With Avengers: Infinity War, the Marvel Cinematic Universe wove together a rich tapestry of storylines from a decade's worth of movies, uniting an army of beloved characters to take on its biggest bad yet. It was thrilling, shocking, and—let's be honest—depressing as hell. So how do you follow up the biggest Marvel cinematic event to date? With its smallest hero, naturally! Ant-Man and the Wasp is essentially the anti-Infinity War, and as such is a perfect antidote to that MCU behemoth's soul-crushing spectacle.
Spoilers below for Avengers: Infinity War and Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Big Story, Huge Stakes vs. Small Story, Teeny Tiny Stakes
Set between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp begins with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) under house arrest for his part of the Avengers-on-Avengers battle in Berlin. He hasn't been Ant-Man for about two years. But a strange vision leads Scott to re-team with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), who are on a mission to reclaim their lost wife/mother, Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), from the Quantum Realm. Along the way, they'll cross paths with several shady characters, but no Big Bads anywhere near the level of Thanos in terms of menace or widespread murder.
Aside from some shrinking trips into the Quantum Realm, much of the film is set around San Francisco. Action sequences zip up and down its scenic hills, and the Golden Gate Bridge plays as a pretty—but untouched—backdrop to a pivotal showdown. There are no jaunts to space, and the stakes of the movie are fairly small. The Van Dyne/Pym family are searching for their mother. Scott seeks to help them without getting pitched back into prison. There's no whirling vortex in the sky that threatens the whole city, and no threat to the whole world at large. The impact of their actions could have major influence further down the MCU line, but nothing in the movie will make you think, "Scott should really call an Avenger right about now." Like Ant-Man and Spider-Man: Homecoming, Ant-Man and the Wasp manages to tell a small superhero story, yet nonetheless keeps things spectacular and exciting enough to demand you see it on the big screen.
You Don't Need To Be An MCU Expert To Dive Into This One
Imagine trying to make sense of Avengers: Infinity War without having seen all or most of the 18 films that lead up to it. You might still have fun, but understanding its plot would probably be a major hurdle. Though it’s a sequel to 2015's Ant-Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp is surprisingly self-contained. Sure, there are callbacks and returning characters from the first film, like Scott's daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) and her teddy bear of a stepdad (Bobby Cannavale). But the movie deftly provides enough context that you could invite along a friend or family member new to the MCU. They might not get every beat, but they'll be able to follow the main plot and enjoy the fun. The focus of this adventure is chasing down a curious McGuffin—through heists and fights—to pull off the experimental trip that could bring Janet back to full size and to her family. That's simple enough to understand even if the MCU exposition dump (delivered by a hilarious Randall Park) may make a newbie's eyes glaze over. (That's kind of the point/joke.)
You Need This Gleeful Superhero Romp In Your Life And Eyes
If Avengers: Infinity War—or, you know, the general state of the world right now—has you craving something that's just pure, unadulterated escapist fun, you'll positively love Ant-Man and the Wasp. With Hope van Dyne joining the fray as the eponymous Wasp, you get double the superhero action antics and double the Honey I Shrunk The Kids-style fun. She runs up knife blades and drives getaway vans the size of Matchbox cars. He makes San Francisco his playground, blowing up big in the bay, and using a tractor-trailer as a scooter.
Even in times of trouble, Scott's got jokes, cracking wise, pratfalling, and even delivering us the sweet, silly joys of Paul Rudd dancing. Plus, there's a cute kid, bonkers battles between our heroes and a fast and phasing foe, and the return of Luis' motor-mouthed, crowd-pleasing flashbacks. I mean no disrespect to any of the very, very funny moments in this absolute delight of a movie, but Michael Pena once again walks away with the biggest laughs in a mid-movie sequence where Luis is asked a very simple question. In response, he is Luis to the max.
In short, Ant-Man and the Wasp is precisely the kind of movie we crave in the summer, and maybe especially this summer. It's fast-paced, funny, and thrilling. Whether you can't get enough of the MCU or can't tell Iron Man from Ant-Man, it will entertain and charm. And best of all, for those seeking solace from the wounds Avengers: Infinity Wars' shocking and shattering finale caused, it gives us some hints of what could come next! But more on that once you've seen it. For now, think small and get to the theater.