It’s no secret that the Marvel Cinematic Universe finds itself in a creative rut. Whether it’s burn out or just the oversaturation of the market, these films no longer generate the type of hype — and magic — since Avengers: Endgame. The MCU’s Phase 4 was a disappointment for the most part, with more misses (Black Widow) than hits (Spider-Man: N0 Way Home), and now with Phase 5 upon us with Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, fans have to ask themselves: is it too late to right this ship?
Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania is the third film in the Ant-Man franchise, and once again see Paul Rudd return as Scott Lang, a low level criminal who gained the size-altering technology of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to become a hero. The film opens a few years after the “blip” and the events of Endgame. Scott has been maximizing his popularity by writing a book and sucking in the adoration of fans, even if they think he’s Spider-Man. His daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton), is even older now thanks to new casting, and has become a social issue troublemaker, finding herself in jail for protesting various injustices. Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) now runs the company her father created, and is a success. And Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) is still adjusting to life outside the quantum realm, where she spent 30 years prior to being freed by her family in Ant-Man and The Wasp.
Unbeknownst to Scott and Janet, Cassie, Hank, and Hope have been experimenting with communicating with the quantum realm to study it, and that revelation horrifies Janet for reasons that she refuses to share for far too long. The collective group of the Langs and Pym-Van Dynes are then sucked into the quantum realm, beginning a fantastic sci-fi adventure that overcomes Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania‘s flaws.
As we learn from the opening scene of the film, Janet wasn’t alone in the quantum realm, as she befriended a “traveler” version of Kang (Jonathan Majors), last seen in the Disney+ series, Loki. This version of Kang is a conqueror, which for fans of the comics means very bad things are in store for our heroes and the Marvel Universe as a whole, and the comic Kang is actually The Avengers greatest foe.
Once the assorted heroes are transported, they are separated into two groups, with Scott and Cassie being one team, and the Pym-Van Dynes in the other. They immediately try to find each other, but in so doing alert Kang to their presence, sending him into a fury to find them so he can use the Pym Particles to try and escape his quantum realm prison and continue his conquering of worlds, including our Earth.
Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania retains the humor that has been the hallmark of this franchise, but without Scott’s friends from the previous films, Rudd is left to carry the funny alone. Rudd’s patented charm breaks through often, but there seems to be so much going on visually and with all of the characters, including a returning old face as another inconic Marvel villain and scores of quantum realm inhabitants with names you won’t remember.
Director Peyton Reed, who helmed the first two Ant-Man films, has tons of fun in Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania. Visually, the film might be the best of all MCU films to date, as the quantum realm is just teeming with odd sci-fi-infused life. There is so much alien life on screen that you will have to watch the film multiple times to take it all in. Even with the stark visuals of this incredible world within our world, the film still seems to fall into the same traps as every other MCU film. The script by Jeff Loveness doesn’t even try to avoid these pitfalls and in fact, embraces them. After 31 films now, fans can predict how these stories flow and play out, as they have rarely broken the mold of storytelling, Save the Cat be damned.
What saves Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania is the amazing performance of Majors as the villain, Kang. You can tell the actor is having fun playing one of the most dangerous characters in comics history, and his many speeches and abuse of powers all but demands your respect.
Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania is a good start for Phase 5, as the visuals and performances help overcomes a cookie-cutter script and story. Building on the concept of the multiverse formally introduced in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness, and a handful of Disney+ shows, the presence of Kang(s) means very bad things are coming. While Ant-Man and The Wasp ultimately save the day here, not even the combined might of what’s left of the Avengers can stand up to a fully powered Kang the Conqueror, and maybe, just maybe, the MCU can find its way back to that magic that has defined the epic franchise now for 15 years.
Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania is rated PG-13 and is in theaters now.
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