“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is a worthy sequel to 2015’s lighthearted and whimsical “Ant-Man.” After events of previous films, this story begins with our hero (Paul Rudd) under house arrest in a charming sequence wherein he attempts to entertain his delightfully precocious daughter without actually leaving the house. It reintroduces a family dynamic that was central in the previous film, and here once again is reflected in the main plot, as Dr. Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) attempt to save the missing piece of their family from the Quantum Realm.
Just as with the first installment in the series, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” revolves around a broken family trying to come back together, and deals with it in the same lighthearted tone. The jokes revolving around the size of the characters are ratcheted up to a new level, and the visual gags, though never eliciting a full laugh, produce a protracted chuckle that lasts for most of the movie. The family dynamic is admirable, and to the credit of the movie, it deals with that theme in a simple and straightforward way.
If there has been a consistent problem with the Marvel movies, however, it has been the emphasis of style over substance, and that is the greatest fault of this movie. The film is meant to be entertaining, comedic, and fun, and in many ways this is welcome after the unexpectedly dark and brooding “Avengers: Infinity War.” However, though it follows the typical three-act story structure, the movie is so lighthearted that the stakes, such as they are, do not land. The audience is never gripped with concern for our heroes or wondering what will happen next. The characters, aside from the villain, never seem to be in any real danger. It makes for a pleasant story, but not a particularly gripping or memorable one.
The antagonist, known as “Ghost,” is a character who deserved a more serious movie. Great strides have been made in the most recent Marvel movies to create more compelling villains, and Ghost is certainly better than the run-of-the-mill villains of earlier installments, but oddly enough, this sort of light and (relatively) superficial movie really did not need a complex villain. Corey Stoll’s campy portrayal of Darren Cross in the first movie was a fun villain for a fun story. Ghost, however, a woman constantly being ripped apart and stitched back together at the microscopic level, seems out of place in an otherwise comic movie. A simple enemy would have been exactly what a simple movie needed. Oddly enough, the fact that Ghost is a complex antagonist just leaves you wishing that she had been put in a movie that could have appropriately developed the potential of her character. As such, the villain is good, but out of place.
All in all, it is completely enjoyable, but fluffy. It is a likable nothing that really leaves you nothing to say, other than that you spent the last couple of hours relatively pleasantly. The assembly-line whimsy of the Marvel machine pumps you full of exactly the emotions it is supposed to, all except for the twinge of regret at the end that you didn’t do something more productive with your time. It is a pleasant facade with nothing inside. A feast of empty calories. It elicits chuckles, where the limited stakes are constantly smothered with jokes and wisecracks. Marvel may have solved the formula for superhero movies, but consequently, you cannot help but see the movie as, well, formulaic.