After this year's releases of "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Black Panther" comes the latest from the Marvel-sphere in "Ant-Man and the Wasp." While not all in the franchise are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which includes Iron-Man and Thor, Ant-Man is in that world.
In fact, it was an escapade with Captain America that landed Ant-Man, aka Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) on house arrest, and this sequel to the 2015 film picks up at the tail-end of his sentence.
Scott is forced to fly the coop when Hope (Evangeline Lilly) and her scientist father Hank (Michael Douglas) are on the hunt to retrieve Hope's mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the Quantum Realm. Scott, who has visited the alternate dimension and lived to tell the tale, is their best bet to track her. On their quest, the trio runs into a barrage of helpers and villains played by Michael Peña, Laurence Fishburne, Hannah John-Kamen.
"Ant-Man," and movies like "Deadpool," mark a welcome era of hero/anti-hero films, whose main characters don't take themselves too seriously.
Scott says he dreamt about a little girl playing hide and seek with her mother. Hope asks him to describe the wardrobe, and when he does: "That's where I hid every time we played," she said.
"Doesn't seem like you got the gist of the game," he answered. And this film brings a conservative mix of deadpan deliveries and laugh-out-loud surprises.
Rudd is among the crew of screenwriters whose credits include "The LEGO Batman Movie" and "Spider-Man: Homecoming." And director Peyton Reed - "Upright Citizens Brigade," "Mr. Show" - seems right at home executing comedic timing and dialogical play.
"Ant-Man and the Wasp" does mix some dark themes with the light, notably, in the backstory of the sometimes-translucent nemesis Ava (Hannah John-Kamen). Her history is the stuff comic-book mythology's made of, and her condition lightly alludes to a relatable proclivity to being in too many places at once.
Rudd's Ant-Man is debonair and accessible. There's an affection to seeing actors from Judd Apatow comedies in starring superhero roles. (There's Rudd, Seth Rogen in "The Green Hornet." Next, let's get Jason Segel in something, eh?)
Rudd's cheekiness plays well with Lilly's portrayal of Hope - uber capable, soft, steely and earnest in her quest for mama. For children of the '80s, there's an added comfort in Douglas and Pfeiffer as parental figures.
One caveat is the slew of cast members makes for a bloated climax that goes on a bit too long. But what this film lacks in succinctness, it kind of makes up for in charm (see: Michael Peña for homestretch humor) and on-par special effects that look seamless even when you're really looking.
This film's concept of bugs as saviors urges a re-evaluation of size as a commodity and as an indicator of strength. There are good familial themes, too, and unlike other Marvel threads, "Ant-Man and the Wasp" seems to cater to a broader audience of ages and viewers who lack a decades-old comic collection. For the die-hards, though, the post-credit scenes are plenty.
"Ant-Man and the Wasp"
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas
Director: Peyton Reed
Screenwriters: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommer, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrari
Rating: Rated PG-13 for some sci-fi action violence and language
Now showing: Duluth 10, Lakes 10 and Premiere theaters