Ant-Man and the Wasp ★★★★

"Ant-Man and the Wasp" operates at a level of crisp, clean-lined confidence that couldn't possibly have been conjured by the original — the rare creative-differences salvage job in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Narratively, it's not unlike "Inception" with its layered levels of reality and movement. It's more rescue movie than heist, though, thus fitting into a genre the MCU hasn't out-and-out tried before now. One pivotal difference: It's a movie about the rescue of people and reputations that understands the come-and-go of gain and loss. It also has a killer Morrissey joke, which means that it retains the comedic zing of the original without falling prey to the gag-farm factory you'd expect of five credited screenwriters. (After this and "Spider-Man: Homecoming," Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers must be the X-factor for Marvel films with five or more writers.)

It's also the fourth straight MCU film in which you very clearly understand the antagonist's grievances. (The only real villains here are the venality and virility of vile pursuits and power-plays — whether in the pigheaded asshole-ishness of science or the craven capitalism embodied by Sonny Burch, played by a delightful Walton Goggins.) Hannah John-Kamen's Ghost is one of three focal female characters in the film — in a literal state of intangibility and pain as she tries to extract retribution for a wrong exacted against her. Evangeline Lilly's Wasp essentially leaps to the forefront, refusing to be sidelined or shunted off as some sort of sidekick. (I love that the script insists that Scott Lang's daughter refers to her as a "partner" and all that the equality implies.) Then there's Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), never giving up on trying to make her way back to loved ones ... even when those loved ones (brilliant as they may be) make simple assumptions about the impossibility of science for which she herself would never settle.

As for Scott, I love that there is still room for him to grow that isn't just crowding out these great female characters. His are relatable conflicts rooted in duty and friendship and understanding that life is full of consequences even when the choices you make come from a place of deeper responsibility. Overall, like Michael Peña's Luis on truth serum, it's a more honest, fast-talking, fun and sincere ride than the last time.