This breezy superhero picture may be what we deserve, and just what we need most.
Let’s pause and reflect that there is now an Ant-Man franchise. What that says about the state of Hollywood’s rampant sequel culture, and the total dominance of superhero pictures, is up for debate. Ant-Man and the Wasp exists and that is a good thing. Like its predecessor, the film is gleefully inessential. And therein lies its charm. The stakes here are ridiculously low, especially when compared to its dull and bombastic MCU sibling, Avengers: Infinity War.
Thankfully, this is no overstuffed Crossover Event. Instead, it’s a spry heist comedy, one that zigs and zags through its (still too long) runtime with impish zest and even a bit of recognizable humanity. Best of all, everyone involved understands its lowly status in the corporate pecking order, and therefore, cuts loose. And why not? There’s little on the line.
Ant-Man and the Wasp picks up after the events of Captain America: Civil War and before the aforementioned Avengers movie. It is still surprising how little these movies fill in narrative gaps and stand proudly as installments in an ongoing serial. Even those who consider themselves pretty knowledgeable about the larger Marvel Universe may need to whisper questions to those seated next to them.
The circumstances into which the movie plops the audience is one such arena for questions. Why, for example, is our hero and devoted father Scott Lang (Paul Rudd, that handsome goofball) under house arrest? What did he do to piss off FBI agents, Hank Pym (an all-in Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly, here at her post-Lost best)? How does Michelle Pfeiffer factor into the larger story, yet again? Not to mention the joyful duo played by Judy Grier and Bobby Cannavale? Toss in Michael Pena, T.I. and Laurence Fishburne and one might ask: How did such a superlative cast get past Disney execs?
Eh, who cares?
Ant-Man and the Wasp may not match the formal execution of Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy, but it captures a similar puckish spirit. If the MCU keeps churning out intermittent, oddball blockbusters such as this, movie viewers would tolerate universe-ending peril with equanimity and patience. This movie is fun! And being fun is important. Especially when the temperature outside is scorching and conditions within the multiplex are so artificially pleasant.
There’s a winking acknowledgment on the part of everyone involved that this comedic gem carries little heft in the grand scheme of things. Thank God. Or Thanos. Or whomever.
Humans turn to fluttering, charred scraps in a post-credit sequence, just as they did during the boring climax of the last Avengers picture. And that shock connects this deliriously enjoyable tale to a further installment. And on and on and on.
Stop to enjoy its jokes. Take a second to laugh. Gulp for air. Another interstellar epic is coming soon enough. We’re all, apparently, toast in the end. Ant-Man and the Wasp swoops in to the rescue. This breezy superhero picture may be what we deserve, and just what we need most.