Ant-Man’s arrival in 2015 seemed a bit like a pesky little kid trying to get into his big brother’s room, or maybe it was as if Marvel was just offering up a silly little summer diversion by having comedian Paul Rudd don a snazzy super-suit. Either way it was little more than a handy hold-over until the next big-boy Avengers movie.

And if Ant-Man was just a mildly pleasant diversion, did we really need a sequel?

Turns out, maybe so. Ant-Man and the Wasp far surpasses the original and actually lands in the top tier of Marvel movies. No it’s not nearly as grandiose asInfinity War or as zany as Ragnarok, but—powered by great performances from Rudd, Michael Douglas, and Evangeline Lilly (who also earns the honor of becoming the first female title character in the decade-plus year history of Marvel Studios)—it’s a super-fun, high-energy flick. And it does far more than merely fill space until Captain Marvel next spring and then the next Avengers film a couple months later.

Wasp begins as Scott Lang (Rudd) is wrapping up his two-year house arrest in the wake of the events of Captain America: Civil War. He been forbidden from having any contact with Hank Pym (Douglas) or Pym’s daughter Hope (Lilly), and instead he whiles away his days enjoying his shared custody of little Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) and trying (remotely) to keep his new security business afloat, with the help of Luis (Michael Pena) and his crew.

Hank and Hope have been hard at work in the world of quantum physics, hoping to find a way to retrieve Hope’s mother Helen (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the subatomic realm, which we learned about in the first film. During one of their experiments, Helen contacts Lang telepathically (as he has gone subatomic himself, they apparently share a kindred spirit), and despite being days away ending his house arrest, he contacts Hope and Hank to let them know.

Just to add a rather substantial wrinkle into what is already a fairly convoluted story, the spooky, shape-shifting Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) arrives on the scene to steal the final component Hank and Hope need to finish their quantum tunnel and travel back to find Helen. (And, yes, appropriate amounts of meta-fun are poked at how many times we head the word ‘quantum’ during the movie.)

By keeping things light and fun, returning director Peyton Reed has put together not only a hilarious and entertaining entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (it’s the 20th MCU film, if you’re counting) but a welcome alternative to the generally sprawling and hefty fare we’ve seen there so far. Yes, even the 149 minutes of Infinity War included a healthy serving of comedy, but it was nestled far down in the deep folds of the dramatic and grim war against Thanos. Wasp’s screenplay—which has no less than five names attached, including Rudd and also Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Chris McKenna—spends as much time focusing on Lang and his adorable daughter as it does on Ghost and the film’s true villain, played with a spot-on amount of ham by ace character actor Walton Goggins. And Rudd’s California slacker vibe is the perfect way to drive the film forward, with appropriate amounts of snark and cynicism.

It took an entire film for the franchise to find its footing, but Ant-Man and the Waspare no longer the outsiders at the Marvel party; they’ve earned their standing as the neighborhood cool kids who get invited everywhere.


4/5 stars