Ant-Man and the Wasp
Directed by Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Hannah John-Kamen
Rated  PG-13 for some sci-fi action violence
1 hr. 58 min.

Eighty percent of the Earth’s species are insects. Before you grab that can of Raid, bear in mind that some of these creepy crawlers and winged biters inspired comic book legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, then Hollywood. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has cornered the market on box office hits, if not insect superheroes. Ant-Man and the Wasp have the stage to themselves this summer, in a film full of fun and post-Fourth of July fireworks.

Before Ant-Man was released in 2015, the character didn’t enjoy the adulation reserved for the other Marvel superheroes introduced in 1962 — Hulk, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, et al. Like Iron Man, both Ant-Man and the Wasp derive their super powers from technology. Their story is much different than those of, say, Dr. Strange, Thor, the X-Men and others with powers based in mythology or the supernatural. They use their suits to shrink, grow, fly and kick ass — not necessarily in that order.

Paul Rudd’s boyish charm makes Scott Lang, the Ant-Man, all his own. Scott’s under house arrest, with a monitor on his leg, on the outs with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). Hank, a gifted scientist who created the shrinking and expanding technologies of the Ant-Man suit, and Hope, also a whiz, have been building a superlab. They’re searching for a way to find Pym’s wife, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), lost for 30 years in a microworld, the quantum realm. Over the decades, Hank has improved upon Janet’s old suit, and Hope is now the new Wasp.

It’s not necessary to have seen the first Ant-Man to enjoy this sequel. Know that Janet is using Scott as a conduit to reach Hank and Hope, who are on the lam from S.H.I.E.L.D and other government agencies. They engage the sleazy Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) to get the black-market tech they need to continue research. Burch, naturally, wants the results for himself.

Most captivating is the other party in pursuit of what’s discovered — Ava, the Ghost, a former S.H.I.E.L.D operative with super powers that promise to prove fatal. Played by Hannah John-Kamen, an actress with haunting gray eyes, Ghost is the most empathetic adversary Marvel has come up with to date.

The Ant-Man himself has a daughter to tend to (Abby Ryder Fortson), an ex-wife (Judy Greer) and her current husband (Bobby Cannavale, in a warm, cuddly role diametrically opposed to the bad guys and psychos he’s played in the past). Plus, Scott and his business partner Luis (Michael Peña) are being closely watched by S.H.I.E.L.D agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park).

As Ant-Man and the Wasp, Scott and Hope (and buildings) vacillate between tiny and huge. Cars and vans are kept in the same kind of Hot Wheels container I had as a child, and spring to life-size with a walloping burst. It’s fascinating and hilarious. Director Peyton Reed is part of a generation of behind-the-camera artists who easily weave mind-blowing CGI into full-movie experience. The writers — Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers. Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrari and Rudd himself — spread witty dialogue around the effects. There’s a chase through San Francisco that would make Steve McQueen’s Bullitt and Burt Reynolds’ Bandit sullen with envy.

Lilly, an actress who grew up climbing trees in British Columbia, is a perfect Wasp. She and Rudd make an entertaining team. The Wasp wasn’t in Avengers: Infinity War for reasons that’ll become obvious by the final scene. Also certain: As you leave the air-conditioned chill of the theater and get hit with a blast of hot summer air, you’ll want to turn around, retake your seat and wait for Ant-Man and the Wasp to return