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Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (A Movie Review)

Updated: Feb 21, 2023


Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Kathryn Newton, David Dastmalchian, William Jackson Harper, Corey Stoll, Katy O'Brian, Bill Murray,Randall Park, Gregg Turkington, David Bertucci, Clément Osty, Leonardo Taiwo, Paul Fairlie, Milos Bindas, Younes Rocks, Mike Wood, Tianyi Kiy and Ruben Rabasa.

Screenplay by Jeff Loveness.

Directed by Peyton Reed.

Distributed by Walt Disney Studios. 125 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Ant-Man has always held a slightly odd place in the MCU. Goofier and more overtly comic that most Marvel superheroes – partially due to star Paul Rudd’s good-natured affability, partially due to his slightly silly superpowers. He’s not really a big important name like Spider-Man, Hulk, Captain America or Thor, but he’s not one of the weird also-rans like Shang-Chi, The Eternals or the Guardians of the Galaxy.

And now he has been tasked with kicking off Phase Five of the highly mapped out MCU saga, following up a slightly underwhelming and confused Phase Four. (While that phase had a few very good films, it was mostly made up of overly complicated and uneven placeholders like Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, The Eternals and Thor: Love and Thunder.)

Ant-Man’s sweet goofiness should be a good place to reboot the saga, right?

Well, sort of.

This uncertainty is not even so much a fault of the character, it’s more about how Quantumania is the most rigidly standard MCU adventure of the Ant-Man trilogy. In fact, to a large extent Quantumania felt more like a Guardians of the Galaxy film than Ant-Man. (And sorry, I’ve always found Guardians to be one of the most overrated branches of the MCU family tree.)

This is because the best parts of the Ant-Man template – slightly silly adventures in modern San Francisco where the character of Scott Lang (Rudd) changes sizes willy-nilly during crazy fight scenes – is ignored here. In fact, the great majority of the film does not take place in the real world, but stuck in the Quantum Realm, a dystopian sci-fi hell-scape alternate universe. (This was where Michelle Pfeiffer’s character was rescued from in Ant-Man and the Wasp.)

After the amiable silliness of the opening San Francisco sequences (scored by John Sebastian’s Welcome Back, Kotter theme), getting tossed into a pretty typical overblown Marvel adventure slightly diminishes the Ant-Man. (Shrinks him, I suppose….)

Not only that, but Evangeline Lilly’s character of The Wasp also has really pretty little to do here, as does Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym. On the other hand, Pfeiffer’s role of Pym’s wife Janet (which started in the second Ant-Man film) is significantly beefed up here, as is the role of Ant-Man’s daughter (now played as a young adult by Kathryn Newton).

None of which is to say that Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a bad film. It’s just a lot more paint-by-numbers MCU world-building than the character’s offbeat worldview would suggest. It slips a bit too easily into the Marvel mold of megalomaniacal baddie (in this case, Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror), the fight for a powerful orb and the rebellion of a downtrodden populace of the fictious realm.

So yes, even though it is a mostly self-contained narrative (no guest cameos from other Avengers), perhaps Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a good place to take the MCU saga into a new phase. It’s not as effortlessly enjoyable as Ant-Man’s previous adventures, but it’s still a good amount of fun.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2023 All rights reserved. Posted: February 15, 2023.

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