by Patrick Bromley
Having already released the two biggest and most successful movies of the year (and ranking on the all-time list, too) in Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel has nowhere to really go but down with Ant-Man and the Wasp, the follow-up to 2015's Ant-Man, among the lowest-grossing of all the Marvel superhero movies. Attempting to follow-up what was essentially a solid double (triple if we're being generous) just two months after Marvel's biggest, most jam-packed and ambitious movie -- the one that reshapes the landscape of their entire cinematic universe, however temporary -- seems like a recipe for disaster. Having grown accustomed to seeing these movies as gigantic, global "events," can audiences settle in for the low-stakes charm of a third-tier superhero?
I hope so. Ant-Man and the Wasp is incredibly entertaining, and exactly the antidote for a series of movies that were growing overstuffed beyond the point of exhaustion. They couldn't just keep going bigger, and this one feels appropriately (wait for it) small. There's no global threat. The fate of the world is not at stake. It's just a movie about a group of people we like working together to help the people they care about. Even the antagonist is looking not for ultimate power, only help. Goddammit that's refreshing.
There are a lot of balls in the air in Ant-Man and the Wasp: I haven't even mentioned Michael Pena, David Dastmalchian, and Tip "T.I." Harris, all returning as Scott's partners and now trying to land a big client for their new private security business, nor have I mentioned Laurence Fishburne as a former colleague-turned-adversary of Hank Pym, nor have I mentioned the FBI Agent (played by Randall Park) who's trying to bust Scott violating his house arrest, nor have I mentioned Scott's daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), who believes in her dad more than anyone and who provides Scott's motivation for doing any of this. It's a lot for the movie to juggle, and though there are times when it's trying to do some much that some aspects are underserved, the ensemble structure and the small-scale stakes make it much less noticeable that the story is sort of messy. This is more of a hangout movie than one that's driven by the immediacy of the narrative.
Reed takes a lot more license with the possibilities of the Ant-Man powers this time around, meaning there all kinds of gags that involve people and things shrinking and enlarging, all of it inventive and all of it fun. Evangeline Lily's Wasp gets almost all of my favorite action beats (many of which were spoiled by the trailer, thank you marketing), and it's really cool to see her given the chance to step up and be a kickass superhero without the usual growing pains we see with other Marvel characters, including Ant-Man. Paul Rudd is incredibly fun and charming in the role, but Ant-Man and the Wasp tells us almost nothing new about his character except that he's the superhero who screws up a lot.