ANT-MAN & THE WASP: warm, funny and a bit clever too

Marvel Studios have produced so many of these films – this is the 20th in a decade – that the first question fans will probably ask themselves about a new movie is whether it at least maintains the standard set by its predecessors.

So far, with a few arguable exceptions, the answer has been “yes” each time a new instalment comes along. And each time the studios unfurl a new film, the writers have to make it fit into the storyline which has preceded it. In the case of Ant-Man & The Wasp, this is a tricky little assignment. Thankfully, the writers succeed, and mix in the usual recipe of action, humour and pathos. To boil it down, Ant-Man & The Wasp does the business, and does it well.

But let’s get back that question of fitting into Marvel’s storyline. Ant-Man was introduced in a standalone 2015 movie, where we learned of his origin, and how the inventor of the Ant-Man suit, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) had seemingly lost his wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) into the subatomic world of quantum reality, never to be found again. But by that first movie’s end, Ant-Man himself (Paul Rudd) had gone subatomic and returned, leaving open the question of an attempt to save Janet in a future film. Certainly that’s what Hank desperately hoped for, as did his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lily).

So that loose thread is firmly taken hold of in this story, but other threads have to be tidied up. We met Ant-Man for the second time in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, where he joined the Captain’s anti-establishment faction and ended up in prison by film’s end. But what then? Where was Ant-Man earlier this year in Infinity War?  Why was he not called upon early in that film, and what happened to him by the end, when a sizeable portion of heroes were reduced to ashes by Thanos? All this needs to be addressed in Ant-Man & The Wasp – and it is. If you have seen these films before you’ll know to wait for the postcredit scenes. There are usually two, and in this film, the first is a must watch, and a pleasant twist on proceedings.

This new film also brings in a meatier role for the Michelle Pfeiffer character, while introducing a role for Laurence Fishburne, a new “ghost” character (Hannah John-Kamen), and a new villain called Sonny Burch (Walter Goggins). It also reprises the comic antics of Ant-Man’s sidekicks, Luis (Michael Pena), Kurt (David Dastmalchian) and Dave (rapper T.I.).

The new film again runs with the idea of Paul Rudd’s character, Scott Lang, being somewhat of an accidental hero, and again, it’s Hope, as The Wasp, who is the smarter, generally savvier, and more capable fighter. The zooming between super-large, normal and super-small sizes of people and objects is often employed to comic effect, notably in car chase scenes. There’s a lot going on.

The film avoids the darker tones of Infinity War, and while it doesn’t dip into the campiness of Thor:Ragnarok, it still has a light comic touch, certainly helped by the writing talents of actor Paul Rudd, who contributes again in this department.  If you liked the first Ant-Man film you’ll probably like this one. Its story remains relevant to the big goings-on across the Marvel Cinematic Universe because of Thanos and the Infinity stones, but it’s largely a contained and warm-hearted tale of families fighting to stay together. A diverting, engaging, funny and action packed piece of entertainment.

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