasive in superhero film casts, a role shared with Laurence Fishburne. Everyone else knows there characters well enough, with Evangeline Lilly being a lot more likeable with her added responsibilities. Hannah John-Kamen is a relatively new face acquitting herself as the tortured Ghost; only Walton Goggins hams it up as pantomime villain Burch.    

A mid-credits scene teases a chilling future for the characters if a third film happens, which could be the one to move Ant-Man into the upper echelon of comic cinema. In the meantime Ant-Man And The Wasp is the sort of fun, action packed popcorn distraction one needs from time to time.