Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place before the events of Avengers: Infinity War. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest for his participation in the big clash during Civil War. Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne (Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly) have cut ties with him, and are on the run from the authorities since it’s their tech that Scott used. But they have no choice but to make contact with Lang when he gets a strange vision that concerns Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), who disappeared into the quantum realm decades ago. Scott may hold the key to bringing her back, but he risks violating the terms of his arrest in order to help his former allies out.
There are complications, of course. There’s a criminal (played by Walton Goggins) who wants to get his hands on Pym’s tech. There’s also Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), a mysterious figure with strange powers who bears a grudge against the scientist. But for the most part, the movie just keeps things simple, and appropriately small. These tiny heroes aren’t standing in the way of some world-ending catastrophe. They’re just trying to rescue one person from a fantastic situation, and they seem to be having a lot of fun while doing it.
Thor: Ragnarok made pretty great strides in breaking out of the superhero movie mold, turning the epic fantasy of Thor into comedic fodder. But Ant-Man and the Wasp is as close to a conventional comedy as a superhero movie can probably get. The writers are comedy veterans, and running gags end up being the glue that holds this film together. The premise involves some high-concept sci-fi, but the plot itself is pretty straightforward: it’s one little caper after another, with the characters rushing through San Francisco, chasing after one MacGuffin after another.
What makes it work, ultimately, is that these characters are just really funny. Their banter livens up scenes, and the movie’s overall willingness to be silly creates opportunities to surprise. The weakest parts of the film are the extended bits of exposition, the writers clearly just trying to get through all of it so they can get back to telling jokes. But when the film lands on a comedic premise, it carries it through, often managing to find clever ways to fit in gags and running jokes in the middle of the big, superheroic action.
The action in the film is smaller in scale as well, but not in technical ambition. This is actually one of the better looking blockbusters in a while, since its action is so grounded. There’s some real technical wizardry going on in the camera’s depth of field, making the relatively simple shrinking effect all the more effective. And since the film is so comedic, it benefits greatly from a cast of just really funny people. Paul Rudd, of course, is great. But Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas step up their comedy game as well. And then there’s Michael Peña, who once again threatens to just run away with the whole movie. Walton Goggins is also having fun as the film’s nominal, if generally ineffectual villain. His presence always makes things better.
Ant-Man and the Wasp does get a little clunky when you look at it from a distance. The assembly just isn’t as tight as it could be, the film stalling every time it tries to introduce bigger concepts into its narrative. But on the whole, it’s very funny, and very fun. And it’s a nice little break from the rest of the goings-on of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For a little while, at least, we get a superhero movie that doesn’t have to deal with the big consequences of an intergalactic catastrophe. Scott Lang is just trying to help his friends out and be a good dad. And that’s nice.
Ant-Man and the Wasp opens today in Philippine cinemas. Photo credit: Marvel Studios.