Synopsis: Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne, along with Hope’s parents, Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne, and Lang’s daughter, Cassie, go on a new adventure exploring the Quantum Realm that pushes their limits and pits them against Kang the Conqueror
Stars: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Kathryn Newton, David Dastmalchian, William Jackson Harper, Katy O’Brian, Bill Murray
Director: Peyton Reed
Running Length: 125 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: Here we go. It’s finally time to begin Phase Five of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the 31st film released in this series is Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. The hype around this kinetic kickstart is high because everyone is wondering what the future holds for their favorite characters, who are starting to get phased out in favor of new storylines. As the Marvel Multiverse expands, more energetic avenues to explore are needed to keep viewers engaged. With many of these blockbusters intertwined, avoiding the superhero burnout that set in at the midway point a decade ago is critical. Marvel has rather consistently steered clear of alienating their base too much, but Thor: Love and Thunder felt far askew of their usual solid performance, and the popularity of their Disney+ shows waning, now is a critical juncture for the massively profitable studio.
Before sitting down for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, I would have told you that Paul Rudd’s (Wanderlust) sly but certainly mighty superhero standalone series sounded like a strange choice to take the lead on Phase Five. I’ve always found the Ant-Man films (the first in 2015 and the follow-up in 2018) less serious than their fellow MCU friends. Though not as cracked as Thor, which, even after four films and under director Taiki Waititi, couldn’t settle on a suitable tone, Rudd’s Scott Lang is so Everyman that it often feels like we’re just watching Rudd’s home movies. The stakes haven’t felt as high for these adventures as they have in other Marvel films, so to have Scott and his extended family be involved in this hugely pivotal film was a risk.
Thankfully, the gamble has paid off because the third time is the charm. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is one of the most enjoyable MCU films in some time, and not because it’s the overall best representation of what Marvel Studios has to offer to curious audiences. Instead, it’s successful because it felt like it went back to a motto of creatively fueled storytelling first, impressive uses of make-up/design to create a host of eye-popping creatures second, and excessive reliance on CGI last. That allows all the essential pieces that make this type of entertainment feel polished and stand out even more.
As with most MCU films at this point, it doesn’t quite matter if you haven’t gone back and rewatched the last few movies in the series because they always find a way to bring you gently up to speed. Subtle reminders key us into Scott Lang’s rise from a mild-mannered blue-collar worker to a superhero who can shrink or expand in a specialized suit designed by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas, And So It Goes). His daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) fights next to Lang, taking up the guise of The Wasp from her mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer, Murder on the Orient Express), who has only recently returned to Earth after vanishing into the Quantum Realm for three decades.
The best thing to do for the first twenty minutes of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is to tune out most of the gibberish details included in the screenplay by Jeff Loveness. There’s much talk about the Quantum Realm and hints of Janet’s time there, where she met a marooned man (Jonathan Majors, The Harder They Fall) with a deadly secret. Scott’s daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu) has learned much from her elders, finding a way to communicate with the Quantum Realm, a poor decision because a message sent will most likely receive a response. That response sucks Scott, Hope, Cassise, Hank, and Janet back into the Quantum Realm, where many mysteries are revealed, and a new enemy is introduced that brings a doomsday message which will stretch far outside the confines of this film.
Another thing I like about these three films is that they all have been directed by Peyton Reed (Down With Love). It shows you that consistency in tone and style goes a long way in ensuring dedicated cohesiveness (the Tom Holland Spider-Man films are another example). This onscreen team works well together, and while Newton is the newbie to the group (she replaces Emma Fuhrmann, who played the role in Avengers: Endgame but was not asked to star here, likely because Cassie’s role was beefed up significantly.) When the family enters the Quantum Realm and is split up, things settle, and an excellent rhythm emerges. While one group runs into an old friend (a spoiler I won’t share), another goes on a different journey, and it’s this one, led by Pfeiffer, that becomes a real treat to follow. It’s easy to see that Reed and Loveness lept at the opportunity to give Pfeiffer more of a story arc (and hence, more screen time) here, and the actress feels like the star of the film more than Rudd and Lilly. That’s fine by me because, as a longtime Pfeiffer Pfan, it’s nice to see the star in action and moved front and center.
The one drawback to the film, and it’s a problem all Marvel movies have, is that by the time you get to the end of the second post-credit sequence (both of which are doozies, btw), you start to realize that everything you just watched was sort of pointless. There’s little permanence in a world where time is flexible, and universes are changeable. I know that I’m a fan of films with a game plan (an endgame?), and it’s evident that Marvel wants to keep each chapter as open-ended as possible. It’s fun in the moment, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is indeed a gratifying reason to shell out money at the movies, but on the way home, that nagging feeling of “what’s it all about?” comes back to sting.