One of the great things about the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that with such a wide breadth of characters and diversity of filmmakers, each individual entry in the larger world is given a certain amount of leeway to be its own thing, and perhaps more importantly, to have its own voice.
In Ant-Man and The Wasp, a direct follow-up to the character’s origin story film from 2015, Scott Lang (the always-affable Paul Rudd) is under house arrest after having been captured in Germany following the events of another Marvel movie, “Captain America: Civil War,” in which Ant-Man had a small role– or was it a big one? Lang is now on the outs with his partners in shrinkage Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly of “Lost”) and Dr. Hank Pym (the legendary Michael Douglas), but has reconnected with his daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson), his ex-wife (Judy Greer), and her now probably-overly-affectionate new husband (Bobby Cannavale).
Meanwhile, Pym and his daughter Van Dyne are searching for their long-lost wife/mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer)– the original Wasp– who has been trapped in the Quantum Realm after having shrunk too far down during a mission in the 1980s. To further this cause, Hope has taken up the flying Wasp alter-ego and is setting up a tech trade with a somewhat cartoonish weapons dealer / mob boss played by the excellent Walton Goggins of “The Shield” and “Justified.” Despite his sizable talent, Goggins’ role was the movie’s one major sticking point for me, as he mostly functioned as a one-dimensional foil, showing up whenever the overarching plan needed a monkey wrench thrown in.
The film’s other major villain, known as “Ghost,” is a damaged young woman with a mysterious past and eerie powers (Hannah John-Kamen of “Ready Player One”) who also wants access to the Quantum Realm for reasons I’ll let you discover on your own. Additional supporting characters include Dr. Bill Foster, an old colleague of Pym’s played by Laurence Fishburne (“The Matrix”) and the returning ex-con trio of fast-talking Luis (Michael Peña), Russian-accented Kurt (David Dastmalchian), and straight man Dave (Tip “T.I.” Harris). Of this group, Peña undoubtedly steals the show, and the movie’s most laugh-out-loud scene belongs to him and him alone.
Ant-Man and the Wasp’s greatest strength is its unique brand of humor. As a good portion of the humor derives from Scott’s daughter Cassie, the film is more child-friendly than many other MCU movies, yet the humor is not juvenile. As in Ant-Man, director Peyton Reed expands the humor from the MCU’s typical witty quips to an additional strong sense of quirky visual humor. The film is edited in a stylistic way to emphasize the humor and excitement, especially in the changing sizes.
Ant-Man and the Wasp highlights the MCU’s commitment to unique directorial visions. The film, in both story and style, is like no other in the MCU, yet comfortably feels a part of the same world. The humor and story create a momentum that allows the film to feel fun from start to finish.