Ant-Man and the Wasp ★★★★★

A wonderfully jaunty romp to serve as a sort of comfort food after the infamous emotional devastation of Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a great little caper, which improves on the original, while remaining faithful to the original’s tone, and offering up some genuinely inventive action sequences, and most importantly, a bouyant sense of fun.

Director Peyton Reed returns for this film, and is clearly more confident in his abilities to balance the humor, heart, and action into a more concise, briskly paced and bubbly film. It’s a film that knows full well it’s not supposed to be an ultra essential cog in the broader narrative of the MCU, but rather help do some more world building, and bring us up to speed on what our favorite little group of miniature misfits have been up to. Reed directs the action sequences with flare, using the central narrative construct of shrinking things to construct some wonderfully inventive action sequences that either have objects shrunk down, or blown to larger size, such as a wonderfully wild car chase through the streets of San Francisco.

Our cast, with Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Douglas being our main trio, have great comedic chemistry, with the trio’s dynamic growing even more natural from the already snappy rapport they had before. Rudd get’s to mature from the first film, while still maintaining Scott Lang/Ant-Man’s characteristic everyman mannerisms, while Evangeline Lilly gets to kick her fair share of ass (and be the first female character to get her name in the title of an MCU film to boot) as Hope Van Dyne/Wasp, and their romantic relationship isn’t forced, and neither is made to be superior to the other, with them instead complimenting each other and their powers ultimately working hand-in-hand, while Michael Douglas is clearly having a boatload of fun playing Hank Pym, who gets to rebuild some burned bridges between him and Laurence Fishburne’s character, Dr. Bill Foster, a former co-scientist who left due to Pym’s former arrogance.

The film’s biggest innovation though, is in having the apparent villain, a woman forever trapped phasing in and out of reality, which causes her immense pain and brings her closer to death each day, turn out not to be an actual villain. Sure, she opposes the heroes, but not due to anything else than her desire to find a cure for her suffering, having become more than a little unhinged due to years of being a SHIELD black operative (in what seems like a deliberate—yet smart—mirror to what happened to Bucky Barnes), and much of this is carried by Hannah John-Kamen’s strong performance as Ava Starr/Ghost. She captures both the sense of rage the character feels, and her pathos, without throwing the film’s jovial tone out of whack, or feeling like too much of a simpering character, or too psychotic to be unintentionally unsympathetic.

Michelle Pfeiffer doesn’t get much screentime as Janet Van Dyne, Hank Pym’s long lost wife, but she owns the time she is on screen, and it’s very clear that there are much broader plans for her in the future of the MCU, with her vast knowledge of the Quantum Realm, and apparent new Quantum based abilities. It serves as a chic way to intigrate another solid female character into the MCU, and also give Pfeiffer a chance to have a lot of fun in her role, even if it isn’t that big.

The rest of our supporting cast are also all having fun. We have Lang’s trio of quirky friends, lead by the singularly hilarious Michael Peña as Luis, flanked by the equally funny David Dastmalchian and Tip “T.I.” Harris, as Kurt and Dave, while Walton Goggins has loads of fun as the selfish black arms dealer who wants our heroes’ Quantum tech for profit and Randall Park shines as Lang’s probation FBI officer as well.

Christophe Beck delivers a nicely fun and excited score, blending humor with heist in equal portion, and while Dante Spinotti’s cinematography is more sedated than the first film’s look, it’s still solid and effective work, with the action being coherent, and the Quantum Realm especially looking like a Jack Kirby drawing come to life.

An unapologetically fun ride and a film that knows when to have fun and let things hang loose, Ant-Man and the Wasp might feel like filler of sorts after the massive scope of Infinity War, but it’s humble, downscaled focus and happy-go-lucky charm serves as a perfect little desert to finish off the MCU’s 2018 slate, and help refresh us in time for whatever 2019 has in store with Captain Marvel and Avengers 4. Even then, one still sees Infinity War in the film, via a mid-credits scene that starts chipper, but ends on a starkly sobering note, with even the post-credits scene having some superficial humor, but still carrying a heavy aura of shock as we catch a glimpse of what Thanos’ finger snap really means for everyone within the MCU.

Either way, I had loads of fun, and I can safely give Ant-Man and the Wasp a hearty five stars for the fun factor and sheer enjoyment I had.