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Review: 'Ant-Man & the Wasp' is the perfect summer superhero blockbuster

Paul Rudd as Ant-Man

Paul Rudd as Ant-Man Ben Rothstein

It’s only been a couple of months since Avengers: Infinity War came to theaters, but its whirlwind ending has unexpectedly turned Ant-Man and the Wasp into one of the most anticipated movies of the year.

With so many lingering questions in the wake of Thanos’ snap, diehards have turned to Marvel’s latest for even the tiniest hint at the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s fate. While Ant-Man and the Wasp might not have all the answers we’re looking for, it gives us something much better: a rare blend of cool concept, novel action, actual heart, and legitimately funny performances from an ensemble cast. This is a movie that hits every note.

Which comes as something of a surprise. The first Ant-Man was one of the weaker entries in the MCU, but it seems that most of its issues have been avoided in the sequel. There were major pre-production problems with the original, so it’s nice to see what director Peyton Reed can do when he’s in the mix from the get-go.

Ant-Man and the Wasp opens with some background on Janet van Dyne’s (Michelle Pfeiffer) disappearance into the Quantum Realm before hopping to the present-ish, some two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War but before Thanos’ epic snap. Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) is days away from being released from house arrest when a vivid dream causes him to give a fugitive Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) a call. After Hank and daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) hear Scott’s message, the latter kidnaps the once and future Ant-Man, telling him they may have found a way to bring her mother Janet back from the Quantum Realm. They just need one more component to complete the machine that can do it.

Trouble arises when black-market tech dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) gets wise to Hope’s true identity; the arrival of a mysterious phasing baddie dubbed “Ghost” (Hannah John-Kamen) further complicates rescue efforts.

As villains go, Ghost is a marked improvement over Ant-Man’s Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), a pretty forgettable foe in the grand scheme of things. There’s a more clearly defined drive behind Ghost’s actions—beyond the one-dimensional megalomania Marvel has been knocked for in the past—and that heightened sensibility seems to pervade every other aspect of the film.

The fights between Ghost and Wasp are more energetic than anything Cross’ Yellowjacket persona ever dished out. The jokes are not only laugh-out-loud funny—like the scene where Luis (Michael Peña) may or may not be dosed with truth serum—but prove to be as intricate as they are relevant to the plot, as is the case with Scott’s newfound playing-card sleights. Everyone in the cast finds a way to make a mark, so that Paul Rudd, who is as wonderful as ever, still feels less like a lead and more like the light that helps his co-stars shine.

Ant-Man and the Wasp delivers everything you’d want out of a comic book movie. It’s crazy that after 10 years, Marvel still has tricks up its sleeve.

Ant-Man and the Wasp    
Director: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña
Rated: PG-13
Theater: Now open, area theaters