L to R: The Wasp/Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) ..Photo: Ben Rothstein..©Marvel Studios 2018

REVIEW: “Ant-Man and the Wasp” ★★★ and a ½

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” delivers solid Marvel-style entertainment, thanks to its talented cast and inventive action. The fast paced storytelling, the humor, the in-jokes, they’re all here, and most of them work.

Does “Ant-Man and the Wasp” deliver all the thrills and the same emotional roller coaster that “Avengers: Infinity War” did just a few short months ago?

Of course not, nor was it intended to.

What it does do is deliver solid Marvel-style entertainment, thanks to its talented cast and inventive action. The fast paced storytelling, the humor, the in-jokes, they’re all here, and most of them work.

Also, as the first Marvel film with a female superhero in a title role, it delivers big-time.

Is it among the very best Marvel Studios has delivered in the last 10 years? No, but that’s a very high bar, and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” comes close.

What’s it about?

The film picks up plot threads left dangling from both 2015’s “Ant-Man” and 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.” Due to his involvement in the superhero brawl at the heart of the latter film, Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) has been under house arrest for two years, and has done his best to keep being a good dad to his daughter Cassie and keep out of trouble.

But trouble comes calling on him when Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) need him for a very important project. They’re searching for Hope’s mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), lost decades ago in something called the “quantum realm,” a place Scott visited on their last adventure when he shrunk to sub-atomic size.

Hank and Hope’s lives were turned upside down by Scott racing off to help Captain America and company, too, so they’re not happy with Scott. But they need him for their plan to reach Janet and bring her home, so off the trio goes.

They’re not alone in their interest in the quantum realm, however. There’s also an ambitious weapons merchant (Walton Goggins) out to make billions on Pym’s technology, and the mysterious “Ghost” (Hannah John-Kamen), a stealth operative with a deteriorating condition linked directly to quantum realm science.

All eyes on the Wasp

In the original “Ant-Man,” Evangeline Lilly was certainly memorable and formidable as Hope, but she didn’t get to be a superhero, per se. That movie merely teased her potential in that kind of role, and here in the sequel, we finally get to see her deliver on that potential.

As stated earlier, she definitely does that in every meaningful way. She sells the action while also infusing Hope with emotional gravity and complexity.

Between her and Scott, she’s the one who truly fits the “superhero” mold. She’s bold, committed, and fearless, and while she gets second billing in this title, she’s anything but a sidekick.

Ant-Man and the Wasp poster

Fun cast chemistry

That’s not to say that Rudd doesn’t have anything to do with why “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is as much fun as it is. His effortless, self-effacing charm as Scott is once again a very enjoyable foil for Lilly’s intensity, and it makes for plenty of enjoyable verbal and physical exchanges.

Rudd also shines in his interactions with the rest of the cast. In particular, watch for his scenes with Douglas as he gets on the grumpy Dr. Pym’s every last nerve, Michael Peña in his return as motormouth pal Luis, and Abby Ryder Fortson as Scott’s precocious daughter Cassie.

This film’s emotional core is about parent-child relationships. Rudd provides the beating heart and humor that humanizes many of those character-driven moments.

Worth seeing?

No review of a Marvel film can go by without some comment on the action. Director Peyton Reed keeps up the fast-paced, humor-driven style he established in the first “Ant-Man” here, adding new riffs and clever set-ups to play with Scott and Hope’s size-changing powers.

It all adds up to a lighthearted, fun time at the movies … until that first end credits scene.

Without giving anything away, that scene alone may make “Ant-Man and the Wasp” must-see material for any Marvel fan.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen, with Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne, and Michael Douglas. Directed by Peyton Reed.

Running time: 118 minutes

Rated PG-13 for some sci-fi action violence.

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