JULY 5, 2018 -- The Ant-Man franchise of the Marvel Universe is destined to drift out beyond the stratosphere of continuity because the origin movie botched the significance of Hank Prym - he's actually the one who invented Ultron, not Tony Stark. So there will always be some confusion as to where Ant-Man fits in; director Peyton Reed makes sure of that in this second installment.


When we last saw Ant-Man, he joined The Avengers in the battle in Germany during the evolution of Ultron. Scott, aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) shrank, then got big, then vanished. He got in trouble along with Captain America, Black Widow and the others who defied Ironman and that was the last we saw of him. His absence was barely explained in "Avengers: Inifinity Wars"; the claim he was under house arrest and couldn't participate.


This second character specific installment kinda picks up sometime after "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and possibly just before the Inifinity War? Not sure. But we do find Ant-Man at home, under house arrest (wearing an ankle bracelet), playing with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) while his new business partners and fellow ex-criminals Luis (Michael Pena), Dave (T.I.) and Kurt (David Dastmalchan) try to develop an anti crime business.

Han Prim (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) are working feverishly to find her mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) who is lost in the subatomic universe. They are thisclose to figuring it out, all they need is the Ant-Man's suit to find her. Which means they need Scott. Which means he needs to break the rules and leave his house without his FBI parole officer Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) finding out.


Everything seems to be going as planned until an unwanted foe who calls herself Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) appears on the scene to steal Prym's Lab. Ghost keeps phasing in and out and can therefore walk through solid matter like a ghost...who can fight like a ninja. It turns out she is being harbored by Prym's old partner Dr Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) who supposedly is almost as brilliant as Prym. The rest of the story is pretty stock as Prym, Ant-man and his daughter who is also the new Wasp play cat and mouse with the FBI and with Ghost.


Tossed in with the salad is a half wit toughie, Paxton (Bobby Cannavale) who figures out whats going on and attempts to steal the lab as well, knowing the contents would be worth a fortune - equivalent to Tony Stark's lab. Yadda, yadda, yadda...


From the Marvel comic book world, Ghost is a foe of Ironman whose origin was of his own device. Note, in the comics Ghopst was a man; now Ghost is woman who was caught in the Wasp subatomic mutation somehow, then weaponized by the military as a spy. And we're still not sure if this all happens during or just before the Infinity War. If it's during, surely some of these characters had to be vaporized...right?


Despite the huge question marks, Reed keeps the action moving and as light as the original but not as humorous as "Guardians of the Galaxy" or "Deadpool". Paul Rudd really isn't that funny. The effects are naturally first rate except when they get into the subatomic realm...that really looks like something left over from "Lost In Space." John-Kamen delivers an agonized Ghost and is nearly as sexy as Sofia Boutella - who would have pulled it off better.


On the plus side, it's always good to see Michelle Pfeiffer, if only for a brief segment and Douglas delivers with a deadpan wit. Fishburne's character is like cardboard.


"Ant-Man and the Wasp" is a good second installment for the micro-sized superhero, but still out of sync in the Marvel Universe. It is, nevertheless entertaining enough for devout Marvel Comics fans.   -- GRADE B --   GEOFF BURTON