Perhaps it’s fitting that a movie about a tiny superhero was persistently overshadowed prior to its release. Ant-Man and the Wasp’s first trailer came out when fans worldwide were still freaking out about Black Panther, and the movie hit theaters in the wake of the huge cliffhanger ending for Avengers: Infinity War. But Ant-Man and the Wasp is a charming, hilarious success, and an important reminder that Marvel can still do “small” movies in between world-ending epics. It’s the perfect compliment to Infinity War — and no, not just because there is a huge hint about Avengers 4 at the end.
This is a spoiler-free review of Ant-Man and the Wasp.
For 99 percent of the movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp is unconcerned with anything related to Thanos or Infinity Stones because it’s still dealing with the fallout from Captain America: Civil War. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) heeded Cap’s call and went to Germany to fight Iron Man, got caught, and was sentenced to two years of house arrest. His actions left Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) in the lurch as well.
It’s not some intergalactic alien threat that gets Scott back in the suit, but a personal mission, one that’s made possible — and complicated by — all the relationships between Scott, Hope, and Hank, as well as new characters from Hank’s past, like Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne). There’s a lot of history there (Hank alienated a lot of people), but it’s largely self-contained. That gives Ant-Man and the Wasp freedom to tell a kinetic, fast-moving story with a clear, easy-to-follow thrust underneath all the moving parts.
At several points, Ant-Man and the Wasp breaks into a chase scene pileup, a display of choreographed chaos that would make Mad Max: Fury Road proud. Peyton Reed, who directed Ant-Man as well, plays with scale in new, innovative ways. Whereas the first movie was focused on the awe of Ant-Man’s micro world, here, the action gets the mileage out of rapidly switching between sizes — big, large, and frickin’ giant. Add to that a villain, Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who can become intangible and invisible at will, and you get a movie where everything feels like it truly can change at any moment. There’s no stability here, which keeps Ant-Man and the Wasp exciting.
And yet, for a movie whose action scenes and very plot are derived from instability, Ant-Man and the Wasp is in many ways a quiet rock for the MCU. It’s a comfort to see a smaller story after Infinity War rather than a letdown. The cast’s charisma once again comes through: Rudd is a sweet-natured goofball, as always, and Lilly is such a natural superhero that the Wasp’s absence in the first movie seems even more of a slight for the founding Avenger. Oh well, at least she’s suited up now. Michael Peña’s fast-talking Luis is still hyper-hilarious, bringing a childlike sense of wonder that staves off any hint of superhero fatigue. Ant-Man and the Wasp might not be Thor: Ragnarok-funny, but it’s close.
Ant-Man and the Wasp largely stands on its own, although the success Infinity War seems to indicate that the MCU doesn’t even need to pretend to care about that audience metric anymore — it’s got us all. Even so, the brighter tone and focus on a personal story involving only a handful of characters is an important item on the MCU’s menu. It’s not a throwaway palate cleanser after Infinity War, nor is it a filler before the next major crossover. It’s a reminder that just hanging out with these characters and watching them go on their own smaller adventures is fun. Ant-Man is all about the importance of scale, after all.
And, yes, there is a major Infinity War/Avengers 4 connection in the post-credits scenes, but don’t get too caught up in the MCU’s big picture. Ant-Man and the Wasp will do you right on its own.
Ant-Man and the Wasp hits theaters on July 6.