Ant-Man and the Wasp

Year: 2018
Production Co: Marvel
Studio: Disney
Director: Payton Reed
Producer: Kevin Fiege
Writer: Chris McKenna/Erik Sommers/Paul Rudd/Andrew Barrer/Gabriel Ferrari
Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michael Peña, Laurence Fishburne, Hannah-John Kamen, Michelle Pfeiffer, Walton Goggins, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Randall Park

The very model of a Marvel sequel – it not only has the exact same tone, structure and sensibility as the original film, it slots perfectly into the very rigid constraints of what I've read described as 'pretty clear Marvel-branded guardrails'. It's even got another scene featuring Scott Lang's (Paul Rudd) sidekick Luis (Michael Peña) doing his 'he said he saw a friend who said she knew a guy who...' shtick from the first one.

It's also another example of either faultless planning or the best luck of any film marketing machine ever. At a time when race relations were filling headlines, Black Panther came along to make Marvel seem not only to be ahead of the debate about black representation but leading it. Now the #MeToo era is in full swing propelling feminist thought to heights never before reached, they put Ant-Man's female counterpoint in the title of the movie, give her more agency than the hero and subsequently seem way out ahead of the now-tired question of whether women can be bankable superheroes.

It's a couple of years after the events of both Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War, which saw Scott Lang purlion Dr Hank Pym's (Michael Douglas) shrinking suit and join the rest of the Avengers to do battle at the German airport they laid waste to. He's now under house arrest and both Dr Pym and daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) want Lang's guts for garters.

After a strange dream about Hank's wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), he impulsively calls Hank, leaving a message before realising they won't want anyting to do with him. But the dream means more to Hank and Hope than Scott realises, and they soon kidnap him from the last days of his house arrest, bringing him to their secret lab where they explain/demand that they need his help.

They're figured out Janet might still be alive, merely stuck in the quantum realm for the last 30 years, and that information Scott has from his travels there might be the key to getting her back.

Meanwhile Walton Goggins shows up as a villain-of-the-week, demanding a piece of the action Hope is into after the strange and exotic spare parts he's provisioned for her and Hank's experiment. And if that's not enough, a mysterious, white-garbed ninja robot creature shows up on their tail (Hannah John Kamen), a young woman who's suffered a permanent and painful reality phase shift thanks to Hank's hubris as a young researcher.

The race is on to stay ahead of all the bad guys, evade the police who expect Scott to still be at home wearing his ankle bracelet and the sardonic remarks and icy stares of Hope and her father, who are on the run from the law themselves for reasons I couldn't remember.

The Marvel de-aging software is in full flight in an early sequence showing Hank and Janet leaving Hope in the care of a nanny while they make a desperate flight from the authorities, and the tone is light, fun, funny and lovable. If you love Marvel movies this is another trip on the exact same well-oiled roller coaster. Likewise, if you got bored with them long ago it's the same ride on the same roller coaster – you know every twist and loop instinctively by now.

I also couldn't help wondering what Pfeiffer and Douglas were thinking as they filmed their scenes surrounded by the green screens that would become the quantum realm. Back in the 80s when they were two of the hottest stars on the planet, did they ever imagine they'll be acting in not only a special effects bonanza like this but what amounts to the only event movie pipeline left in Hollywood?

And one more thing nobody's asked or talked about. It cost $162m, probably that much to market, and took just over $400m worldwide. That's not a smash by any measure – could it even have been a financial flop, something Disney have been very careful to quash any discussion about?

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