Ant Man & The Wasp
With a self-contained storyline and plenty of laughs, Ant-Man and The Wasp is the perfect follow-up to the chaos of Infinity War.
Size matters. So too, timing, and in the wake of the sprawling, 76-cast member Avengers: Infinity War, Ant Man & The Wasp is precisely the kind of modest, self-contained story Marvel needed to drop in its immediate wake.
Set sometime proximate to, yet definitely before, the events of Infinity War, Ant Man & The Wasp acknowledges its place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet cleverly distances itself from most of those goings on by focussing on three very intimate human stories. The first concerns Ant Man himself (aka Scott Lang), played again by the seemingly ageless Paul Rudd. Thanks to Lang's involvement in the so-called 'Civil War', he finds himself subject to house arrest and attempts to while away his two year sentence by both establishing a security consultancy company and creatively entertaining his young, only daughter. The second plot-line follows his two (now former) partners, Hope/The Wasp (Evangeline Lily) and her father Henry (Michael Douglas) as they attempt to rescue their long-lost mother/wife from the mind-boggling 'Quantum Realm'. Thirdly, the movie's two villains - 'Ghost' - played by Hannah John-Kamen and black marketeer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), each seek to steal the quantum tech to further their own purposes (self-preservation and profit, respectively).
That's the sum of it. There are no aliens here, nor and city-levelling, world-destroying monsters, space ships or wormholes. There aren't even many lives at stake, with Ant Man & The Wasp mostly concerning itself with the preservation and/or restoration of fading relationships. It might sound like a formula for extreme boredom, but not only is the small-scale (no pun intended) storytelling of Ant Man & The Wasp a welcome reprieve from the MCU's growing complexity, it also retains a tremendous amount of the innovative action and laugh out loud comedy from the first instalment.
As we said, size matters, and the danger for this franchise spin-off was always going to be its 'Honey I Shrunk The Superhero' dynamic fast growing old. Thankfully, the creative minds behind Ant Man & The Wasp continue to deliver the unexpected in almost every major sequence, amusingly tinkering with the size of everything from cars, buildings and even Pez dispensers, as well as using its heroes' miniaturised moments in ways that go well beyond the obvious.
Performance wise, Rudd very much holds court again; his disarming awkwardness acting as the perfect foil for Lily and Douglas's stern demeanour. Not every joke lands, and a few of the one-liners feel crowbarred in, however the tone remains impressively consistent throughout almost to the point of feeling like a straight-up comedy thanks in no small way to another scene-stealing turn from Michael Pena. Goggins, too, is ever-reliable as the Southern Gentleman rogue, while John-Kamen's Ghost offers the film its necessary darker streak without ever descending into two-dimensional villainy. Later appearances by some other big names (whose identity we'll preserve for the sake of surprise) also lend additional gravitas to the already impressive cast, and even Stan Lee's inevitable cameo brings a laugh instead of its usual groan and eye roll.
Lastly, yes - Ant Man & The Wasp does address the shocking finale to Infinity War, but does so in a neatly inconclusive way, allowing for much speculation and very little certainty. In all, it's a well calculated step by Marvel and a timely reminder that superhero movies can tell compelling human stories without having to resort to massive-scale CGI chaos.