The Marvel Cinematic Universe is ever expanding, and with the start of Phase Five, it’s gotten both bigger and smaller. Yes, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the largest scale installment of the character’s now trilogy, but it’s done so by getting so small, it enters the Quantum Realm. Starting this MCU section off with Ant-Man is an interesting choice, and while it doesn’t always pay off, more here works than doesn’t. It’s not Marvel’s upper echelon, but it’s an entertaining science fiction adventure, even if it’s a bit of a bumpy ride.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the closest the MCU has gotten to a Star Wars film yet. In fact, I felt a little bit of a Rick and Morty influence as well. All of this makes for one of the weirder Marvel movies to date. Newcomers to this world will be lost, but if you’re at least mostly up to date, it’s a definite step towards something a bit new for the interconnected universe.
Life is good for Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), known the world over as the superhero Ant-Man. He’s got a book out, receives kudos everywhere, and just generally is enjoying things. Sure, his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) is causing a little trouble, but she’s also working with Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) on a map of the Quantum Realm. Scott is impressed, as is Hope Van Dyne / The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), but Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) is horrified. Before she can shut the machine down, they’re sucked in, returning to the Quantum Realm, potentially stuck for good.
Exploring the Quantum Realm, Scott and Cassie are separated from Hank, Hope, and Janet, with both groups meeting various residents of the realm. As the other four discover the whole ecosystem and population within, Janet reveals secrets from her time here previously. Not only do those include how she survived, but an all-powerful being known as Kang the Conquerer (Jonathan Majors). Kang has taken over the realm, utilizing a deadly weapon he’s created named M.O.D.O.K. (Corey Stoll). He also needs Pym Particles to escape, so he seeks to use Scott under duress. Thus begins a fight for the Quantum Realm, as well as a battle to keep Kang from entering our realm.
Jonathan Majors is going to be a force to reckon with in the MCU. Kang hasn’t fully been set up as the overall big bad yet, but Majors gives the character here a strong point of view. If there’s an evolution that continues, something special could eventually be in store for us. Paul Rudd is his reliable self, while Michelle Pfeiffer steals many of her scenes. My personal MVP is Kathryn Newton, showcasing charm and going toe to toe with Rudd, but your mileage may vary. Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly get a little under-served, but they’re a part of a solid ensemble, with Corey Stoll having a lot of fun as M.O.D.O.K. throughout. Supporting players include William Jackson Harper, Bill Murray, Katy M. O’Brian, Randall Park, and more.
Director Peyton Reed occasionally seems lost within all of the CGI, resulting in one of the less Marvel works, visually, but writer Jeff Loveness is working overtime to explain more about Kang, the multiverse, and the Quantum Realm. It’s often messy (there’s a long section in the middle that seems largely unneeded), but it comes together nicely when it matters, either with a well-timed joke, set-piece, or just cool MCU moment. They lean in to the absurdity of Ant-Man and his crew being who has to go up against Kang, so while it’s an odd fit, it generates some decent sized stakes.
As mentioned above, there’s a slight Rick and Morty vibe to some of the creatures, which makes sense considering Loveness writes on the show. Between he and fellow alum of the animated program Michael Waldron, who penned Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, there’s an influence that’s not going any anytime soon, as they’re each doing one of the upcoming two Avengers flicks, Avengers: The Kang Dynasty (Loveness), and Avengers: Secret Wars (Waldron). So, get used to it. It works for me, at least.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is mid-tier Marvel. For some, that may mean it’s a disappointment. For others, it won’t matter one bit. I found myself consistently entertained, even if aspects of it were more successful than others. The MCU is getting set to fully unleash Kang on us, and if Majors can really get a chance to play, we’re going to have a compelling villain to watch fight our favorite heroes.
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