The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s twentieth film, Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), is fast-paced, superficial, and inessential, but it’s kind of a blast. It’s the sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man, and as the title suggests, it acknowledges what the original film could not: that Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) is every bit as capable, if not moreso, than Paul Rudd’s titular Ant-Man. That said, Scott Lang remains this one’s default POV character. Under house arrest for two years in the wake of his “terrorist” behavior in Captain America: Civil War, Scott is once again attempting to stay out of trouble. He’s started a new security business with his former cellmate Luis (Michael Peña) and is trying to be a good father to daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). But just a few short days before the end of his sentence, Scott is lured back into the superhero life. Hope and Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) have theorized that Hank’s long-lost love Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) may still be alive, trapped in the subatomic realm. Since Scott journeyed to that realm and returned, they think he may be the key to helping them rescue her. Unfortunately, since Scott’s actions have also run them afoul of the Sokovia Accords, they’re forced to build their lab in secret with the help of black-market tech dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins). But he’s just the first of many antagonists to challenge the trio’s microscopic rescue efforts, as other villains and government agents look to shut them down.
Ant-Man and the Wasp possesses a slapdash plot that isn’t even remotely convincing, and it’s full of distractingly ridiculous, pseudo-scientific technobabble. This is not high art. But mostly, I didn’t care. It’s big, stupid fun, thanks largely to Rudd’s affable charms, Peña’s scene-stealing comic timing, and a glorious parade of sight gags and eyeball kicks. In the comic books, the powers of Ant-Man and the Wasp always came off as underwhelming, but they’re simply made for live action. The size-changing special effects, whether played for comedy (Ant-Man) or badassery (the Wasp), are entertainingly realized throughout, and relentless action-comedy setpieces go a long way to make up for the absurdities of the plot. Which, incidentally, I couldn’t bring myself to care much about; for me, there was entirely too much Hank Pym here, and his reunion with Janet didn’t resonate. Then again, there’s great support from most of the cast, including comic relief (Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale, Randall Park), and more familiar Marvel characters brought compellingly to life (Hannah John-Kamen, Laurence Fishburne). It doesn’t aspire to be much more than a silly, upbeat diversion, but it certainly succeeds on that score.