"Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathryn Newton, Jonathan Majors, David Dastmalchian, and Bill Murray. Released on February 17, 2023, the film has Scott Lang and his allies exploring the Quantum Realm.
The film was directed by Peyton Reed, who also directed films such as "Bring It On", "Yes Man", and "Ant-Man". It is the 31st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The post-Endgame era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has generated plenty of conversations from fans, but not for the right reasons. Aside from some great content featuring Shang-Chi, Spider-Man, and even Werewolf by Night, many people have been questioning the choices made for its lineup compared to the quality from the previous phases. From the storytelling to the "lackluster" visuals, most of us believed that the ever-lasting franchise has officially reached "superhero fatigue" territory. This year sees the MCU hoping to get back on track with the first film in the franchise's fifth phase, which features the return of the hero responsible for turning the tide in "Endgame" but also another big bad who'll pose a significant threat in the later movies. This latest chapter in Scott's journey has him tackling a mission that's bigger and more dangerous than any ordinary heist on Earth. Only this time, he's not actually on his home turf, but rather a bizarre dimension that played a role in the last two "Ant-Man" films. With this massive change of scenery and a more significant threat in the form of a ripped Jonathan Majors, was the movie able to breathe new life into the "Ant-Man" solo films and the franchise as a whole, or does it deserve to be banished into the Quantum Realm? Let's dive into the dimension and find out.
Set after "Avengers: Endgame", the story centers on Scott Lang (Rudd), who recently became a celebrity to the public after saving the world from Thanos. However, he also struggles with how much time he misses with his teenage daughter Cassie (Newton). One day, Cassie discovered a new way to study the Quantum Realm, but it wasn't without a major setback. As a result, Scott and Cassie, along with Hope (Lilly), Hank (Douglas), and Janet (Pfeiffer), are sucked into the dimension. The gang then attempts to search for a way out of the Quantum Realm. Along the way, they encounter secrets that'll push their limits and come face-to-face with Kang the Conqueror (Majors), a powerful adversary who tasks Scott with a special mission. As Scott and the others learn more about Kang's true intention, Scott must save his family and the entire multiverse.
Like the Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man is another lesser-known Marvel hero who immediately gained popularity thanks to their solo adventures. The first two "Ant-Man" movies introduced fans to another part of the cinematic universe featuring lesser stakes, light-hearted scenarios, and ants—lots and lots of ants. These films provided small breathers in-between the bigger and more emotional installments and delivered harmless fun and charm in the cast, comedy, and low-stakes action. I had a blast watching the "Ant-Man" movies, especially the 2018 sequel that's also a post-Infinity War movie, "Ant-Man and the Wasp". The sequel's abundance of comedy may not be for everyone, and its antagonists were one-dimensional, but it gave me enough laughs to forgive its shortcomings. So I was more than eager to see if Scott's latest adventure could successfully cap off its consistently entertaining trilogy, especially since it made some significant changes compared to its predecessors.
One crucial change we immediately noticed was the film's scale. Its predecessors were small-scale superhero movies passed off as family-friendly adventures and crucial teases for bigger things in the MCU. "Quantumania" ditches the grounded heist scenarios from the last two films in favor of a "Journey to the Center of the Earth"-type adventure, with Scott and the others exploring further into the Quantum Realm. But, more importantly, it maintains the role of being a vital set-up to the larger events heading our way in the franchise, which is one of the best parts of the "Ant-Man" movies. The only difference is that the stakes are higher, the antagonist is far more dangerous than Scott's previous adversaries, and Michael Peña isn't around to provide levity in its tone.
On the one hand, it's a welcoming change of pace for those that grew tired of the predecessors' overly comedic tone. But, on the other hand, it does risk alienating several people that enjoyed the last two movies' tone with its Avengers-level plot and massive CGI wonderland. That could be one of the reasons the film became the second installment in the franchise to receive a "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes after "Eternals" as of today. Yes, it even ranked lower than "Thor: Love and Thunder", to everyone's disappointment. Fortunately, I don't give an ant's butt about Rotten Tomatoes. What matters is whether this change works for me and offers enough moments to get me interested in the MCU's future.
