Ant-Man and the Wasp

The first Ant-Man installment was a welcome break from the increasingly galactic Marvel films. Breezy and smaller-scale (pun slightly intended), its heist-like structure and colorful supporting characters gave it much life, even if it seemed rather inconsequential in the grand superhero scheme of things.

Ant-Man and the Wasp picks up two years after Scott Lang/Ant-Man's (Paul Rudd) cameo in Captain America: Civil War's hero-on-hero battle. After that fiasco, while the other Avengers either went into hiding or kowtowed to their government, poor old ex-con Lang was sentenced to house arrest. It's a funny little touch that further underscores the highly localized exploits of Ant-Man. The terms of his arrest also forbid Lang from contacting his sort-of girlfriend Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and her father, Ant-Man inventor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). But when evidence suggests that Pym's long-lost wife Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), the original Wasp, is alive and well, deep in the microscopic "quantum realm", Lang can't resist joining the hunt for her – and neither can a couple of villains with modest agendas of their own.

For much of its runtime, Ant-Man and the Wasp looks kind of like a TV series. With a limited number of San Francisco-set action sequences and Peyton Reed's ho-hum mise en scène (one static closeup after another), it lacks the cinematic oomph of most Marvel films. Happily, by the time we reach the third act, the film picks up considerably, combining nifty effects with clever use of the shrink-and-grow technology so central to the characters. A mid-credits sequence connects Ant-Man to the darker storyline of Marvel's Infinity Stones saga and leaves us with a cliffhanger, so stick around for that.

This is fun, family-friendly fare, but it's somehow even more inconsequential than its predecessor. At times Paul Rudd seems like a supporting player in his own movie, and while the rest of the cast is capable, neither Lilly nor Douglas oozes much charisma, the villains leave no great impression, and Pfeiffer is but a fleeting (pfleeting?) presence. Only the motormouthed Michael Peña truly delights, stealing the show just as he did in Ant-Man.