Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Ant-Man and the Wasp is two hours of the last 20 minutes of most Marvel movies. These things typically end with an explosion of FX as the central superhero takes on a great big CGI bad guy. That’s fine as a finale. When the whole film is pitched at that level, it becomes tiresome. Phase 5 of the MCU (whatever that means) kicks off with this sequel that pales in comparison to the original Ant-Man and the first sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp, for a couple of different reasons. Even viewers who haven’t experienced Marvel fatigue may find themselves feeling it this time.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) discovers that his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) has been fooling around with the quantum realm. She’s sent a beacon down so that it can be mapped out without having to actually visit. Scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) has been encouraging this, but his wife Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) is not at all happy. She spent 30 years trapped down there and insists what Cassie has done is dangerous. Before any of this can be explained, they – along with Hank and Janet’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) – are sucked in.

What they discover is that Janet has been keeping secrets about what she experienced during her extended time in the quantum realm. The biggest of them involves Kang (Jonathan Majors), a megalomaniac who has destroyed entire multiverse timelines and intends to destroy more. Since Scott and Hope both have “Pym particles,” their presence unlocks the potential for him to make his boldest advance yet. The group gets split up upon arrival, though, with Scott and Cassie in one location, everybody else in another. Before Kang can be defeated, they have to locate each other in this sprawling, complex location.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania has a number of surface pleasures. 3D enhances the quantum realm and adds a little oomph to the action scenes, helping to convey size and allowing for weapons, energy blasts, and assorted other things to leap off the screen. Bill Murray pops up for a small supporting role and, in true Murray fashion, blows the roof off the place with his unpredictable, live-wire performance. M.O.D.O.K., a fan favorite from the Marvel comics, shows up, too (although to tell you who plays him would be considered a spoiler, and heaven forbid anyone spoil even the mildest element of a Marvel movie these days). He’s a giant face encompassed by an equally giant helmet, with a tiny little body attached underneath. The character earns quite a few laughs, as do some of Scott’s one-liners. Perhaps needless to say, the main actors are all very good in their roles, working overtime to sell material that is, frankly, on the silly side.

When you go deeper, the problems become evident. The plot is too concerned with what I call the “Marvel business.” That is to say, it’s setting up Kang to be the next dominant villain, much as Thanos was previously. Consequently, a fair portion of time is spent putting stuff in place so it can help fuel MCU movies down the road. Doing the Marvel business also means Quantumania can’t get too layered in its own tale, forcing it to rely instead on generic motivations and lazy story points. Why does Kang want to conquer? For revenge! How does he manipulate Scott into doing what he needs? By kidnapping Cassie! You get the drift.

Here’s a bigger issue: A major part of the appeal of the first two Ant-Man movies is that they take place in the real world and rely on people making everyday objects bigger/smaller than normal. For example, when Scott turns one of Cassie’s Thomas the Tank Engine toys into the size of a real train and chucks it at his enemy, it’s witty. This installment takes place almost entirely in the quantum realm, except for the bookend scenes that open and close the movie. About 98% is the characters running around computer-generated landscapes, meeting weird CGI creatures, and engaging in frenzied special effects-laden battles. The very factor that makes Ant-Man adventures appealing is minimized in favor of generic mayhem. Sure, some of it is amusing. It goes on and on and on, however, which becomes repetitive in the second hour.

Marvel movies are beginning to seem like carbon copies of themselves. We definitely saw that in Thor: Love and Thunder and Eternals, and even in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (a film I liked much more). Now we’re seeing it again. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania isn’t terrible, but it absolutely suffers from feeling like more of the same-old same-old.

out of four

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is rated PG-13 for violence/action, and language. The running time is 2 hours and 5 minutes.