Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

There is something intensely family about Ant-Man and the Wasp that is, for the most part lacking in super-hero sagas. From the psychotic guilt-tripping of Batman to the ever unlucky in love Spiderman, saving the universe seems to go hand in hand with the sort of issues that would have kept Freud in schnitzel and sachertorte for life!

OK. The original Ant-Man, aka Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) may have been by-word for mental instability. But Thor has family issues. Superman was abandoned by his parents. Batman watched his mum and dad die. Spiderman caused his uncle's death. Iron Man...just don't even start on Iron Man's relationship with his dad!

Which makes it quite a thing that Ant Man and the Wasp is an ensemble work bringing together several generations of miniature crime-fighters and their offspring, as opposed to the same old same old lone crusader railing against the injustice of it all.

It kicks off with the original Ant-Man and Wasp (Michelle Pfeiffer) aka Janet Van Dyne in a race against time to save the world from nuclear annihilation. Except the only way to do that involves Wasp shrinking to sub-atomic size and crossing the quantum barrier into a world from which she can never return. Or can she?

Fast forward 20 years or so and modern-day Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is languishing at home, under house arrest, following his somewhat ill-judged decision to side with Captain America in Captain America: Civil War. Ooopsy!

And he is definitely not friends with Hank Pym or daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) who, it turns out, is following in her mum's footsteps by donning the wings – and the somewhat impressive stinging power - of the Wasp.

A chance opening of a pathway into the quantum world drags Scott back to the fight as the only person who can possibly locate the original Wasp who, we now learn, is likely just trapped and not squished. Though this is inevitable given that he still has hopes of, well, Hope.

Running interference on any attempts to build the quantum tunnel are a motley assortment of rogue FBI, righteous FBI, who would like nothing more than to put Ant-Man behind bars, criminal mastermind Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), and enhanced human Ava (Hannah John-Kamen), aka the Ghost, who believes her only way to survive a life-threatening condition is to hijack attempts to rescue Wasp/Janet and suck out her life-force.

That's complicated, made even more so by the fact that Scott is trying to keep his security business afloat while relying on a bunch of colleagues who make the Three Stooges look competent.

But it sort of works, and the multiple interplays that such complication make possible end up delivering a film that is fun, action-packed and with a great deal of heart.

Loads of clever effects and witty gags around the topic of miniaturisation: a predictable run-in between various size-shifting heroes about who got to be "the biggest"; and an amusing piece of gender-bending as Scott finds himself unknowingly channelling Janet, leading to an amorous interlude with Hank. That so shouldn't work: so should be ejected from the film at the planning stage as most incredible bad taste. Except it isn't. It works and it is funny without descending to bad taste.

So yes: the geeks will love this. But there is plenty of room here for those interested in how a family of super-heroes resolve complex family issues. A bit like the Incredibles, but played for real. Ish!

Did I mention that Scott has an ex-wife with a new partner and they do NOT hate him? Or that he has a daughter who adores him and who he does not constantly let down, having to choose between super-hero duty and family?

This is a happy movie with a sense of humour: just check out the super-ant that Hank and Hope leave at home, wearing Scott's tag, so that the FBI won't suspect he has already left the building. Marvel continue to prove what was once thought not possible: that you can create movies in the super-hero genre that are not just pompous or over-obsesssed with their own seriousness (Batman franchise please note!).

And for the super-geeks, there are two extra scenes at movie's end: one a sobering cross-over reference to Avengers: Infinity War; the other, just sheer delightful visual gag. Do stay. They are worth the wait.

Four stars.