The Marvel Cinematic Universe cranks on. After the emotional and universe-shattering “Infinity War,” the MCU steps into a quieter corner in “Antman and the Wasp.” The story picks up where “Captain America: Civil War” ended, with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) waiting to be let off house arrest for fighting on Captain American’s side against the United Nations. As long as Lang does not try to break out or converse with any wanted criminals, such as Captain America, Hank Pym or Hope Van Dyne, he will be released to wander the world as a free man in a few days time. If he breaks house arrest, he’ll end up in prison for many, many years, separated from his daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). So Lang is content to sit, entertaining Cassie with mock heists set up in his house where she serves as his partner-in-crime. Then, with only days before his release, Lang receives clues to the whereabouts of Janet Van Dyne, Hank Pym’s missing and presumed-dead wife. With a simple phone call, Lang begins a course of action that puts his freedom, life and the lives of those dear to him on the line in pursuit of Janet Van Dyne.
The moral of the story is partnership. At the beginning of the film, nobody wants to play nice with each other. Lang just wants to do his time. Despite making the initial contact with Pym to start the action going, he constantly asks to be sent back home so he will not be caught and lose his chance at freedom and his family. Pym and Hope Van Dyne just want to get Janet back, and they could not care less about anyone else’s opinions or goals. In this sense, the main villain of the piece, the Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), receives a deal of sympathy since she is mostly being ignored by the heroes despite being in great turmoil. As the film goes on, however, the heroes and villains only succeed when they listen to each other and work together. Lang and Hope Van Dyne start to work together, as Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Lang works in collaboration with both Pym and Hope to rescue Janet, with major failures only occurring when they fail to communicate or trust each other. The Ghost, too, must listen and work with others to achieve her non-nefarious goal. Other themes are a bit muddled, as the films tries to show a theme of seeking out a third option in the face of two bad ones, emphasized through the resolution of the Ghost, though this is muddled and poorly fleshed out.
As for characters, Scott Lang is the main focus. As with some MCU films, the character arcs are not overly complicated. Lang must overcome his fear of losing his family in order to do the right thing, and this results in a touching conversation between him and Cassie. Another emotional moment is between Lang, Pym and Hope Van Dyne, though it is in equal parts uncomfortable and humorous. The other characters, though well acted, are mostly forgettable except for the Ghost, who has several emotional moments with her backstory and her plot conclusion. Like the original, the film’s dialogue is full of comedy, and Michael Peña’s Luis is forefront among the ‘quippers.’ As for villains, in addition to the Ghost is Walter Goggins’ Sonny Burch, who seems to be only there to drive plot and to give the audience a villain to boo at, though I admit that seems to be standard for an MCU film.
Overall, I found “Ant-Man and the Wasp” to be a fine film. I never found the original all that endearing, though many of my friends rank it among their favorite MCU films. Some of them told me the sequel is a step down. Personally, I found them about equivalent. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is nothing special and probably not worth the money to see in the theater, but it is good enough for a rainy-day rental, even if you aren’t a big MCU fan.