It’s amazing the difference a cohesive film production can make. 2015s Ant-Man went through several script rewrites and directors which resulted in an entertaining film that fell short of being truly great. Meanwhile, its sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp had one creative team throughout which resulted in one of the funniest, most heartfelt tales in the MCU. It takes all the aspects that made its predecessor good and refines them to amplify their greatness.
The film centers on former cat burglar Scott Lang, in the final days of his house arrest following the events of Captain America: Civil War, as he attempts to help Hank and Hope Pym without alerting the FBI or his family. As they build a machine capable of rescuing Hank’s wife Janet from the Quantum Realm, they must keep it out of the hands of black market dealer Sonny Burch and the mysterious Ava Starr/Ghost who can phase through objects.
The brilliance of the film’s title is that it refers to the two stories at play. The first is on the new Ant-Man, Scott, and his Wasp, Hope, as they learn to trust each other again so that they can fight side-by-side effectively. The second is on the original Ant-Man, Hank, and his Wasp, Janet, as they try desperately to reunite after 30 years apart. These relationships are the core of the story and are impactful even without the context of their previous appearances. Scott and Hope are clearly in love despite Hope’s pain at Scott’s betrayal whilst Hank and Janet clearly adore each other even when they aren’t on screen together. The highlight of these relationships, aside from their resolution, is when Hank, Hope, and Scott are pinpointing Janet’s location in the Quantum Realm. Janets consciousness inhabits Scott’s body and, for a brief moment, it allows her to interact with Hank and Hope. Actor Paul Rudd simply melts into this performance allowing the moment to come across as sincere whilst Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly give equally emotionally charged emotionally performances.
The final relationship that allows Ant-Man and the Wasp to stand out is that between Scott and his 10-year-old daughter Cassie. It was a highlight of Ant-Man and it’s just as impactful here. The screen lights up whenever they share a scene and Cassies desire to be a hero like her dad will pull at even the hardest of heartstrings. Their interactions are all bittersweet with the knowledge that this is the last time Scott will see her at this age. The gag about Scott being the World’s Greatest Grandma is equal parts funny and relatable. Actress Abby Ryder Fortson has really knocked this role out of the park so is definitely one to keep an eye on.
With a new film comes new characters and Ant-Man and the Wasp has some delights. FBI Agent Jimmy Woo is instantly likable with his childlike innocence and adorable interactions with Cassie which have rightfully made him a fan favourite. Sonny Burch is a slimy weasel in all the best ways with his easygoing personality and punchable demeanor. Ava Starr is an interesting villain with one of the more tragic backstories, making her actions understandable without being reasonable. Lastly, Janet is a superb addition to the cast. It’s always good to have more female role models and with her intelligence, as well as her warmth, she is certainly that. Ant-Man and the Wasp also sees the return of comedic trio Luis, Dave, and Kurt who could easily be annoying but are never given enough screentime to be so. Actor Michael Peña is marvelous at delivering Luis’ speedy monologues, which have become a highlight for this franchise.
The action scenes are some of the most creative that the MCU has to offer. The ability to shrink and grow makes both Ant-Man and the Wasp a formidle foe for enemies but it’s when that technology is used on objects that the fun really begins. There’s some superb use of shrinking when it comes to modes of transportation and living spaces with spledid use of expansion when it comes to Pez despensers. It also provides some excellent tension as the film nears its conclusion and it seems as if Scott’s luck evading the FBI has run out.
When it comes to post-credits scenes, those attached to Ant-Man and the Wasp are perfect. The first sees Scott becoming trapped in the Quantum Realm as the Pyms are turned to dust whilst the second shows several dead quiet locations. With this film being released in between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, the post-credits scenes make sense as well as bringing Scott’s timeline up to date. However, placing this film before Infinity War chronologically allows for the perfect lead-in. It serves as a spoiler for that films ending but, in doing so, paints The Avengers’ actions as pointless. In a world where the films were released chronologically, the Pyms are dusted and nobody knows why. For 6 months, the audience sits on this information until Infinity War comes out. This Thanos guy talks about eradicating half of the universe, leading to 3 hours of utter despair at the knowledge that this is what happened to the Pyms. It would have been utterly devastating but, as it is, Ant-Man and the Wasp is already a heartfelt and funny tale.