After the events of 'Civil War', Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is under FBI house arrest and out of the superhero game. However, he's drawn back in Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne (Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly) to help find a way back to the quantum realm where Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), Hope's mother and Hank's wife, is trapped.
There's a moment in 'Ant-Man And The Wasp' when Scott Lang asks if Hank and Hope Van Dyne if they just put the word "quantum" in front of everything - asking, in effect, the question on behalf of the audience. After everything that took place in 'Avengers: Infinity War', it's no surprise that the stakes are dramatically less so in 'Ant-Man And The Wasp' and both director Peyton Reed and its stars know this. There is no galaxy-destroying alien on the way or stop-at-nothing villain who wants to take over the world in the script here; it's all so remarkably small-scale and so joyfully embraces that you can't help but come to this with a good feeling. How often do comic book and super hero movies have this little at stake, and more specifically, how do you keep it going?
Well, humour plays a large part in it and that's what 'Ant-Man And The Wasp' has in spades. Given how 'Infinity War' was so laboured with its battles and Josh Brolin's monologuing, both 'Thor: Ragnarok' and 'Ant-Man & The Wasp' grasp the fact that they can be as diverting and as carefree as they like. This gives them licence to poke fun at itself - something 'Infinity War' or, to a lesser extent, 'Black Panther' couldn't do, but 'Ant-Man & The Wasp' can and do so happily. Now with his feet firmly under the table, Peyton Reed is able to bring his light-hearted sensibilities to bear on a Marvel character that would have likely been completely different under Edgar Wright, the original director chosen for 'Ant-Man'.
The scenes are strung together with a firm storyline and Reed is able to pace and punctuate action sequences with quips and one-liners to spare without giving over into the sometimes annoyingly repetitive ones in, say, 'Deadpool 2'. Granted, the film doesn't have anywhere near the same kind of messed-up humour that 'Deadpool 2' has, but it's able to work within the PG-12A confines of it easily because, well, it's Ant-Man. He's a guy who can shrink down in size or go huge - how serious or even how messed up can you go with it? If there was a touchstone for 'Ant-Man and The Wasp', it's probably something along the lines of Dennis Quaid's '80s-set sci-fi caper 'Innerspace', a confident swagger in an otherwise ridiculous setup.
Rudd and Lilly have a genuine chemistry on screen, Lilly in particular gives a spirited performance in what could have been easily relegated to a sidekick role had she not stepped up and made it hers. Michael Douglas, meanwhile, is far less the exposition-delivery device he was in the first one and has a far more involved journey here. His deadpan humour works in harmony with his grumpy, cynical character and adds a counterbalance to Rudd's infectiously upbeat presence. Michael Pena, however, steals each and every scene he's in and one particular moment involving a truth serum is by far one of the funniest moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far. Sadly, Michelle Pfeiffer has nothing more than an extended cameo and Hannah John-Kamen's truly forgettable villain reminds us only of the fact that Marvel has only ever managed to get this most necessary character in a story right a handful of times in this, its twentieth film of the series.
Still, there's enough humour and charm here that more than makes up for it and a runtime that just about overstays its welcome.