Regarding the "third chapter" installments in solo movies, the franchise has delivered hard-hitting, life-changing experiences for our favorite superheroes. It's not just because of the superhero action and the high stakes but also the character arcs and the emotion behind them. Films like "Captain America: Civil War" and "Spider-Man: No Way Home" did wonders in providing strong closures to their trilogies and paving the way for their new beginnings. The marketing in "Quantumania" seemed poised to copy the same success as those third-chapter movies regarding its world-threatening villain and sense of danger. Unfortunately, that isn't the case here.
"Quantumania" is a basic and visually bizarre superhero adventure that maintains the same charm and humor as the previous "Ant-Man" films. However, when it comes to its screenplay, the movie struggles to deliver most of the expectations it sets up. While its predecessors consist of multiple writers in charge of the scripts, "Quantumania" only has one: Jeff Loveness. The movie is Loveness's feature film debut after writing screenplays for television programs like "Miracle Workers" and the fourth season of "Rick and Morty". He's also a comic book writer for Marvel, so that part checks out.
His script offers a few elements that worked for me, such as Scott's relationship with Cassie and the humor. However, they usually falter in showcasing them further in a poignant sense. It's not that the script is terrible. It's just a bit too fundamental in its scenarios and dialogue. Loveness is confirmed to pen the script for the upcoming "Avengers: The Kang Dynasty", so let's hope he takes those issues seriously if he wants the MCU to continue succeeding. I also had some problems with its pacing, which looked jarring compared to the other films in the MCU. There are several sequences that take little time to fully immerse themselves, especially the ones involving the characters and the Quantum Realm.
Understandably, the screenplay is more problematic than the ones in its predecessors. However, what really matters to me is how much fun I had watching the characters explore the Quantum Realm, and, truth be told, I had a good time. Not as much as I had with the previous two, but it's mildly entertaining, regardless. Part of that is due to Peyton Reed, who once again did a solid job retaining the sense of charm and engaging action the "Ant-Man" films are known for. Of course, it's a different beast for Reed to handle since it all takes place in a CGI world instead of Earth, but I thought he handled it well with his direction.
The cast also did well with their performances, with Paul Rudd again delivering charisma in his role as Scott. Rudd has always been one of my favorite parts of "Ant-Man", mainly because he portrayed Scott as a kind and loving person seeking redemption from his past. So it made me happy that the actor never lost his touch in his performance. Another highlight I should mention is Kathryn Newton, who continues to shine in her acting career regarding her performance as Cassie. But, of course, I can't forget about Jonathan Majors as the film's antagonist, Kang. Kang is seen as an exiled being seeking to destroy multiple timelines, making him another threat to the entire universe. Not only was I convinced by Kang's menacing personality and actions, but I was also impressed by how Majors provided range in his performance. Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas were also decent in their roles as Hope and Hank Pym, respectively. Unfortunately, Michelle Pfeiffer was the only actor struggling to satisfy me regarding her role as Janet. She's a good actress, but her performance was a bit too wooden in specific scenes.
The MCU has recently found itself in a rough patch regarding the visual effects. Compared to the films in the "Infinity Saga", the visuals in the recent installments didn't exactly fare well with the fans. They're not terrible, but I can see that some of them aren't as revolutionary as Thanos's purple head. Fortunately for "Quantumania", the CGI for the Quantum Realm and everything else don't look too bad. Again, some of them seemed admittedly rough, but the rest helped make this bizarre dimension a visual delight for the eyes. The CGI also worked well in displaying the entertaining action and the creatures inhabiting it, including that big-headed someone that long-time comic fans will be familiar with.
Overall, "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" is far from a fantastic voyage, but it delivers enough superhero entertainment to cap off the "Ant-Man" trilogy on a healthy note. Unfortunately, its flawed screenplay and uneven pacing resulted in it being the weaker film of the trilogy and a low point in the "third chapter" installments in the MCU as a whole, which is understandable. But regarding everything else, it's not as bad as the reviews suggest. Its goal was to provide a fun ride through the Quantum Realm and set up a much bigger arc for the franchise, and I believe it got the job done for the most part. From its charismatic cast to the film's solid use of CGI, "Quantumania" is another movie that'll entertain its audience and question those concerned about the franchise's future regarding its storytelling. In other words, it's a decent start to Phase Five that should improve in future installments.