By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Paul Rudd returns for another thrilling and wild adventure as the size-changing superhero Ant-Man, but this time shares some action sequences with Evangeline Lilly as The Wasp.  Director Peyton Reed also returns and takes his sequel to greater levels of storytelling and filmmaking.  Though the previous film may have funnier comedy, the sequel takes the central theme of family to more poignant and personal places.  And though the stakes are smaller, when compared to previous Marvel outings such as Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, these smaller scaled stakes are still important and impactful to the development and growth of its characters.  Ant-Man and The Wasp might seem like a fun, low-stakes superhero romp on the surface, but it proves itself just as important to the MCU as any other massive installment.

Since his involvement in Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) has remained under house arrest and under the sometimes invasively watchful eyes of the FBI.  Feeling bad that he put the lives and freedom of his former colleagues Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) at risk, Scott reluctantly contacts them to apologize.  As it turns out, Pym and his daughter have been on the run, but diligently working on a safer passage to the quantum realm, in hopes of rescuing Pym’s wife and Hope’s mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer).  Having reached Pym and Hope, Scott agrees to help, but his house arrest and the emergence of a powerful villain named Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) threatens not only their work, but the freedom of everyone involved.

With a screenplay by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer, and Gabriel Ferrari, Peyton Reed takes his sequel to greater levels of storytelling, character development and action direction than that of the first Ant-Man film.  After the dark and powerful ending of Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp makes for a delightfully fun and exciting chaser of a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe without diminishing any of that previous movie’s impact or gravity.  As comedic and thrilling as this movie is, it does have its share of touching and poignant moments that are sure to tug on the heartstrings of its audiences.  The movie has its good share of comedic scenes too.

Once again, actor Michael Pena steals some scenes ss Scott’s excitable and fast-talking buddy Luis.  Thankfully, the filmmakers don’t overplay his storytelling gag, but in fact use it perfectly in a riotously hilarious scene.  Michael Douglas once again proves that he is perfectly cast as the no-nonsense and hot-tempered Dr. Hank Pym. New addition, Hannah John-Kamen makes a great impression as villain Ava Starr, aka Ghost.  The film features welcome returns by Tip “TI” Harris, David Dastmalchian, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale and Abby Ryder Fortson.  It also features great turns by newcomers Michelle Pfeiffer, Walton Goggins,  Laurence Fishburne, and Randall Park.

Evangeline Lilly reprises her role as the pragmatic, but badass Hope van Dyne.  This time she gets to don the costume of the Wasp and show more of her action chops in addition to her solid dramatic work.  Once again, Paul Rudd’s winning personality and comic timing makes his Scott Lang a highly lovable and relatable superhero.  It is a bit of brilliant casting that pays off even more in this installment.

And this installment is definitely one which exceeded my expectations. I had a feeling I would enjoy this movie, but didn’t expect to be as entertained or moved by its story and characters. Peyton Reed, his writers, cast and crew appear to have a better grasp on the characters and material this time and manage to make a superior sequel that doesn’t simply rehash what is done in the first film.  It is a must see for MCU fans and for those who enjoyed the first Ant-Man.

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