Ant-Man can make himself small. He can also make himself big. As his powers have progressed through the course of two stand-alone films (including this one) and his cameos in other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, thanks to the work of his mentor Hank Pym, he even learnt to make other random items bigger or smaller. What Ant-Man can't do as yet is alter the course of time in the real world, and therein lies Ant-Man and the Wasp's biggest failing.
This latest in the Marvel canon is, in every respect a good film, but it comes hot on the heels of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, two films that were so good they reset Marvel's already high bar.
In most respects, Marvel did everything right with Ant-Man and The Wasp. Following the issue-laden cultural watershed that was Black Panther and the bleak heartbreaker that was Infinity War, the studio has lightened up with a lo-fi, gag-strewn movie that spends a couple of hours poking fun at the silliness of the superhero-movie genre.
It should be the perfect riposte, except… Deadpool 2. Marvel has already been out-Marvelled in the "poking fun at yourself through a wisecracking reluctant hero" stakes by a Marvel character who, just to keep things simple, is not a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe because Fox owns film rights to the character. As a result, the latest Ant-Man comes across as a less foul-mouthed, but still inferior version of a movie that was released only last month – a kind of Deadpool: Radio Edit.
None of this is to say that Ant-Man and the Wasp is a bad film, because it isn't. It's a good film. But if we include the non-canon Deadpool 2, it's the fourth Marvel movie this year. The first three were so good that simple statistics dictate that, sooner or later, there would be one that was "less good" – and that is Ant-Man and the Wasp.
A bargain-basement alternative
The plot, in a nutshell, involves Paul Rudd's Ant-Man and his new sidekick, Evangeline Lilly's The Wasp – essentially a female Ant-Man, but with added wings and a blaster, bestowed on her by the pair's creator genius scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), much to Ant-Man's chagrin. The duo take on a crooked dealer of high-tech goods in an attempt to rescue The Wasp's mother, and Pym's wife, from her entrapment in another dimension.
It's as throwaway and silly as it sounds, and a welcome relief from the sombre air of other recent Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. The gags come thick and fast, as do the self-knowing nods to the fact that Ant-Man... is clearly a bargain basement alternative to the mega-budget blockbusters in the Marvel stable.
It's a thoroughly entertaining yarn and one that you don't need to give too much thought to. There's no threat to the future of the planet, no much-loved characters are going to be killed off, and the script, co-written by Rudd, is full of on-point jokes and topical references that hit the mark.
If Marvel had released this film in December when the dust had settled on the sheer brilliance of both Black Panther and Infinity War, it would probably have seemed like a masterpiece. As it is, it comes across as something of a low point after two, almost unreasonably high peaks.
This should go without saying by now, but do not leave before the post-credits scene. If Marvel could have somehow stretched that out to two hours, this would be a five-star movie, but we're not giving away any spoilers here.
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