Outrageous set-pieces and rip-roaring entertainment in high-octane Marvel sequel
Film review: Ant-Man and the Wasp (12A), 8/10
Earlier this summer, larger-than-life characters from the Marvel Comics galaxy united to combat the threat of mighty Thanos in the superhero showdown, Avengers: Infinity War.
However, one miniature crimefighter - wisecracking cat burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) - was notable by his absence from the pyrotechnic-laden combat.
Peyton Reed's crowd-pleasing sequel neatly explains Lang's no-show against Thanos with a high-octane blast of rip-roaring entertainment, which dizzies and delights in equal measure.
Adopting a more intimate style of storytelling, Ant-Man and the Wasp choreographs outrageous set-pieces without sacrificing the broad humour or tender emotion that made the original 2015 film a sizeable hit.
Notably, this is Marvel's first action-packed feature with a female superhero proudly name-checked in the title and Evangeline Lilly's airborne assassin dominates bruising fight sequences when she isn't catalysing molten on-screen chemistry with Rudd's reluctant saviour.
Ant-Man's ability to shrink to the size of an insect at the touch of his powersuit's button, or expand to the hulking form of a skyscraper-toppling giant, is exploited to greater comedic effect in the second film with the aid of seamless digital effects.
A turbo-charged car chase along the undulating streets of San Francisco is particularly memorable when the technology malfunctions and Scott is unable to revert to his usual form and avoid drawing the attention of hordes of camera-wielding tourists.
Following the cataclysmic events of Captain America: Civil War, Scott is sentenced to two years under house arrest followed by three years of probation.
'Any violation means 20 years in prison. Minimum,' warns his parole officer Jimmy Woo (Randall Park).
Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), inventor of the Ant-Man technology, and his daughter Hope (Lilly) are in hiding, conducting experiments that will allow them to rescue Hope's mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the quantum realm.
A ghostly figure called Ava (Hannah John-Kamen) who suffers from molecular disequilibrium, black marketeer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) and lecturer Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) become entangled in Hank and Hope's plans.
When disaster strikes, Scott defies the terms of his house arrest to don the Ant-Man suit and retrieve a stolen power source. His workmates at X-Con Security - Luis (Michael Pena), Dave (Tip 'T.I.' Harris) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian) - pledge their support but could inadvertently hinder Scott at a critical juncture.
Ant-Man and the Wasp draws heavily on Rudd's boyish charm and impeccable comic timing to deliver big laughs.
Plot is flimsy and the quest to rescue Janet from the quantum realm is unnecessarily protracted but the sequel doesn't feel bloated at a buzz shy of two hours.
Special effects don't overwhelm the verbal gymnastics and stay seated for the end credits.
Predictably, there are two additional sequences - a narrative cliffhanger and an amusing throwaway gag - secreted in the lengthy final crawl.