As the cinematic superhero landscape becomes increasingly dominated by complex high profile genre experiments, increasingly dramatic tales of atmospheric intensity, and increasingly convoluted cinematic universe world building, it can become a little too easy to forget that no matter how seriously the imagery of theatrical costumes put into high action scenarios can be taken, the genre ultimately caters to children above all else.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp’s” relatively low stakes, scaled back visuals, and overall contentment with being a smaller, character-driven heist narrative over the grander ambitions of its Marvel Cinematic Universe brethren may set it apart from most of its contemporaries in the genre by being less biting and weighty but it nevertheless manages to be a perfect specimen of the sincere and fun summer blockbuster family feature that it aims to be and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Following former burglar turned security advisor Scott Lang in the final days of his house arrest after his stint with the Avengers in “Captain America: Civil War,” the titular hero teams up with his titular partner, Hope Pym, both reprised by Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lily respectively. The two work together with Hank Pym (Michael Douglass) to complete an experiment that may save her long lost mother, while capturing the attention of an entity referred to as Ghost, drawn to the experiment for personal reasons and aiming to settle a personal score with Hank.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” has regularly been referred to as a palette cleanser and especially after the world shattering events of “Avengers: Infinity War,” the description is not only appropriate, but the product itself is more necessary than ever.
Demonstrating a balance between the serialization of several franchises for grander meta narrative without sacrificing the unique individual merits of the properties themselves, the movie has mastered the art of being a light and fun thrill ride without being disposable just because its stakes aren’t massive.
Paul Rudd’s perfection of the everyman role furthers Scott Lang as one of the setting’s most relatable and likable protagonists. He’s aware of the fact that he’s in over his head but rolls with the punches, additionally playing well off of Lily, who makes the most of her admittedly thin material to show off her chops as a natural action star. Meanwhile, Hannah John-Kamen turns in a surprisingly sympathetic and lively take on Ghost whose motivations and relationship with quantum physicist Bill Foster, played by Laurence Fishburne, make her less of an outright villain and more of a mere antagonist.
The show stealer however, surprisingly comes in the form of Abby Ryder Foston as Scott’s daughter Cassie. Her love for her father was adorable in the first movie but the hoops he jumps through to be the father that she deserves and the unabashed pride she’s unafraid to show regarding the fact that her dad is a superhero provides a genuine human warmth that often gets forgotten in modern installments of the genre.
Playing on the strength of the character personalities, the story itself primarily boils down to a series of inventive heist sequences and chase scenes using the shrinking and enlarging gimmick to its practical advantage and while you wouldn’t be wrong for wondering if such a gimmick’s novelty would wear thin after a while, the usage of the effects never becomes excessive and only serve to highlight a series of set pieces that are astonishingly well choreographed to the benefit of action filmmaking and even for humorous effect.
This is a movie that knows its place. Unlike the event of a lifetime accomplishment of something like “Infinity War,” or the cultural phenomenon of “Black Panther,” this movie’s only real aim is to satisfy families with a fun Saturday Matinee.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” may have kept its ambitions moderate but it carries itself with top notch filmmaking for the pop art faire that it chooses to be in a movie that realizes good doesn’t always have to mean cerebral and fun doesn’t always have to mean dumb.
4 out of 5
Graduating from Texas A&M University—Commerce with a bachelor's degree in News and Editorial Journalism, Jordan Wright has lived most of his adult life professionally critiquing films, from major blockbusters to indie dramas, and has no intentions of stopping.