takes the stakes and scale of a typically colossal Marvel film and brings them down to the most intimate level, focusing on families in this love letter to father-daughter relationships. (At least until those !)
The 20th Marvel Cinematic Universe film is a light, welcome break from the mess that is reality — more specifically from thinking about the epic scale of destruction in. It’s a silly, fun comedy, well-timed after the superhero smashes of the last few months, with an easy-to-follow plot (even with multiple foes) and a whole lot of love, making it one of the best MCU sequels.
For nearly two years since the events of— where an epic fight between Iron Man and Cap over the idea of registering superheroes left Avengers and superheroes ideologically split — Scott Lang, also known as Ant-Man (aka Paul Rudd in our reality), has been under house arrest.
Scott’s predicament has definitely made it harder for him to be a typical dad and forced him to get creative when entertaining his savvy daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson, reprising her role from the first film) — sometimes by building an awesomely ’80s-movie-esque cardboard fort when trapped indoors on his weekends.
When we meet up with him, Scott is about to be freed from his house and more than ready to be the normal father-hero his daughter deserves. But after he has a weird “dream,” he attempts to reconnect with Hope Van Dyne and her father Michael Douglas (yes, he’s playing Hank Pym, but isn’t Hank just “her dad, a super-smart version of Michael Douglas”?). The father-daughter duo’s on a mission to save Hope’s mom (and original Wasp hero) Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) from a dimension known as the Quantum Realm.
The big difference in the sequel is that The Wasp is a fully costumed superhero in the movie played to kickass perfection by Evangeline Lilly. First seen in 2015’s Ant-Man, Lilly’s Hope has now fully embraced her superhero roots. She’s following in her mother’s footsteps by donning a personalized suit with some high-tech upgrades (wings! blasters!) that Scott is jealous of.
As predicted by many around the interwebs, AM&TW actually takes place slightly before the. We know this because there are *way* more people in the world than there would be after that film (you know, because half of them haven’t been disappeared yet). But unlike the recent Avengers film, we’re not really worried about the fate of these characters (…yet). And you’re not left feeling like it’s a super-sized episode of that forces you to .
Without giving too much away, AM&TW presents a very scientific-sounding basis for how Hope and Hank believe they’ll accomplish their mission and return from the trip safely — in addition to providing a solid backstory for our main villain.
Prepare to laugh (again, so necessary after the) because Ant-Man himself remains seriously funny. Quick quips, passing jokes that pay off in the long run and perfectly ill-timed physical comedy shines through much like in the first film. Rudd’s elaborate facial expressions are a key component no matter how large or small he gets as Ant-Man, and he uses them throughout the film to carry a wealth of jokes.
You never know how big or tiny a car is in this world making for some confusingly funny moments (think Hot Wheels irl). And the blasters Hope has outfitted her suit to provide some fun, if not a bit schlocky, humor as she sizes up a salt shaker and Pez dispenser. It’s the silly outlandishness of some of these moments that really resonates as comic book moments and make you laugh out loud appreciatively. Silly isn’t bad. It’s welcome and prevents AM&TW from taking itself too seriously.
Michael Pena as Scott’s BFF/business partner/roommate Luis is hilarious yet again — holding his own and chatterboxing with the best of them, including forever-perfectly-creepy character actor Walton Goggins as Southern gentleman arms dealer (and villain) Sonny Burch. Special shout-out to Randall Park, whose Jimmy Woo is the most hilariously insecure and honest FBI agent we’ve ever seen in a film.
But unlike 2015’s Ant-Man, AM&TW is also down to take on a much bigger, somewhat crazier and definitely more interesting main villain in Ghost. Played by disturbingly-stoic-until-she-isn’t Hannah John-Kamen, the character (real name: Ava) is a more human antagonist than we typically see in the MCU. With a blink of her eye, John-Kamen gets you to believe Ava is simply a girl trying to solve a personal problem, instead of a borderline-deranged assassin. She pulls the audience in and makes you feel for the little girl deep (deep) inside the killer, and it *almost* convinces you she’s maybe not all that bad — a hard feat to pull off considering at one point she puts her arm through a main character.
This year, Marvel has proven with Killmonger,and now Ghost, that it has (at least) taken notice and made strides to . In the comics, Ghost is an angry man fighting against a capitalist system, sabotaging companies, including Stark Industries, for fun and for profit. Here we have a woman with a heartfelt backstory that ties directly into what many fans have been heralding as the future of the MCU: the Quantum Realm.
Hopefully we’ll see more of this dimension, especially since it’s almost as delightfully trippy as when we watched Doctor Strange fighting Dormammu in another dimension. This Realm is full of way-too-large and actually kind of terrifying Tardigrades and really confusing … mirrors? Pathways? Time vortices? It makes you wonder if every alternate dimension really is prettier than our own.
There definitely remain many questions about Ava and her past, and how her life intersects with Hank Pym: Who is Elihas Starr in the MCU and will we see him again? What was he doing building a quantum bridge tunnel of his own? Ava’s relationship with Dr. Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) is a bit fuzzy, but the ending leaves most of these questions open enough for us to wonder if we’ll see her again in future films.
And at its heart, Ant Man and the Wasp is very much a father-daughter heist film: Hank and Hope; Scott and Cassie; Foster as a surrogate father to Ava. Sure, the pairs aren’t all playing Robin Hood, but they’re stealing… our hearts? (Ugh, sorry, couldn’t resist.) But really, some of the best parts of the film are the tender moments between these pairs, and thankfully the movie isn’t afraid to give these moments time enough to resonate.
The movie is fun, lighthearted and scaling the list of sequels, but the stakes to see it aren’t as high as Infinity War when everyone rushed out to catch it immediately. Rest assured, if you skip opening weekend, not even major plot spoilers can ruin the fun for you. Will we see it again? Absolutely. Should you see it before Captain Marvel and Avengers 4? Yes, 100 percent yes.
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This piece was originally published June 27 and has been updated now that the film is in theaters.