Director: Peyton Reed
Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Stars: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Walton Goggins
When heavy metal was at the height of its popularity, most bands could be counted-on to include at least one power ballad on each album, a relatively quiet song that was seldom the best tune on the record, but got the most radio airplay and had fans whipping out their lighters during a concert.
The power ballad also served an important aesthetic purpose, offering a brief respite from the sonic fury of the rest of the album. For example, smack-dab in the middle of Metallica’s Ride the Lightning is a song called “Fade to Black.” While still heavier than anything Poison ever recorded, it was sort of a breather from the constant speed and intensity of the surrounding songs.
As films in the MCU grow longer, louder and increasingly epic, the Ant-Man films are sort-of like Marvel’s power ballads. The second film, Ant-Man and the Wasp, is more tied to the MCU story arc than the first, but steadfastly maintains the same light, breezy and humorous tone, another welcome break from the serious implications and apocalyptic battle royals where the fate of the world is at stake.
Not that it skimps on spectacle. As power ballads go, Ant-Man and the Wasp is still more Metallica than Poison. But the stakes are more personal, the characters more grounded and realistically flawed. One thing I appreciate about Paul Rudd’s amusing take on the title character is that he screws up as often as he succeeds, and most of the supporting characters (Evangeline Lilly as Hope/Wasp in particular) are just as integral to the plot. Most distinctively, the action & visuals are as humorous as they are eye-popping (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a giant Pez dispenser take-out henchman).
Other than an ominous MCU-related coda during the end credits, Ant-Man and the Wasp, while not strictly mining for laughs, is never overly serious. It’s even shorter than other recent Marvel movies, never outstaying its welcome. Like heavy metal power ballads, the film may not be among the most essential entries in the franchise, but like the first Ant-Man, it’s a welcome change of pace. Even fanboys need an occasional breather.