‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’- Film Review (Non-Spoiler): A Good Start to Phase 5?

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is facing a milestone as we enter Phase 5. Are we in store for some huge changes throughout the year? Hopefully, after the mixed reactions near the end of its last phase, it will be hard to tell if the superhero fatigue will finally set in. Anything from them could either pass all expectations or end up becoming one of those cases where all the negativity ruined what I actually thought was cool (Everybody ruined the fun of Thor: Love and Thunder for me). All eyes are on the first of many comic book movies scheduled for release, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Sometimes the track record for threequels has been spot on. But where will we see this?

What’s the Story: After saving the world with the Avengers, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is living the best life he can since many consider him a hero as Ant-Man. On the plus side, nobody sees him as the ex-con he used to be, but now as a local celebrity, especially with the release of his new memoir, “Looking Out for the Little Guy.” All the while, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) is now the head Pym van Dyne Foundation and has an amicable relationship with him, while Scott is hoping to connect with his now eighteen-year-old daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) after missing out on her childhood. Since she’s been fascinated with studying the Quantum realm over the years, Cassie created a device that can send a message to the destination. Things get complicated when everyone, including Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne (Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer), get sucked down and arrive inside the realm. Separated, the five of them must not only find a way home but protect themselves from the mysteriously menacing Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors).

Was this my most anticipated MCU for all of 2023? Not that close. Though when it comes to how I feel about the standalone films that came before, I still believe the first Ant-Man is one of the best films in the franchise since it came out as a major surprise to everyone who wasn’t expecting much from a hero fans weren’t familiar with at the time. And though I wouldn’t call the 2018 follow-up one of my favorite sequels in the franchise, Ant-Man and the Wasp is still quite enjoyable despite some qualms. But what made these two works were they brought a sense of levity between the darker and more massive MCU films, like “Avengers.”

With all that said, all I hoped to get out of it was a fun time watching the smallest of heroes take on more significant stakes. With Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, it’s probably the most I’ve been conflicted about a Marvel movie in a while, leaving it to having such mixed feelings about kickoff into this new phase.

It’s no lie returning director Peyton Reed wanted to make this the biggest one yet, and compared to what he accomplished with the others, Quantumania starts on a lighthearted note and goes on the weirdest adventure Scott Lang and the rest will ever go through in their lives. A large portion of the film takes place there, and we finally get the long-awaited glimpse into the world-building of a place Hank once said to Scott, “You’ll enter a reality where all concepts of time and space become irrelevant.” I didn’t expect how beautiful they were to look at while sitting in front of the Dolby screen, all done by utilizing the same Volume technology used in The Mandalorian.

Just the feel is almost similar to what we’ve experienced with going to different planets from the Star Wars or Dune universes that’s almost unlike anything we haven’t seen in the past two films. The environments and creatures that, I must say, were creatively constructed, going heavy on making this a true sci-fi epic. Will it work for everyone? Maybe not.

You can’t look at these movies without loving Paul Rudd. Since day one, he continues to be the perfect choice to play Scott Lang/ Ant-Man, still making up for lost time with his daughter. And Michelle Pfieffer, thankfully, gets more to do this time since she probably had like seven minutes of screen time in the sequel; this provides us more details of how she survived those past 30 years. Janet already knows the dangers of the Quantum realm, not just the surroundings, but of Kang himself, before getting rescued.

The biggest question everyone has on their minds about the film is how the spotlight is on Jonathan Majors. Just the fact that one of the best actors working in the past few years has been teased as one of the most formidable villains in the MCU already excited me since they said he could be the next Thanos. Those who thought Yellowjacket and Ghost in the last two were underwhelming will be satisfied with Kang the Conqueror’s appearance. Not his first time in a Marvel project, as some would remember him from his memorable role as the variant He Who Remains in the season one finale of Loki. Kang and He Who Remains are entirely different. Once he enters the picture, it gets interesting, and Major’s performance lets us know he’ll be taking this seriously, not cracking any jokes. Instead, he’s very much like a mix of Darth Vader and a classic Shakespearean character you’re eager to see again, as we learn how he ended up there and why he’s dangerous. Watching Majors control every scene he’s in has made me and probably everyone else confident we can’t wait to see more of him in the future to see him more threatening near the end of this current saga.

But besides Rudd, Majors, and Pfeiffer being the standouts, everybody else needed more to do despite working well with the family dynamic. Evangeline Lilly as Hope/ the Wasp is the same as before, but she doesn’t get much to do with her character. The same almost goes the same with Michael Douglas. Kathryn Newton is a talented actress as seen with her work in Blockers and Freaky, respectively, she wasn’t too bad when paired with Rudd in their father-daughter relationship, albeit feeling a bit miscast as Cassie just from this first viewing. However, if they bring her on for the Young Avengers, there’s room for more potential. She did more when she suited up than Wasp, honestly. Don’t expect to see much from William Jackson Harper as the telepathic Quaz and especially an underused of the comedic legend Bill Murray who plays Governor Krylar, an old friend of Janet.  

But where the film falls in the middle of this trilogy is the story written by Jeff Loveness (Rick and Morty) that barely boasts much excitement since it’s mostly a departure from its light tone. Predictably, what worked before is that it kept its heroes on a small scale when matched with family bonding. Everything started slow, only to go back and forth with what it tried to be with a bunch of exposition dialogue and not enough action or those heartfelt moments to get attached to.

As for the comedy, the humor was balanced enough sometimes to gain some chuckles in the first half but stalled for a while, where I didn’t feel the rest of the jokes landed. Granted, you won’t find it funny if you’ve constantly been complaining about the previous MCU using humor. And it can get silly with the MCU debut of the character M.O.D.O.K (Mental/Mobile/Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing), who I forgot was going to be in here even though he’s spotted in the marketing. The point is that he was the unfortunate downside to the CGI that took me out completely and didn’t need to be included. Some might enjoy his presence on-screen, while others won’t. I’m on the latter side.

There’s more action sequences this time with higher stakes than ever for everyone, and it’s not just about objects or humans growing big. Fun to look at, but the climax gets a bit messy trying to see what’s going on amid the fighting that was grander than I thought.

Overall, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania made for a mixed-to-positive experience. Still, it wasn’t the strongest start to Phase 5. But despite a story feeling all over the place, it still serves as a fun and strange third installment that’s not as light as its predecessors. The visuals within the Quantum realm were creative to be drawn into. But, as expected, Majors as Kang will get everyone talking when walking out of the theater. It’s their biggest adventure yet, but it could’ve been better.

Grade: [B-]

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania will be released in theaters on February 17, 2023 in 2D, 3D, IMAX, and Dolby formats| Runtime: 125 Minutes| Rated PG-13 for violence/action, and language| Studio: Marvel Studios

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