MPAA Rating: PG-13
USCCB Rating: A-III
Reel Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
It’s a near miracle that ten years after its inception the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not only going strong but getting better every year. Just in the first half of 2018, there have already been two two stellar hits: Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War. While less sophisticated than either of those productions, Ant-Man and the Wasp is, I think, not only a better film but perhaps the best of the series. For a story of modest proportion and equally unpretentious aspirations, that’s quite a big deal.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest after helping the rogue team in Captain America: Civil War, which is a good way to explain his absence from Infinity War. Of course, he breaks his parole when Dr. Hank Pym and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) need his help finding his long-lost wife Janet van Dyne, the Wasp, who disappeared into the “quantum realm” when she shrunk too small. As Ant-Man, Lang is the only man to have journeyed to that realm and survived. Their plans, however, are constantly being interrupted by the FBI, who wants them behind bars, a crime lord who wants their technology, and a mysterious yet insanely cool figure called the Ghost who can phase through objects and whose intentions are as murky as its state of being.
The story is a simple one, but the plot is crazy, taking weird twists and turns, with plenty of actions sequences, all involving constant shrinking and growing. In short, Ant-Man and the Wasp is pure entertainment in a way rarely seen since the adventure serials of the 1930s. There are no political overtones, no real-world problems. The goal is not to save the world but reunite a family. There is romance but no sex, almost no foul language, plenty of action but precious little violence, and (spoiler alert!) no one dies in the end. Two of the villains even get redeemed to a point where they could potentially be working besides our heroes in Ant-Man 3. All of this allows the viewer to relax and go along for the ride, which is wild, wacky, and wonderful.
At the center is a cast of characters who could make watching paint dry a riveting experience. Paul Rudd, in another stellar performance, understands how silly superhero mythology can be. During a long monologue where Dr. Pym tries to explain how his machine works, he quips, “do you just add ‘quantum’ in front of everything?” Hope, who joins Scott as the flying, insect-sized Wasp, is a classic no-nonsense female warrior who handles business and looks great doing it. Lastly, Pym is a mad scientist who has the best of intentions. These three have some of the best chemistry in the franchise, not even counting the many excellent supporting characters.
The news, especially in recent months, has often been filled with Hollywood’s serious problems. More than a film about Trump or politics, what “we need now” is movie that reminds ourselves why cinema exists in the first place: to show something wonderful and good. Entertainment and leisure, done morally, is a good deed, as attested in the first miracle by the Son. Going to a movie such as Ant-Man and the Wasp, in which good always prevails and evil is always undone, is a refreshing break from a ugly and complicated world. Perhaps, in fact, it is also a reminder the world may not be all that ugly or complicated.