2 out of 5 stars
Kicking off “Phase Five” of the next series of Marvel movies, “Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is meant to be a bridge between the greater arc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the movies to follow.
By focusing more on long-term MCU plot and forced worldbuilding than complex character dynamics, “Quantumania” becomes too weak to stand on its own.
The story follows the size-changing superheroes Ant Man and the Wasp, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), as they try to adjust to a new normal following the cataclysmic events of the previous Marvel films.
When Scott’s teenage daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) creates a device that sends a signal down to the subatomic quantum realm, their family of five — including Hope’s parents, Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne (played by Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer) — is shrunk down into another world, where they must face off against newest MCU villain, Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors).
The movie felt like an attempt to recreate the success of the other Ant Man movies without having anything of value to add to these heroes’ stories. Rudd’s performance as the quippy, somewhat clueless father figure was consistent but unremarkable, while Lilly was sidelined in a movie that has her character’s name in the title.
Pfeiffer knew everything about the quantum realm when it was convenient to the plot and made a noble attempt to create suspense with a script that did her no favors. Douglas’ presence felt unnecessary for most of the movie, and Newton’s portrayal of Cassie upheld the weak stereotype of the teenage rebel with a heart of gold.
Cassie’s relationship with Scott and her soapbox speeches about “doing the right thing” felt bland and insincere, coming across as flat and complaining most of the time.
The movie’s strongest performance came from Majors, who has the potential to give Kang a lot of range and complexity if given a better script down the road. He was able to alternate from a soft, kind presence to a furiously angry one. His role was intriguing, but ultimately unoriginal.
One role the movie gets partial credit for is the introduction of M.O.D.O.K, one of Marvel’s more bizarre villains, who has been worked into the movie as a shrunk down version of the original Ant Man villain, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll).
M.O.D.O.K. is a wry attempt at creating a new villain but is ultimately overshadowed by the film’s own mistake of using him as comedic relief. Director Peyton Reed made it work the only way he could, and those scenes were admittedly the funniest in the movie.
The entire quantum realm felt like a copy of a “Star Wars” planet, down to the seedy casino with alien looking figures. The CGI was what we have come to expect from Marvel CGI and is no longer impressive enough on its own to carry a film. Every character in the quantum realm was forgettable, and not even a gratuitous cameo could save it.
Ultimately, “Quantumania” exemplifies the fact that Marvel is going to have to find something different to maintain our attention after the success of the Infinity Saga and several risks in Phase four.
This movie felt like the studio was trying to recapture the spirit of the original Ant Man movies and wild cards that paid off like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but the jokes fell flat, the story was predictable and the characters felt bland. We want to see growth, and not just the size-changing kind.
Photo from thedirect.com.