Movie review: ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ fun, but not as fresh as the original

I’ve always felt that the original “Ant-Man” is a bit of an underrated gem within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although it had a much more modest box office haul than Marvel’s bigger hits, it’s a fun (and funny) heist flick starring a perfectly-cast Paul Rudd as the sometimes misguided but always well-meaning ex-con Scott Lang. It just barely misses out on ranking amongst my top five MCU films, and I was really looking forward to the sequel, “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”

I had a lot of fun watching the sequel, and it’s refreshing to have a superhero flick with a lighter tone and smaller stakes (no pun intended there). It’s a perfect summer blockbuster and certainly isn’t as intense as “Infinity War.” However, it didn’t feel *quite* as fresh or fun as the original. I’ll get my criticisms out of the way first, and then I’ll dive into what I liked best, because I really did enjoy watching this film.

My reaction to “Ant-Man and the Wasp” reminds me a little of my reaction to “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” actually. With the first “Ant-Man,” I had no idea what to expect, and there was a certain glee in discovering how awesomely they executed the challenging concept of this tiny superhero who commands an army of ants. With the sequel, the writing didn’t feel quite as snappy or tight. We’ve seen this before, and it’s still fun, but the element of surprise isn’t there anymore.

My only real issue with the first “Ant-Man” was the lackluster villain, but I actually liked the “villain” here. I use “villain” with quotation marks, because the primary villain isn’t necessarily a “bad guy” in the traditional sense but more of an antagonist whose goals are in opposition to the hero’s. It’s tricky to say more about Ghost without diving into spoilers, but I really liked the nuance Hannah John-Kamen brought to this character. In fact, I wish the film had dedicated even more time to delving into who she is and the reasons she is seeking justice/revenge. I personally would have jettisoned the second villain, an underused Walton Goggins as black market dealer Sonny Burch, in favor of more screen time for Ghost.

There were a couple of other moments I would have tweaked, as well. The jokes weren’t quite as snappy as the original, which I rewatched right after seeing “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and was still a delight. I also thought there were some too-obvious moments of exposition.

Still, I don’t want this to come across as a negative review, because I really did have fun watching this. Paul Rudd is still great as Ant-Man/Scott Lang, and I loved that they brought back Abby Ryder Fortson as his daughter, Cassie. All of Rudd and Fortson’s scenes together are utterly charming, and their father-daughter relationship is a highlight in both Ant-Man films. It was also super cool to see Evangeline Lilly share top billing as the Wasp/Hope van Dyne. She and Ant-Man make a great team.

One of my favorite parts of the film was the finale. Although we’ve seen plenty of car chases in films before, it was super fun to see a chase scene where the heroes’ car used what I’d call “strategic shrinking” to avoid the villains in pursuit. And I loved seeing Ant-Man become Giant-Man again, especially after the teaser we got for that in “Civil War.” Plus, Michael Peña’s Luis is my favorite MCU sidekick, right after Ned in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

Another great part was watching Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope researching the quantum realm and their attempts to find Hank’s wife Janet, who disappeared in the quantum realm years ago. Again, I don’t want to dive too heavily into spoilers, but I think the quantum realm offers a lot of fascinating potential for storytelling within the MCU. And I think it’s definitely going to play a big role in Avengers 4. I always encourage people to wait for the after credits scenes in MCU movies, but this time it’s especially important!

In short, I love Ant-Man as a character and am really glad that Marvel decided to make a sequel. It’s definitely worth watching, and I’ll look forward to adding it to my MCU Blu-ray collection once it comes out. This is something I’ve always said about the MCU; even though we all have our favorites, and there are a few that disappointed me just a little bit, they each have their fun moments and are still enjoyable to watch. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is probably going to land somewhere in the middle of the pack for me.

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