Say what you will about Marvel Studios's often formulaic approach to superhero films, but it's easy to return to when each new entry continues to push forward the average rating of the franchise. Ant-Man and the Wasp isn't a game-changer, and it very well may be the "worst" of Marvel's Phase 3 to date, but take a moment to look over the stiff competition: Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther,Avengers: Infinity War. That being said, Ant-Man and the Wasp is the exact type of post-Avengers movie going experience that, while I didn't necessarily want, I wholeheartedly enjoyed.
Marvel often operates in two distinct overarching tones: On one hand there's the cataclysmic, world-ending events, and on the other is something more lighthearted and easygoing. It's easy to discredit the more comedic entries in favor of the serious since they overtly seem less important to the overall picture—but that inherently is where the smaller entries draw most of their charm. By being more disassociated and less focused on connecting the puzzle pieces of movies past, Ant-Man and the Wasp can focus mainly on its direct predecessor (and Captain America: Civil War).
It's important to note that this film isn't a direct follow-up to Infinity War. Aside from the occasional flashback, a majority of it takes place right after Captain America: Civil War. While I'm not 100% certain, you can certainly peg it as taking place parallel to Infinity War, and the events that transpire still add up accordingly. Anywho.
I'm going to go against the grain a bit by skipping over basically the entirety of plot. Why? In the grand scheme of things, it feels like a sidequest at best, and one that just happens to be littered with some very key Marvel moments. It's very simplistic and straightforward which ultimately bodes well for its overall whimsical, even-tempered tone.
Character development certainly exists, but it's in a more bite-sized form (no pun intended). With the exception of Michelle Pfeiffer's new addition to the cast, everyone behaves more or less exactly as they did in the first. The main change here is that the amount of on-screen comedy presents itself in spades. It's awkward, and seems to blend naturally with the quirky situations that take place. Jokes often come in triplets, and the repetition only snowballs the humor. (Think Deadpool 2, but more fine-tuned and less egocentric.) Paul Rudd and Michelle Pfeiffer share one of the more bizarre MCU moments, and it's about as hilarious as it is spontaneous. Rudd's gang of thieves take a bit of a backseat, but each of their appearances are also filled with delight and hilarity.
My main complaints about the first film can be boiled down to two things. One, Evangeline Lilly is a treasure and deserves more screentime. And two, it had about as Marvel of a Marvel villain as Marvel villains come. (That's not a good thing. Words like cookie cutter, similar powers, and one-dimensional come to mind.) To no one's surprise, the former is absolutely addressed as she headlines the film's title alongside her miniature sidekick. The second, however, is only somewhat improved. The villain's motives are more gray-area and their powers are a treat to watch, but they tend to act about as irrationally as a coming-of-age hero, rather than a true antagonist. It's no doubt an improvement over its predecessor, but still feels lacking.
At the end of the day, though, this lands almost exactly in the middle of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's easily one of the funniest entries, and probably cracks the top 5. Folks looking for a plethora of answers to Infinity War may be left disappointed. If anything, it opens up the door to even more questions. Regardless, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a rare sequel that can easily be watched standalone (similarly to Thor: Ragnarok), and should be at the top of your list if you're looking for a solid popcorn flick in a summer that has otherwise been cranking out duds.
Also, don't ask me if you should stay after the credits. We're 20 movies in, and if you haven't sensed a trend, then I'm afraid you may never.
1-2: Horrendous, wouldn’t recommend watching even if free of charge.
3-4: Potentially has some good ideas, but overall still lackluster.
5-6: Average, a decently good time; go see it if it's free.
7-8: A solid recommendation, and well-rounded film; potentially warrants a purchase after home release.
9: No glaring flaws; deserves to be watched multiple times.
10: Masterful, must-see; filmmaking at its finest.