Good news for amnesiacs: Ant-Man and the Wasp is a near carbon copy of the flimsy-fun first installment. Much like the school careers of the belligerent youth demo the film is courting, virtually nothing was learned by the filmmakers from the last go-round, other than the fact you should always let Evangeline Lilly have wings and kick people. Pinned between two forgettable, pointless villains and a pseudo-science MacGuffin, Paul Rudd and company tiptoe up to the line of delightful comedy before moonwalking back to the generic adventure-adjacent spot where the Jumanji reboot made all that money. The result is a gossamer, near-goofy mess elevated by arguably the most stacked cast in a standalone Marvel movie.
In both a meta and plot-based sense, Scott Lang (Rudd) was forced to sit out Avengers: Infinity War due to a scheduling conflict. In Captain America: Civil War, Lang was asked, as a small favor, to make Ant-Man gigantic. He is now under house arrest because the Marvel cinematic universe quietly still has a much more Draconian no-superhero rule than The Incredibles universe has. Three days before his ankle bracelet is set to slide off, Hope (Lilly) and Hank (Michael Douglas) whisk him away to extract information about the quantum location of Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), who is Hope’s mom, Hank’s wife and the only good part of the movie mother.
Since the five writers of Ant-Man and the Wasp — Rudd included — didn’t feel like artfully combining all the unnecessary moving parts, no synopsis should have to do so either. A villain named Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who can move through matter, because anything is scientifically plausible if you say “quantum” first, shows up and complicates things. A truly and profoundly extraneous and generic “scientific arms dealer” named Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) is also present for some reason. Lang’s old ex-con buddies — Luis (Michael Peña), Dave (T.I.) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian) — are sloppily integrated, as is Hank’s ex-frenemy, Dr. Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne). Lang’s daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson); ex-wife, Maggie (Judy Greer), and her husband, Paxton (Bobby Cannavale) are also in attendance. Worst of all, nobody told Randall Park that his FBI straight man, Jimmy Woo, wasn’t appearing in Show Dogs 2 or some other sub-grade-school-education-based straight-to-video shenanigans.
In theory, not saddling a cast this spectacular with an overly dense script makes sense. However, there’s a world of difference between providing enough space for talent to operate and clumsily duct-taping clunky plot components together and hoping Rudd’s charm and Lilly’s bad-assery are enough. And yet, with the help of Peña’s riffing rants and Pfeiffer’s sly gravitas, the job does indeed get done-ish. By the end, Ant-Man and the Wasp runs with reality-warping MacGuffin in hand toward the groan-inducing events that half the Avengers are now facing. Here’s hoping that when — or, as the Marvel execs swear, “if” — we get the ol’ Ant-gang back together, someone brings a better script.
This review previously appeared in The Reader of Omaha, Nebraska.