Every so often, Peyton Reed's Ant-Man and the Wasp manages to channel the same kind of lo-fi irreverence that made the original Ant-Man so memorable. To the new film's credit, those moments come regularly, welcome blasts of fresh air; to its detriment, they serve to remind us of a better movie that we could be watching — one actually built on that kind of cheeky spirit rather than merely utilizing it to distract us from a cumbersome, uninteresting plot.
Reed's 2015 film, one of the unlikelier entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, dispensed with the typical heroics and focused on the humor inherent in its concept: Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) was simply trying to get back into the good graces of his estranged family, especially his young daughter.
This time, Scott gets wrapped up in the efforts of his mentor Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hank's daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) to help retrieve Hank's beloved and long-presumed-dead wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the Quantum Realm, that dreaded subatomic dimension. Hank and Hope have built a tunnel to that dimension, complete with a tiny submarine-type doohickey they can ride in. But such a setup is apparently not enough to power a whole superhero movie, so we've got a super-villain, too: Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). There's also Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), a corrupt restaurateur and businessman who wants Hank's laboratory. The movie is just clogged with incident.
Ant-Man and the Wasp keeps the conflicts relatively inconsequential, but piles them indifferently atop one another as if to reach a prescribed level of momentousness.