Of the MCU movies, I might like Ant-Man the least. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, but it felt like it didn’t have much behind the laughs to build on. In the comics, Hank Pym is one of the great minds of the Marvel Universe—a founding Avenger and the man who created Ultron. In the movies, there’s no room for great minds other than Tony Stark. Pym has one trick—size control—and so his legacy is well-contained away from the main line of heroes. Pym isn’t even Ant-Man: he’s an old man who might have been Ant-Man when he was younger, if there had been an MCU then.
Ant-Man and the Wasp improves on its predecessor in that it does a better job of weaving its comedy into a well-executed action movie, while establishing a more solid niche in the wider MCU. It rolls together a few moderately interesting plot lines and staffs them with good, funny actors and makes a movie that’s entertaining and exciting.
Evangeline Lily’s Hope Van Dyne is a nice addition to the MCU roster—she was in the first Ant Man movie, but comes in to her own as the Wasp in this sequel. She’s a trained scientist and fighter, the daughter of two heroes who raised her to be a hero in her own right and the rightful heir of the Pym legacy. This is quite a reversal from the comics, where she started as a socialite and Hank Pym’s love interest, who owed him most of her seat at the Avengers’ table. In that sense, this movie could well have been called “The Wasp and Ant-Man”, since Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man is her opposite and inferior in most ways, owing his seat in the MCU to Hope and her father. Her opening scene is a well-executed and exciting fight scene, featuring someone who’s trained to use her shrinking powers in concert with martial arts. It’s a great scene that sort of overshadows a lot of the later scenes.
Paul Rudd continues to be charming and funny, especially with his on-screen daughter (Cassie Lang, played by Abby Ryder Fortson). His chemistry with Lily and Michael Douglas’s Hank Pym is strong, and it’s hard to ask for more.
After enduring the weight of Avengers: Infinity War earlier this year, fans of the MCU deserved a break. Ant-Man and the Wasp succeeds in not only in delivering a lighthearted, action-filled romp that filled that need, but also in following its well-received predecessor—and in many ways besting it.
Update–July 7, 2018:
Vanity Fair has published a video with director Peyton Reed breaking down the Wasp’s kitchen fight scene described above. Spoiler Alert: While it doesn’t really give anything away, I wouldn’t watch that video until you’ve seen it in context.
Update–July 9, 2019:
The Verge has a fairly long piece with director Peyton Reed about the movie. I thought the bits about directing the physical comedy was interesting.
Update–July 16, 2018:
Bryan Bishop has followed up with notes on the credits scene from the movie for The Verge.