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Ant-Man & The Wasp Review: Marvel's Smallest Heroes Steal The Spotlight

Ant-Man and the Wasp is a hilarious return to the shrinking heroes, but with elevated action and a heartfelt story, it's a well-rounded Marvel sequel.

After languishing in development for quite some time - and seeing a director change from Edgar Wright to Peyton Reed - Marvel Studios' Ant-Man released in theaters in 2015, closing out Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since then, Paul Rudd has returned as Scott Lang aka. Ant-Man in 2016's Captain America: Civil War. But the character was conspicuously absent from this year's massive team-up event, Avengers: Infinity War. Now, fans find out why exactly Ant-Man sat out the Avengers' fight against Thanos - and it pertains to Scott still dealing with the aftermath of his actions in Civil War. Ant-Man and the Wasp is a hilarious return to the shrinking heroes, but with elevated action and a heartfelt story, it's a well-rounded Marvel sequel.

Ant-Man and the Wasp picks up in real time after the events of Captain America: Civil War, with Scott close to completing the two years of house arrest that were part of his deal to get out of prison after violating the Sokovia Accords by helping Steve Rogers. However, days before his house arrest is up, Scott reconnects with his former associates Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), both of whom are wanted by the FBI and have been on the run for the past two years. During that time, they've assembled a lab where they've been building a Quantum Tunnel in an attempt to rescue Hank's wife and Hope's mother, Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer). Janet went missing in the Quantum Realm about 30 years prior, back when Hank believed it was impossible to return - before Scott proved it was possible in Ant-Man.

However, Hank and Hope's work is coveted not only by criminal Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), but by the mysterious entity only known as Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). As a result, Scott, Hank and Hope find themselves running from more than the FBI and they turn to an old associate of Hank's for help: Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne). All the while, though, Scott tries not to sabotage the new life he's built for himself, starting a security business with his friends Luis (Michael Peña), Dave (Tip "T.I." Harris) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian) and continuing a better relationship with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Forsten), ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her new fiancé Paxton (Bobby Cannavale). But, as all the forces who want to get their hands on Hank and Hope's lab come closer to doing so - putting their mission to rescue Janet more and more in danger - Scott must decide whether to protect his reformed life or suit up again as Ant-Man.

Reed and Rudd return for the continuing adventures of Scott Lang in Ant-Man and the Wasp, and both establish the character as a hero within the MCU who can truly lead his own franchise alongside Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man and Black Panther. Ant-Man is, of course, a different kind of hero, one with a sillier sense of humor. The script for Ant-Man and the Wasp - written by Rudd, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers (Spider-Man: Homecoming), and Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari (who did uncredited work on the first Ant-Man) - aims to balance that silly humor with the more serious aspects of the movie, particularly the surprisingly jargon-filled scientific moments and the more grounded rescue of Janet. Reed additionally helps to bring that balance, incorporating sight gags at appropriate times, but letting the audience dwell in more dramatic moments when necessary. And Rudd, who's well known for his comedic chops, brings all the charm associated with one of his performances and shines as the film's co-lead.

But of course, Rudd is the co-headliner of Ant-Man and the Wasp, since the film fully introduces Lilly's Hope as a superhero with as much - if not greater - skill as Scott Lang. Marvel Studios creatives emphasized Wasp's status as the first female superhero to co-headline an MCU movie, and Ant-Man and the Wasp doesn't disappoint, with Hope getting (at least) an equal number of action scenes as Scott. The dynamic between the two also helps balance the film's comedy, with them on equal footing and Hope acting as the straight man to Scott's more comical antics. And, with the additional features on her suit - the wings and blasters - Wasp is able to provide more dynamic action than Ant-Man, which helps to elevate the sequel's set pieces above what viewers saw in Ant-Man. Plus, Hope is at the center of the emotional arc of the movie, since it's a rescue mission for her mother, and Lilly is able to carry off that dramatic storyline as well as the action portions of the sequel. Altogether, the film effectively establishes Wasp as another major superhero within the MCU, and the film is all the better for it.

Beyond Rudd and Lilly, Ant-Man and the Wasp is rounded out relatively well by the supporting cast and villains. While the film does suffer from some of the same recurring problems in MCU movies - particularly underdeveloped villains and hordes of minions for the heroes to fight with little emotional weight - Ant-Man and the Wasp does try something interesting when developing the character of Ghost. Ultimately, it pays off insofar as John-Kamen's villain is a somewhat well-developed character and has a different arc from many Marvel movie villains. Still, she unfortunately has to share the spotlight with Sonny Birch and the FBI as antagonists to Scott, Hope and Hank - though that's played to great comedic effect in one specific instance that makes it almost worth it. However, with so many villains in the movie and much of the focus going to Ghost, both Sonny Birch and Randall Park's FBI agent Jimmy Woo get the short end of the stick, offering little more than unmemorable forces to battle against the film's heroes or comedic relief.

With so much else going on, the film's supporting players don't get much more than a few shining moments in Ant-Man and the Wasp. Of Scott's friends and family, Peña and Forston especially stand out as Luis and Cassie, respectively. Luis has one particular scene that carries on the joke of the character's fast-talking, superfluous nature to great effect, elevating and expanding on the gag from the first Ant-Man. And Forston has a sweet dynamic with her on-screen dad that paves the way for Cassie Lang to become the superhero she's known to be in the Marvel comics. Ant-Man and the Wasp explores a number of father-daughter dynamics throughout the film, and the one between Scott and Cassie works as an emotional anchor for Scott's character - all while showcasing how he can move forward as both a good father and a superhero. Of course, as the supporting characters in a story about Scott and Hope, the rest are largely relegated to the sidelines.

All in all, Ant-Man and the Wasp represents Marvel Studios at its best. The movie balances exciting action, well-timed humor, and a heartfelt emotional storyline to great effect, letting the heroes shine in their own unique way while also tying the movie into the larger MCU. After the weighty and stuffed team-up that was Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp provides a return to form for Marvel. It operates as a reminder of how well the studio works on a smaller scale, even as fans may be more interested in Marvel's loftier goals of tying together a decade's worth of movies for a grand event. Certainly, no one outside Marvel knows where the franchise will go once Avengers 4 wraps up the first three phases of the MCU, but Ant-Man and the Wasp is another good indicator that the studio nails installments in its solo hero series and there's a great deal of potential for more superheroes to step into the spotlight come Phase 4. Whether that includes Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne (and, maybe, Cassie Lang) remains to be seen, but Ant-Man and the Wasp certainly makes a case for the future viability of this particular Marvel superhero sub-franchise.

Trailer

Ant-Man and the Wasp is now playing in U.S. theaters nationwide. It runs 118 minutes and is rated PG-13 for some sci-fi action violence.

Want to talk about the movie without spoiling it for others? Head on over to our Ant-Man and the Wasp spoilers discussion.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5 (Very Good)
Key Release Dates
  • Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • The Avengers 4 / Untitled Avengers Movie (2019) release date: May 03, 2019
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2018
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Ant-Man & The Wasp Review: Marvel's Smallest Heroes Steal The Spotlight