It’s not hard to put together a college party. Assemble your friends, purchase a few bottles of vodka and gather around the table to take more shots than you should.
It’s been a long party, and we’ve taken about 19 shots of Marvel Cinematic Universe-brand vodka. It’s the reason we’re at this party, after all. But God, as much as we’re enjoying ourselves, it can be tough to throw back at times — especially when it means half the universe’s population doesn’t exist anymore.
College students have the perfect solution to the burden of vodka’s unpleasantries: chaser.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is the much-beloved orange juice among the shot glasses and fatigued partygoers — it’s refreshing, delicious, and, ultimately, buys some recovery time. In the same way that orange juice may not be the life of the party in itself but helps keep the party going, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” serves as an ideal slice of chill-the-hell-out catharsis after the awesome but exhausting buildup and conclusion to “Avengers: Infinity War.”
In fewer metaphors, the movie’s greatest strength is its seeming irrelevance — after all, any major series can use a good filler episode every once in a while.
In this sequel, Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) teams up again with scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) to rescue Hank’s wife from the subatomic quantum realm, where she’s been trapped for 30 years. Hope finally receives a much-needed character upgrade and is now up to superhero antics of her own, taking on the mantle of the Wasp. The problem is, in order to execute the rescue mission, Hank and Hope invent a pretty damn valuable piece of technology — a quantum tunnel — that just about everyone else wants to get their hands on. It’s a race to save Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) in time, all while Scott is supposed to be under house arrest.
As Marvel has evolved from its earliest days with “Iron Man” to the juggernaut it is today, it has learned the importance of imbuing each of its solo superhero outings with its own unique style and filmic approach, akin to different genres of music. “Thor: Ragnarok” is the rock ‘n’ roll to the EDM of “Doctor Strange.” The “Avengers” outings are pop music: they bring in the biggest bucks, but they’re also widely criticized for being homogeneous to please their billion-dollar audiences.
The style cultivated for “Ant-Man” is arguably one of the most enjoyable and certainly one of the weirdest. Fortunately, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” carries on this grand tradition of clever technical feats and heavy leans on Rudd’s comedic chops. In the music analogy, it’s “Weird Al” Yankovic.
And, like Yankovic, the movie’s script is downright hilarious. Rudd and Michael Peña in particular never miss a beat, and they deserve most of the credit for the film’s fun factor. But to give them all the glory would be unfair, because director Peyton Reed unleashes creative havoc upon the streets of San Francisco (and, briefly, UC Berkeley). The action sequences, with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it growing and shrinking fight choreography, along with a villain who’s both invisible and intangible (Hannah John-Kamen), continue to innovate within a universe where we feel like we’ve seen it all.
There were plenty of folks who felt the release of “Deadpool 2” heralded the beginning of the dreaded superhero fatigue syndrome. It had a slow start to its opening weekend, suggesting audiences may be over the idea of a caped crusader.
But, unfortunately for the anti-superhero crowd (we’re looking at you, James Cameron), the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. The good news is, the MCU has yet to produce an absolute disaster (now we’re looking at you, DC Comics), and as long as the product quality doesn’t waver — and it certainly hasn’t with “Ant-Man and the Wasp” — it’s likely that audiences will show up for rich guys in tricked-out suits, cheeky aliens and an ant-sized Paul Rudd for many years to come.