The first two Marvel movies of 2018 focused on large-scale rivalries. Black Panther, the best superhero movie of the year so far, culminated in a battle over the nation of Wakanda while Infinity War ended with a battle to stop Thanos from destroying half the population.
Like its 2015 predecessor, Ant Man and the Wasp focuses on a subject far more intimate: a family.
Set after the events of The Avengers: Civil War, Paul Rudd returns as Scott Lang. Lang became Ant-Man in the previous installment but as this feature begins, he’s alienated from Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope (Evangeline Lilly), the two people who helped him develop his skills. Lang is also under house arrest after engaging in the airport battle during Civil War.
When Hope and her father realize there may be a way for them to re-unite with Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), Hope’s mother and Hank’s wife, the duo reconnect with Scott to rescue her.
The family connections don’t stop there as Cassie (Abby Ryder Forston), Scott’s daughter, is also featured prominently here. One of this movie’s first scenes shows Scott bonding with his daughter and riding a homemade slide with her through his house. Unlike some of the other Marvel heroes, it’s obvious that Scott isn’t the most heroic superhero in the universe. He’s an affable thief, who was chosen for the position and he’s learning how to become a better person because of it.
Much of the plot surrounds the quantum realm, a subatomic world where Janet might be trapped. Hope and Hank want to use Scott’s knowledge about that world (which Scott visited in the previous film) to find Janet.
That mission leads Hope to make a deal with Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), a well-known criminal. That association sets Sonny up as a villain here. Sonny wants to use the science from the Pym lab for his own nefarious purposes. Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), another potential villain, crashes a meeting between Hope and Sonny as she too wants to take advantage of the Pym’s research facility.
Sonny and Ghost have their personal agendas here but there are also other storylines here as well, including a side plot about the FBI attempting to catch Scott outside his home.
The film’s fun atmosphere is sometimes slowed down by all of the disparate stories, which leaves some of the actors with little to do. For instance, Goggins is barely used here and only appears when the plot demands that another bad guy appear onscreen.
The core storyline — about the attempt to relocate Janet — is far more interesting than the side plots that surround it.
There are a few great supporting turns here though with Michael Pena really stealing the show as Luis, Scott’s friend. Pena’s character has great material, letting the gifted actor embrace his natural charm. One particular highlight focuses on Luis telling a story with his voice serving as the mouthpiece for all of the characters. Randall Park also provides some nice comic relief as Jimmy Woo, a detective trying to catch Scott breaking the rules of his house arrest.
The film’s light and breezy nature is undercut with so many plot threads but it steal offers a few great laughs and a satisfying cast. Rudd is charming as usual but Evangeline Lilly also shines as her character transforms into the wasp. It’s wonderful to see the duo teaming up as superheroes. These are two characters focused on their families and that brings a personal resonance to the whole story.
The film is also aided by some great special effects, drums-playing ants and a few solid action sequences.
Ant-Man and the Wasp doesn’t attempt to offer a large-scale (pardon the pun) superhero film. It finds its power in focusing on its core families (Scott and his daughter and Hope and her parents) and when it focuses on those characters, it works quite well.