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Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

February 15, 2023

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the 31st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the first in Phase Five), and I’d have to give a few others a rewatch to say for sure, but it might just be the weakest and most disappointing entry yet in the long-running franchise.

Maybe it’s Marvel fatigue setting in, but rarely has one of these movies felt so much like it is just going through the motions, biding time until the next one hits theatres or the next series hits streaming. It’s a piece of cog-in-the-machine filmmaking, plain and simple, with no real personality of its own.

This is an exposition-heavy sequel that is so focused on merely setting up what’s to come in the franchise, that it struggles to offer much excitement on its own terms. The cast is still charming and likeable, and they do have some fun interplay together, but there’s only so much they can do against the sludgy, CG backgrounds.

At the start of the story, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is coasting by on his fame as one of the Avengers, having written a memoir that he plugs every chance that he gets. His partner Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) is working with her parents Hank (Michael Douglas) and Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) – who spent three decades trapped in the Quantum Realm before being rescued – to use their Pym Particles to do some good in the world.

When Scott’s daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) – a budding scientist and activist for homeless rights who has her own brief stint in the slammer – announces that she has created a way to communicate with the Quantum Realm and send down signals, a mishap causes them to all get sucked into it. Here they meet a variety of strange creatures and must face off against Kang the Conquerer (Jonathan Majors), a vengeful figure who is being set up as the next big baddie in the MCU.

Like the first two Ant-Man films, Quantumania is directed by Peyton Reed, who once again brings a more comedic tone to the film. But the humour is hit-or-miss this time around, with some of the jokes clashing and struggling to land amidst the darker backdrop. Where as the first two films had fun playing around with scale (such as a chase atop toy trains) in the real world, which gave them a playful quality, this one messes around on a much larger canvas, almost entirely taking place in the murky, obviously green screen Quantum Realm (despite the high budget, the visuals at times recall Spy Kids 3D and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl).

The film basically serves as a quick jaunt through this realm that lays the groundwork for upcoming entries in the MCU, and herein lies the problem; because Quantumania only really functions as a building block for future franchise instalments, it’s hard for it to ever really be truly compelling on its own terms. For a story that potentially has massive ramifications for the Marvel universe, the film itself also feels surprisingly low-stakes and never really builds to any sort of overly exciting climax, because that is being saved for another movie down the line.

By the end, the story within barely even seems to have mattered, and it struggles to even serve as much of a satisfying end to the Ant-Man trilogy. The film gets them into the Quantum Realm as quickly as possible, and the bookending scenes aren’t really enough to ground it, with Scott’s post-Endgame life basically shown as a comedic montage (Michael Peña’s presence is also greatly missed). This was no doubt done to keep the length down, but even at a shade over two hours, the film drags somewhat and struggles to maintain interest, aside from a handful of entertaining moments here and there.

Bill Murray shows up for a few minutes, and it is fun to see him, but it’s little more than a cameo. The appearance of MODOK (first introduced in one of the many Disney+ TV shows) feels like a distraction, with the character never feeling properly integrated into the world of the film. Majors does bring a genuine magnetism to the role of Kang, but he deserves a better film, and hopefully will get one in the future. This particular movie is just another cog in the machine, and while you could say that about a number of other Marvel films as well, Quantumania sadly feels like a particular slog to get through.

(L-R): Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man, Kathryn Newton as Cassandra “Cassie” Lang, Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne/Wasp in Marvel Studios’ ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania opens exclusively in theatres on February 17th.

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