By Patrick Bracken
Citizen Chronicle Film Critic

In the extended Marvel universe, Ant-Man feels a bit like an outlier.  While the Avengers films and various offshoots have moments of levity, they are dominated by dark themes and potentially existence-ending events.  The first Ant-Man film was almost entirely light comedy.  The new film Ant-Man and the Wasp builds on and (mostly) improves on that light feeling, a welcome relief from the tragedies of the last Avengers movie.

As if to emphasize the difference in tone, Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place before the events of Avengers: Infinity War.  Former thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest because of his actions in Captain America: Civil War.  He has just three days left before he becomes a free man and can spend more time with his daughter.

However, it turns out that Lang brought something back with him from the quantum realm he visited in the first film: memories that belong to Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), long lost mother of Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and wife of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Scott’s actions have caused a falling out amongst the three, but when Hank hears of Scott’s vision he realizes that there may be a way to get his wife back from the quantum realm.  The trio reluctantly teams up again to save Janet.

Director Peyton Reed does a decent job keeping the film light and entertaining.  In particular, he plays around with scale in ways that feel fresh.  What could have been a fairly typical car chase scene becomes a Hot Wheels action set piece.  Entire buildings become carry-on luggage.  The best scene in the movie involves a broken regulator on the Ant-Man suit that causes Scott to grow and shrink uncontrollably.  In these moments the film is pure popcorn fun.

However, the movie falters when it come to its main “villain”, Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen).  Her back story, clumsily laid out about midway through, is heavy and depressing.  It’s completely out of place here and weighs the whole film down.   It feels as though it was added as part of an entirely different movie — that movie being the next Avengers film.

Speaking of which, there is one final scene, shortly after the closing credits begin, that explains Ant-Man’s absence from Infinity War.  If you haven’t seen that one yet, leave a soon as the credits begin.  Everything will feel a little bit lighter if you do.

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