The twentieth entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man and the Wasp sees former thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) try to maintain a relationship with his daughter whilst coming to the end of his house arrest and elsewhere, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) attempt to rescue Hope’s mother from the quantum realm. But when a continually phasing enemy known as Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) shows up threatening to derail their plans, Hank and Hope recruit Scott in their efforts to take back the necessary technology and to free Hank’s long lost wife and partner, crossing paths with intrusive cops, ruthless businessmen and Ghost, who is desperate to find a cure for her unstable phasing affliction.

When Ant-Man hit cinemas back in 2015, I got a fair share of enjoyment out of all the super cool visuals, warm comedy and heist movie influences – the film was visually impressive with individual sequences of brilliance but I also felt that there was quite the lull in the middle and that it tried too hard to have an emotional, pro-family message – not helped by an infamous change of director and way too many writers. With Ant-Man and the Wasp, we are treated to a similar kind of story that’s perhaps a little bit bigger and more action packed than its predecessor, with even more chases, fight scenes and shrinking/enlarging, and there’s far less of an obvious effort to make it all emotional and hard hitting – there’s less of a second act lull and the pacing’s a little better this time around.

The film is more or less on par with its predecessor but having said that, Ant-Man and the Wasp ultimately falls short, paling in comparison to a great many of the other films in the Marvel franchise, because the story isn’t as important or as intriguing as it should have been and, given what we’ve been treated to with Infinity War, there’s not a whole lot at stake and there’s little to no urgency at all. As I say, it’s much of what we’ve seen before, albeit on a slightly larger scale, and as the whole plot simply revolves around rescuing Janet Van Dyne from the quantum realm as well as the main antagonist’s attempt to cure herself, the stakes are too low and the overall plot of the film is unimaginative and sadly forgettable.

Once again, this Ant-Man film has a whole host of writers so it would appear to be a case of “too many cooks”, this ends up being detrimental to the film, and while the pacing is better this time around, there’s still a lack of narrative cohesion as the film flits about from setpiece to setpiece, episode to episode, and it also doesn’t help that there’s far too much nonsense technobabble that makes little to no sense (“do you guys just put the word “quantum” in front of everything?”); in the end, we’re supposed to just accept what they’re doing with no real understanding of just what’s going on.

But despite the so-so plot, the film’s cast have a lot of fun with the material and all handle both the comedy and emotional scenes quite well. Paul Rudd is yet again likeable and commited as the former criminal trying to go straight, Michael Douglas has a little more “in the field” work this time around, yet again being a fine mentor, and Evangeline Lilly (finally doing away with that AWFUL haircut from the first film) is right where she belongs – donning the Wasp suit and doing the lion’s share of the crimefighting and superhero stuff even better than Scott does. Michael Peña also returns as Luis and yet again proves to be a breath of fresh comedic air, taking most of the funniest moments and getting to do another one of his fast paced recollections that ends up being one of the more humorous parts of the film, young Abby Ryder Fortson is still perfectly sweet as Scott’s daughter Cassie, and Bobby Cannavale also puts in a return appearance as Paxton, though in a sadly reduced capacity.

As for the new additions, Black Mirror‘s Hannah John-Kamen appears as both a tortured, unfortunate soul and an unstable, unpredictable force as Ava/Ghost; there’s clear character motivation in that she wants to be rid of her condition regardless of the price but in the grand scheme of things, her character makes too little of an impact and will likely end up as one of the MCU’s more forgettable villains. Similarly, Walton Goggins, though an undeniable good sport, plays the archetypal rich, ruthless businessman desperate to get his hands on Pym’s advanced technology but his character would actually be at home in any other generic summer blockbuster flick. Heck, he’s more or less playing the same guy that he played in Tomb Raider. Finally, Laurence Fishburne is decent as Hank’s former friend and colleague Bill Foster (doing both DC and Marvel, it would seem) and Randall Park is great as the FBI agent who is wholeheartedly determined to catch Scott out and bring him down – with oh so hilarious results.

On the technical front, everything’s as impressive as you’d expect and with this film, we see a whole load of the shrinking and supersizing that we saw in the first film but in much larger amounts; Ant-Man and the Wasp goes bigger in terms of spectacle and all of the setpieces on display are admittedly mighty to behold. The phasing effect of Hannah John-Kamen’s character is neatly done and the de-aging that is occasionally used on Michael Douglas and Laurence Fishburne is impressively flawless – much better than the awkward work done on Robert Downey Jr. in Civil War!

And as for the mid/post credit scenes: the final one is nothing special, you’d miss absolutely nothing by leaving the film early, but the mid-credits scene is the best part of the film by far – a goosebump inducing moment that will surely shock and leave you wondering just what will happen next. I actually predicted something like that would happen but to the film’s credit, what actually transpired surpassed my expectations and ended up being far more chilling than I could have imagined.

The latest adventure from the diminutive heroes offers plenty of super cool visuals and some funny moments but the stakes are too low, the plot is unimportant, and the technobabbly writing is a hindrance.

★ ★ ★

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