Ant-Man and the Wasp caps a tremendous twelve months for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Kicking things off with Taika Waititi's day-glo intergalactic romp Thor: Ragnarok, the franchise hit new heights with Black Panther, proving that heroes don't have to be middle-aged white men. All of this led into Avengers: Infinity War, a sprawling epic that brought together 22 Marvel heroes under one blockbuster roof, with an ending that thrusts the series and fans into the unknown. Notably absent from proceedings was the diminutive hero Ant-Man, and now we have an explanation for this.
The film places itself before Infinity War and after Captain
If the first Ant-Man was a pleasant surprise (after a tortured arrival to the screen) then this is a sequel that very much plays down to expectations. Once again, Paul Rudd proves the film's best asset, with his Scott proving endearingly sweet. The film works when it is just kicking back and hanging out with Rudd. And there are a few comedic parts that are fun, with Michael Peña returning to steel scenes a-plenty, and Randall Park making a great addition. Where the film falls down is with the more dramatic roles. While Evangeline Lilly's Hope now shares the hero duties, she isn't given much to do outside of the action sequences (which are as good as expected). The villains are particularly poor in this film, with the makers unsure if Hannah John-Kamen's Ghost is a terrifying threat or a sympathetic victim, and so she becomes neither. Walton Goggins is certainly funny in his role, but is given so little to do here. And the less said about the wasting of Michelle Pfeiffer and Laurence Fishburne in rather thankless roles, the better. Marvel wastes so much talent that it boggles the mind.
And this is the main issue I had with Ant-Man and the Wasp. It is never a truly bad film; the formula has been tweaked so well that this is not a dud in the sense that Iron Man II or Thor: The Dark World were. But it is also so minor, so insignificant. About half way through, my partner and I realised that nothing of note had happened or was going to happen. It doesn't help that the film gets bogged down in trying to explain the Quantum realm (and it never finds a satisfying explanation for it) and slowly grinds to a halt. There's a fun final chase sequence, but by that point it was apparent that this is a blockbuster that feels far too weightless.
For some this will be enough; Rudd's charm really will sustain them through this most mild of adventures. But after the run of ambitious works that Marvel has had, I left this movie decided underwhelmed. With a script stuck in the treacle of pseudo-science, a mediocre threat and a sense that this is all just treading water until next year's follow-up to Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp feels like a truly wasted opportunity.