Ant-Man and the Wasp is the distant cousin that makes you dread family reunions
The movie has to balance quite a few elements that don't quite work seamlessly together.
Since movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are all interconnected, it's futile to separate the thread in one from the other, which is why the shadow of Infinity War looms large over this sequel to 2015's Ant-Man.
Make no mistake that Ant-Man and the Wasp is not, by any means, a bad movie, it's simply unlucky to come right after one of the biggest spectacles in the superhero production line.
The movie's most compelling draw is the core of its story; incidentally, it could also be argued that it's responsible for why it wasn't much better than it could have been.
Unlike in Infinity War where the fate of the world rested on a balance with world-ending stakes putting the audience on the egde of their seats, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a little bit more personal for everyone involved.
After fighting as Ant-Man against the Sokovia Accords on the side of Steve Rogers in Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang gets rewarded with house arrest and has to play stay-at home dad with his daughter, Cassie.
Despite his name appearing on the title card and this movie being his own little playground, Ant-Man and the Wasp is not really about Lang. In fact, he is a third-wheeler to the father-daughter duo of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly, the titular Wasp) who are the emotional anchor of the movie.
Hank and Hope have built a tunnel to the quantum realm to stage a rescue of Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), Hank's wife and Hope's mother, who has been lost in the sub-atomic quantum realm for decades and had been given up for dead until Lang discovered a way to return from the realm in the first movie. That's all there's to know about the movie.
It's a big elaborate rescue operation that is stretched into a two hour event to accommodate conflict from two antagonists who are not even worth their salt enough to be called villains (three, if you count an overwrought FBI agent). That's it!
There are fun car chases that border on the ridiculous, fight scenes that get the audience amped (sometimes), and excellent comic timing, most notably from Luis(Michael Peña), but the movie is always coming off like it's missing a spark to elevate it.
Ant-Man and the Wasp does well to explore the story with all the heart that Hank and Hope can muster for the rescue mission and Evangeline Lilly is a wonderful addition to the MCU's horde of expanding superhero league, boasting wings and blasters as features on her suit that make even Ant-Man jealous.
The movie's best bits happen when it focuses on its protagonists but the same cannot be said for antagonists who are letdowns in the movie.
Walton Goggins' Sonny Burch, a black market dealer, and Randall Park's Jimmy Woo, Lang's FBI parole officer, are so harmless you expect them to break out into a song and dance anytime they pretend to be getting in the way of the protagonists' mission.
Hannah John-Kamen's Ghost, a lab accident that 'phase-shifts', is the closest the movie has to a villain but she's underserved by character development that doesn't quite fit well together generally, and will be thrown on the heap of Marvel's really forgettable 'villains'.
Someone who won't be forgotten in a rush is Michael Peña's Luis, Lang's business partner, who delivers on an energetic comic performance that goes all the way to the ridiculous corners director, Peyton Reed, is willing to let Ant-Man and the Wasp go.
Lang goes with the flow of the story, helping Hank and Hope find Janet after letting them down with his renegade mission with Team Cap in Civil War. Rudd retains the comic spring to his steps and ends up in ridiculous circumstances that he manages to overcome.
With all of the hijinks of Ant-Man and the Wasp, its stakes are rendered so lightweight and lacking in sensation as it balances humour with a lot of overbearing scientific gibberish (that might be more pivotal to the MCU than it currently appears).
The movie makes up for some of its lacklustre showing with a killer mid-credits scene that ties in masterfully back into Infinity War, and it's telling that it's its most eye-popping moment.
Overall, Ant-Man and the Wasp falls short of the explosive Marvel affair and feels like the half-time show until the second half of Infinity War is released next year.
Despite being an enjoyable movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp's biggest criticism might be that it is not spectacular enough, and that's high praise in itself.
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