Compared to the rest of the Marvel Universe, Ant-Man has always felt little more than a bit-part player making up the numbers. Set against the intergalactic, world destroying sagas the other heroes have to contend with, Paul Rudd’s character has been used as a light snack to plug the gap in between main meals.
Ant-Man and The Wasp sees the return of the super-shrinking/enlarging superhero, once again facing up to smaller stakes in a story with no connection to the cataclysmic disaster that left audience’s open mouthed at the end of Avengers Infinity War. But that is no bad thing and it quietly builds on the first film to expand its own world.
You may remember Rudd’s Scott Lang was sentenced to two years of house arrest for playing a part in breaking a government agreement in Captain America: Civil War. He now spends his time at home trying to entertain his daughter and has set up a security firm with partner Luis (Michael Peña), although the FBI closely monitor his every move.
He hasn’t seen Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) in that time but is pulled into a mission to save her mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) who has been trapped in the Quantum Realm for years.
It seems straight forward enough, but the presence of the mysterious molecule shifting Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) and black-market tech shyster Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) make matters more complicated than expected.
Although there are lives on the line this is Marvel giving its audience a breather from the mass death and destruction that swept through their last release. Which is actually to the benefit of Ant-Man and The Wasp and a big part of its charm, content enough to remain irreverent and to keep the adventure as small scale as its miniature heroes.
Without the need to focus on plot and how it connects to other Marvel films, the emphasis is placed on characters who are played by actors who understand the limitation of their roles. One thing Marvel have continually got right is casting, and Rudd’s comedic timing and sincerity gives his character more depth than you would expect from such a light-hearted film.
Peña is the one that steals the show as the goofy, fast talking Luis, his rambling replies to questions often endearing as they are hilarious (a scene centred around a truth serum is a particular highlight).
The title of Ant-Man and The Wasp suggested an equal billing of sorts, potentially pushing Hope’s flying alter-ego to the foreground. Which is what happens up to a point, but she is still very much a background player mostly there to support Ant-Man’s story arc.
While the jokes this time round aren’t as sharp as the first film, the gags keep on coming and the visual humour in particular makes the most of the whole small/large superpower.
As is normally the case with Marvel films there are some post-credit scenes (one is never enough nowadays) with one linking into events into wider Avengers universe. But while the countdown to Avengers 4 is well underway (Captain Marvel will arrive beforehand), Ant-Man and The Wasp shows it isn’t the size but what you do with it that counts.
Ant-Man and The Wasp is released in UK cinemas tomorrow