Plot: In the wake of his attempts at being a superhero, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) finds himself on house arrest and while that precludes him chasing his hero dreams, it does have an upside. He is able to spend more time with his daughter and that bond is more important than ever, even as Scott tries to figure out how to balance his new role in the world as Ant-Man. Meanwhile, Hank (Michael Douglas) and Hope (Evangeline Lilly) have been hard at work on quantum realm research. While Hank’s late wife sacrificed herself there and was presumed dead, Hank now believes she might have survived and could be rescued, if a trip into the quantum realm could be pulled off. Then things heat up when an arms dealer, a mysterious new enhanced human, and federal agents all get mixed in with both Hank and Scott’s lives. If Hank is to succeed, he needs Scott’s help, but if Scott breaks his house arrest, he will lose everything, including the rekindled bond with his daughter. Can Scott figure out how to balance the responsibilities of both sides of his new life or will he crumble under the pressure?
Entertainment Value: Although I am not a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I would rank Ant-Man as one of my favorites from the franchise, as it had the brisk, comic book feel that reels me in. So I was optimistic about this sequel, but as it turns out, the second Ant-Man movie was content to fall into the usual MCU formula and that is a shame. There’s still some of the humor from the original movie, mostly in scenes with Scott’s old buddies and his banter with Hope, but the tone has shifted to popcorn action over the comedy/action balance from before. This is likely to please most Marvel fans, who embrace the focus on generic action over comic book style adventures, but I just longed to see Ant-Man return to the first film’s tone. So I had fun when things took that wackier direction, but lost a lot of interest when the movie took the usual Marvel route, complete with rushed emotional beats that fall flat and action scenes that rarely felt like comic book set pieces. I did however appreciate the chase sequence, which made creative use of the powers involved and less shoehorned MCU content was also a welcome change. I still think this is better than most of Marvel’s pictures, but it could have been so much more fun.
While I was disappointed with this Ant-Man installment, I still think Paul Rudd is a fun lead and makes the material better than it should be, so I continue to find him to be one of the better parts of the Marvel franchise. The movie straps his talents down with ineffective, forgettable threads that are desperate for emotional resonance, but feel more like a mediocre after school special. I would have rather had snappier, more interesting story elements than the well worn absentee dad trying to make up for lost time, which this take offers no new twists on. But when he is allowed to channel his charm and sense of humor, Rudd is a lot of fun and he shines in his scenes with Evangeline Lilly, which prove to be highlights. Lilly is also a strong part of the movie, as she is given a more active, prominent role and she runs with it, easily one of the more engaging and memorable females in the MCU. The cast also includes Michael Pena, Walton Goggins, Michael Douglas, and Michelle Pfeiffer. But Douglas and Pfeiffer are restricted to a bloated romance/emotional thread that adds little to the movie, while Goggins is wasted as a forgettable villain.