Three years ago, Marvel Studios introduced “Ant-Man” on the big screen, a concept that seemed like it would be rather silly when lifted from the pages of the comics, but which actually worked pretty well thanks to a dazzling display of incredible special effects, lots of thrilling action, and a great cast. Of course, the film’s success prompted the inevitable sequel, which brings us to “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” a film that hopes to serve as a bit of lighter entertainment following the heavily morose (though thoroughly-entertaining) “Avengers: Infinity War.” After so much doom and gloom, who wouldn’t want to be reminded of how much fun the Marvel Cinematic Universe can be?
Starting off in 1987, we witness Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), wife of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), getting stuck in the quantum realm during a mission to stop a soviet missile. Years later, after the events of the first film, Hank thinks he has come up with a way to save his wife, now that he knows she may still be alive. With the help of his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), they go about trying to build a machine that will take them to her. Meanwhile, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) remains under house arrest for the part he played in the fight in Germany (during “Captain America: Civil War”). One night he has a dream about the quantum realm that has him seeing through the eyes of Janet, which causes him to contact Hank and Hope, subsequently pulling him into the rescue mission.
While trying to obtain a component for the machine from a rather shady source, Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), Hope finds herself under attack by a mysterious phasing individual known as Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). We eventually learn that her real name is Ava, and that her one goal is to try and return herself to normal using Hank’s quantum equipment, which is neatly contained in his shrinkable lab. With Ghost coming at them from one side and Sonny coming at them from the other, our heroes must once again use every fancy trick they have to finally bring Janet home.
The original “Ant-Man” had been a pretty fun experience, and even though it felt like a somewhat lighter Marvel film than usual (in tone and in plot), it still managed to provide enough thrills for most of the comic book fans out there due to the stunning VFX work, which one can be forgiven for saying felt like it was the real star of the film. When it comes to the sequel, the marvelous special effects are once again on full display, turning each action sequence into a stunning presentation as Scott and Hope use their special suits to change size at will throughout numerous battle sequences. On top of that, we get the new addition of Ghost, who can phase through solid objects, making it rather difficult to go against her in a fight.
Just like the previous film, the story is once again a little light. Not so much in its emotional impact, but more so plot-wise. Presumably they wanted to leave plenty of room for the seemingly non-stop action sequences, which is fine since they are quite well done, but when the film is one of the shortest in the entire MCU (running around 108 minutes without credits), it does become noticeable when most of the film is devoted to fighting, car chases, and the like. Again, this isn’t that big of a problem, for the film is pretty entertaining for its relatively short runtime, but just like the original, it’s probably fair to say that it’s not one of the more memorable films in the Marvel Universe.
The cast remains a highlight of the series, with returning members like Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Douglas doing fine work, while Michael Pena provides the film’s funniest sequences. The newcomers were also well-chosen, including Laurence Fishburne as a former colleague of Hank’s, Hannah John-Kamen as Ava, Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet, and Walton Goggins as Sonny Burch, a stand-in villain who’s out to get the technology for himself. It is a little disappointing to find Goggins stuck in another forgettable villain role like this (similar to the recent “Tomb Raider” reboot), but at least it’s in a much better film this time. Overall, the cast is top-notch, but then again, that’s something we’ve just come to expect from Marvel at this stage.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” may be light fare when compared to the other Marvel films, but just like its predecessor, it still manages to pack a pretty big punch where it counts. It’s fun, exciting, action-packed, and highly-entertaining, which should be more than enough to please the fans, who now have to wait a whopping eight months until the next entry (“Captain Marvel”) hits theaters. Have we seen the last of the solo “Ant-Man” films? It’s a little hard to say, but it seems safe to assume that he will be playing some kind of role in “Avengers 4” next year given what we’re left with here. We’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out as the MCU continues to expand into new territory. 3/4 stars.