Following the success of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicks off Phase Five of its superhero slate with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. After Phase Four theatrical efforts including Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and the critically-panned Eternals (the sum of which can best be described as “fine”), can a jump to the Quantum Realm return the MCU to its hey-day glory?
A lot has changed since Ant-Man and the Wasp’s last solo film in 2018. Most of the Avengers are now gone and the world is still readjusting to the Blip– which returned half of the Earth’s population after Thanos snapped it away. And if that wasn’t enough, the multiverse is collapsing in on itself, as we saw in Loki and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Apparently, none of this really matters anymore and the filmmakers decided not to let continuity get in the way of middling storytelling.
Peyton Reed returns to the director’s chair for this third outing featuring the outlaw Avenger Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and his main squeeze Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) as they attempt to navigate the Quantum Realm, the microscopic dimension where time and space are warped and distorted. In this chapter of the Ant-Man saga, Lang is back with his family living a carefree life until his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) does a science experiment that sends everyone, even Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), to the Quantum Realm. It appears Janet has a little unfinished business with the exiled Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) and Scott once again must find a way to escape, this time facing Kang, who’s been spending his incarceration turning his prison into his playground.
After Loki’s brilliant small screen setup of the multiverse concept, theatrical efforts appear to be meandering in terms of building MCU ideas for the future. And though Marvel President Kevin Feige called Quantumania “a direct line” into Phase Five and the upcoming Avengers: The Kang Dynasty (2025), all of the MCU story-building elements appear to be shoved into the final few minutes of this feature, leaving the audience with a below average Marvel movie made from a standard superhero blueprint.
It relies heavily on Rudd’s appeal, which he delivers in spades, but other cast members such as Bill Murray, Randall Park, and William Jackson Harper are completely under-utilized or in the case of Park, given nothing to do. Some of the jokes deliver, but other lines seem forced or ill-placed. The CGI can be resplendent with innovative world-building and creature creations, but there are also moments when it looks like a third-party Instagram filter, creating an uncanny valley that’s more disturbing than dazzling. For example, the MCU introduction of Marvel villain M.O.D.O.K. resembles less of an instrument of doom and more like a stretched-out graphic T-shirt print that shrunk in the wash.
The film is actually a bit of a mediocre mess, serving to relay Kang’s development since his appearance in Loki and little else. Though it’s a visual extravaganza at times and offers some chuckles, the story and the character development are subpar when compared with previous Marvel offerings. The film covers no new ground, offers no new concepts, and introduces almost nothing fresh in the way of storytelling or character development. Rudd and Reed made a solid duo in the past, but this time around the formula stands out more than the charm. Rather than get audiences excited for more, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania will likely only add to the superhero fatigue plaguing many moviegoers at the moment.
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