It's always interesting to listen to the expectations people have for films, especially those inside of the interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe. One of the funniest questions people asked post-Thanos finger snap in Infinity War was "how does Ant-Man and the Wasp fit into all of this?" The question made sense; in Infinity War, Thanos made half of the population of the entire universe disappear with the snap of his finger. The next MCU film, Ant-Man and the Wasp, would have to address it, right? How would the comedic heist film about a lower-tier hero with an ill suit and a criminal record even get into the catastrophic incident and still deliver the funny? Well, it has to be (almost) exactly like Ant-Man and the Wasp.
For the record, this moviegoer loved the first Ant-Man. Full of wit and action, it was the sleeper hit of summer 2015. After a cameo appearance in Captain America: Civil War, Paul Rudd's Scott Lang is firmly settled into his role as a capable off-the-bench performer for the Avengers at large. So in Ant-Man and the Wasp, we see Rudd play the character with just a hint of determination and bewilderment that a guy who jacks a suit that makes him grow super-tall and shrink super-small in a very believable way. Still, he's the man next to the man next to the man, so there's really only so much that he as a character, and in turn, this character's films, can touch on. This isn't tentpole work, nor should it be.
Ed Note: Spoilers for Ant-Man and the Wasp lie ahead.
In Ant-Man and the Wasp, we get thrust into a fast-paced journey that hits the ground running and doesn't let up. We're roughly two years removed from the events of Civil War which resulted in Lang being put on house arrest and subject to rocking an ankle monitor. Days away from the end of his sentence, Lang has a wild dream that compels him to contact Dr. Hank Pym, who he's been estranged from since the last film. This, of course, leads to a reunion caper with Hank and his daughter, Hope (aka The Wasp), to help them find Janet Pym, who's been lost in the Quantum Realm for the past 30 years. That involves stealing some tech that will help them do some scientific shit that, fingers crossed, should lead them to wherever Janet is in the Quantum Realm. Angling against them is a mysterious character named Ghost, who, due to a tragic accident in her youth, could end up disappearing from existence on her own (no Thanos). Aided by one of Hank's old associates, she's looking to jack team Ant-Man's tech and utilize it to stay alive, no matter who that endangers.
With that being the basic framework, the film is mostly the journey of Hank and Hope learning to trust Scott once again while trying to steer clear of the authorities (damn those Sokovia Accords). And it's a wild ride. From slimy mobsters who want to get their hands on the tech for their own personal gain to seeing Luis and the rest of the X-Con Security gang providing extra comic relief, this is one movie that barely takes its foot off the gas pedal, which is good, especially because that means you don't have much time to dwell on things like the science behind how exactly the Quantum Realm can reverse Ghost's issue—or how easy it is to throw "quantum" in front of a word and turn it into something much more dynamic.
Ant-Man and the Wasp lives and dies by Paul Rudd's ability to be both the comedic and emotional core of the story. He's flying by the seat of his pants, feeling forever indebted to the Pyms for making his post-prison life meaningful while also trying to keep his nose clean so he can see his daughter. Sadly, while The Wasp shares top billing, this particular story is very much focused on how Ant-Man is going to handle things and less on the heroine. That's not to downplay what Hope does; she kicks the most ass and feels the most comfortable doing it. And the main motivation (finding Janet in the Quantum Realm) is pushed forward by Hope numerous times. But the movie still hinges on Ant-Man being able to step up and save the day, which can lessen the impact of this being the first Marvel film to have a female hero in the title.
And while necessary to push the film's narrative, Ghost doesn't pack much long-term punch. She's in a weird spot; she is obviously doing bad shit to get ahead, but as an actual villain she's forgettable. Her tech and powers are a dope concept that hopefully can be explored further in future MCU films, but that's assuming Ghost even exists post-Ant-Man and the Wasp. Because, you know, Thanos snapped.
Similar to the first film, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a hilarious action-packed adventure with great replay value. It's mindless enough to suck you in without making your head hurt with insipid plot lines and hilarious enough to keep you invested. That said, it's also fairly mid on in the grand scheme of Marvel films. Ant-Man and the Wasp firmly plant themselves in the reserve team when it comes to the larger MCU, which is a-OK for this level of cinema. Most importantly, it contains a post-credits scene that should rival even the best MCU post-credits scenes, so far. Just know that going into this film, you aren't getting a bigger piece to the Avengers' puzzle, but a raucous journey into one of their homies. With that knowledge in hand, you have quite the enjoyable popcorn flick.