Here again we have a case where the critics have it wrong. Despite the many negative reviews flooding the internet, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is another solid entry for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
As the third film in the Ant-Man franchise and the opening salvo for Phase Five of the MCU, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania has a decidedly different tone than the previous Ant-Man films. Mostly gone are the quirky humor amd low-stake threats that Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and his girlfriend Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) faced. This time the stakes are dramatically raised as Scott aka Ant-Man and his friends have to save the Multiverse itself from the fearsome Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). This could be why the film turned off so many critics who expected the light-hearted and breezy tone of the previous Ant-Man films.
The film begins in San Francisco as we see what Scott Lang has been up to since Avengers: Endgame. It is shown that he has become a celebrity basking in his heroic role during the events of Avengers: Endgame and is enjoying life. However, his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) has gotten into trouble with the law and the two struggle to connect with one another. After a family dinner with Scott, Cassie, Hope and her parents Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), Cassie displays her scientific genius by demonstrating her new invention, which is a device that lets her map out the otherdimensional Quantum Realm. But the device is used by someone in the Quantum Realm as a homing beacon and creates a portal that sucks in our heroes. Finding themselves stranded in the otherworldly Quantum Realm, our heroes soon learn of a tyrant called Kang the Conqueror, who is able to travel the Multiverse with futuristic technology, but is exiled to the Quantum Realm. As soon as Scott and his companions arrive, Kang pursues them because they hold the key to escaping the Quantum Realm.
Taking place nearly entirely in the Quantum Realm, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania veers hard towards wild sci-fi elements as our heroes meet bizarre-looking beings and explore a landscape that would only exist in dreams. It seems that director Peyton Reed was intent on outdoing James Gunn and the Star Wars films by presenting a unique and nearly undescrible world that was just mind blowing to behold. The film introduces many characters of assorted shapes and sizes, the standout was actually M.O.D.O.K (Mechanized Organism Designed Only For Killing), who was Ant-Man’s old foe Darren Cross/Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll) from the first film. Yes, M.O.D.O.K. is too goofy to be taken seriously as a villain, but with his giant, oversized head and tiny appendages, M.O.D.O.K. provides a lot of laughs.
There are many intense situations and developments that fly by at a rapid, manic pace that adds to a feeling of nervousness and discomfort. But Reed knows how to inject laughs and brevity at the right moments to give audiences a chance to breath. This was helped with the dominating presence of Kang. Majors pulled off a nearly impossible feat with his performance of Kang, who immediately joins the ranks of top-tier MCU villains. Kang is a captivating and terrifying foe with an intense fury that made us worry about Scott and his companions. This was a great presentation of a David vs. Goliath situation as Kang clearly overmatched Scott with his futuristic technology and raw emotions. After the lightweight villains from the last Ant-Man film, Kang was the right antagonist to face Ant-Man, as we were left wondering how could Scott fight this person who was out of his league.
As exciting and fast-moving Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania was, its manic energy and intense actions could not hide all of its flaws. Sometimes situations and plot points happened too fast and weren ot given enough time to percolate. Being that the film has many characters, many of them do not leave much of an impact. Bill Murray was wasted in what turned out to be an extended cameo, but he provided some levity and humor with his appearance. While Scott and his companions have meaty roles and drive the plot, Hope/The Wasp faded into the background during much of the film, but she delivered several fist-pumping moments during the film’s final act. Unfortunately, the scene-stealing Luis (Michael Peña) from previous films was absent in this film and was sorely missed. Also, there is a nagging plot flaw in that Janet was previously trapped in the Quantum Realm for decades and confronted Kang before, yet she never mentioned this to her family, especially her husband Hank. That is just unbelievable and irritating in that earlier in the film she kept speaking cryptically about the Quantum Realm and Kang, even though her family insisted she inform them of everything she knew for survival’s sake.
With that said, the film did allow most of its main characters to develop. Scott learned some much-needed humility as he faced someone way out of his league. Unlike the last film, Scott does not come off as an idiot and has more of a heroic presence, which made us root for him more as he fought Kang. Meanwhile Cassie took the place he had in the first film of being someone who was just learning how to use her size-changing abilities and her idealistic nature contrasted well with her more pragmatic father. Douglas provided some good laughs and helped to our characters while Pfeiffer was given much more screen time than and contributed heavily to the plot.
Still, out of all the film’s characters, Kang was a true standout and he needed to be. Ever since Thanos was turned to dust, the MCU has lacked a true successor supervillain that threatened the entire MCU. Thankfully, Kang was able to demonstrate why he is already one of the MCU’s most terrifying villains and the audience cheered as the final title card announced that he would return. By the way, the two post-credits scenes were great, though the first one was the better of the two since it matched the outlandish nature of the film.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a promising start of Phase Five of the MCU and a welcome change of pace for the Ant-Man franchise. It showed us why Scott Lang is a great hero being that he was clearly the underdog who refused to give up, while the characters around him provided solid support and held our interest. Most of all, this film was a triumphant debut for a top-tier villain.