When you look at the two previous Ant-Man movies, both of which were directed by Peyton Reed, they always felt like the light desert, since they came out right after the main courses of the Avengers movies. These movies weren’t about saving the world from giant CGI armies, they were essentially comedic capers, in which the titular superhero is all about size shifting, while the theme of family drives the characters. Family still remains a part in Reed’s MCU threequel, but Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania has other priorities.
Life seems to be going well for Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), who has become a well-known celebrity to the public, as well as the author of an autobiographical book that tells a different version of how he helped save the universe during the events of Avengers: Endgame. Although Scott’s priorities as a hero are secondary, his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) is all about being one. As well as increasing her scientific interests, she has been working on a device that can contact the Quantum Realm. However, when Scott and Cassie, as well as Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and her parents, are pulled into the Quantum Realm, they discover a whole new universe that is taken over by Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors).
While the two Ant-Man movies were far from perfect, they relied more on the comedy – and as more than just the gimmick of its central hero. The comedic trio of Luis, Dave and Kurt brought out some of the funniest moments in the MCU and in Quantumania, their absence is felt here. From the opening minutes that introduce Scott’s somewhat troubling relationship with Cassie, as well as Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet van Dyne struggling to open up to her own family, you can see the start of character arcs that should drive the narrative. However, as the movie quickly rushes to get into the Quantum Realm, this is where the film starts to falter.
To do for Ant-Man what Thor: Ragnarok did for the God of Thunder, Quantumania does feel left-field than its predecessors, by leaning much more into otherworldly comic book visuals. Written by Jeff Loveness, credentials include Rick and Morty (the influence can be seen in the design of the variety of creatures that dominate the Quantum Realm, including the buildings and spaceships that are just as alive and weird). It also has much in common with “gonzo” blockbusters like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, where they embrace the outlandish imagery, and despite being one of the most visually interesting MCU instalments (plaudits to veteran cinematographer Bill Pope), the story becomes a well-worn rebellion tale that is juggles too many elements.
While the charisma and adorable dynamic between Paul Rudd’s Scott and Kathryn Newton’s Cassie shines, the rest of the cast get short-changed. Evangeline Lilly may be the titular Wasp, but she still doesn’t have an arc. Although the decision to feature Kang as the main villain in an Ant-Man movie is questionable, considering he is being set up as the big baddie after Thanos, Jonathan Majors’ performance is the sole reason to watch Quantumania as he can show menace with his soft vocals, while his scenes with Pfeiffer give the movie some dramatic weight.
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