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lessed with the wackiest superpowers and least essential backstory in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a.k.a. Ant-Man, has become the little guy of the blockbuster franchise, the closest equivalent to an everydude in this world of supersoldiers, geniuses, aliens, and kings. While other headlining heroes wrestle with the sins of the fathers (literally in the recent Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther), the reformed small-time crook is just trying to be a better dad to the daughter he co-parents with his ex-wife (Judy Greer) and her husband (Bobby Cannavale). In Ant-Man And The Wasp, which is set before the mega-events of this year’s Avengers: Infinity War, we find that he’s been living under house arrest in San Francisco ever since the kerfuffle of Captain America: Civil War, though he’s still got his little girl on the weekends. He’s been learning magic tracks (which, in a running gag, only seem to impress other grown men) and trying to start a small business called X-Con Security with his chatterbox buddy Luis (Michael Peña). If the overarching theme of the MCU has been one of responsibilities, Scott Lang’s remain relatably small.
But human stories aren’t part of the Marvel films’ business plan, and director Peyton Reed, who also helmed 2015’s Ant-Man (taking over from Edgar Wright, who’d been developing the project since before Marvel Studios was even a twinkle in Kevin Feige’s eye), isn’t one to wring pathos from the situation of a divorced ex-con. Like the first film, which hit theaters between Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Civil War, Ant-Man And The Wasp is meant as a break from the ongoing interpersonal and planetary conflicts of the rest of the MCU—an effects-driven shaggy-dog story of capers and ticking countdowns, with a cast of oddballs who tend to get distracted by the small stuff. Though, ironically, daddy issues play an even more central role here that in the tentpole Marvel movies, thanks to Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man and inventor of a far-out size-changing technology (involving so-called “Pym Particles” and special suits) whose Alice In Wonderland effects can cause madness in the wrong hands. There’s also some telepathy involved, allowing the wearer of the Ant-Man get-up to command his insect namesakes.
As the 95-year-old Stan Lee exclaims in his requisite cameo, it’s all because of ’60s—not the druggy late ’60s, but the Space Age early ’60s, when Lee and his brother, Larry Lieber, co-created Ant-Man with Jack Kirby, the comics godhead whose art bridged the decade’s Cold War imaginings and its later psychedelic phase. Like Captain America, another former agent of the defunct spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D., Pym represents an earlier time. His history of former partners, former protégés, failures, and technologies that fell into the wrong hands drives the plots of both Ant-Man and Ant-Man And The Wasp. Understandably, a lot of his guilt and lost idealism stems from the Cold War rebound of the 1980s, when his wife and superhero partner, Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), a.k.a. The Wasp, was sucked into the subatomic Quantum Realm. In Ant-Man And The Wasp, he sets out to get her back by way of a “quantum tunnel.” But he also needs the help of Scott, who apparently became “quantum-entangled” with Janet on his own trippy foray into the Quantum Realm in Ant-Man. (There’s a lot of quantum gobbledygook in Ant-Man And The Wasp; naturally, the movie pokes fun at it.)
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