Director: Peyton Reed
Cast : Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathryn Newton, Bill Murray
Run Time : 125 min
Opens : 16 February 2023
Rating : PG
2015’s Ant-Man and 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp are often considered palate cleansers, coming after Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) release order. “For this third one, I said, ‘I don’t want to be the palate cleanser anymore,’” director Peyton Reed told Entertainment Weekly. “‘I want to be the big Avengers movie.'” And with those fighting words, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania goes big or goes home.
After being a part of the Avengers team that saved the world and defeated Thanos, Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) is enjoying a bit of a victory lap, writing an autobiography and taking things easy. He has trouble connecting with his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), who has been researching the Quantum Realm. This unexplored sub-atomic corner of reality is where Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) was trapped for years. Cassie’s experiment accidentally transports herself, her father, Janet, Janet’s husband Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hank and Janet’s daughter Hope/the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) into the Quantum Realm. Janet has been secretive about her time here, because she crossed paths with a powerful force she had hoped to never face again: the despotic Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). Ant-Man and family must overcome obstacles unlike any they’ve met before in their biggest adventure yet.
Quantumania is nothing if not ambitious. It is almost completely unlike the first two Ant-Man movies, which were still grounded in an earthbound reality, and instead wholly embraces the sci-fi fantasy aspect. The Quantum Realm is a dazzling, eye-popping milieu with a lot going on at once visually, and many of the design ideas on display are impressive and amusing. At its best, Quantumania does approach the world-building of a Star Wars movie, and Reed says he was inspired by working on The Mandalorian. The cantina scene from the original Star Wars film being a noticeable influence and Bill Murray pops up as a Lando-esque character.
The cast has great chemistry together, with Rudd leading the way in typical winning fashion. There are moments when the character must get more serious than he ever has, and Rudd handles those too. One of the movie’s best scenes is between Pfeiffer and Majors (we’ll get to him later), and it is a tense dialogue scene with minimal visual effects in which the acting does most of the work.
Unfortunately, the movie’s reach sometimes exceeds its grasp. Its ambition means Quantumania wants to get a lot done in its 125-minute runtime. While it’s mercifully shorter than other MCU entries, it feels long, especially because of its drawn-out climactic battle. The stakes are high and the movie works when its characters have clear objectives, but towards the end, things get a little messy. Screenwriter Jeff Loveness is a Rick and Morty alum, and the movie’s sense of humour belies that – sometimes it works, but other times, it doesn’t.
The movie’s biggest misstep is arguably its handling of the character M.O.D.O.K. (Corey Stoll), whose back-story is changed from the comics. The character has always been goofy-looking, but the way M.O.D.O.K. is realised here is jarring and deep in the uncanny valley. One could argue that this is intentional, but it does take one out of the proceedings.
One of the film’s biggest selling points is that it introduces major villain Kang the Conqueror, who is set to be the main villain of the next Avengers movie, due out in 2025. We first met He Who Remains in the Loki TV series; that was one of many variants of Kang. Here, Jonathan Majors does a wonderful job, equal parts quietly commanding and volatile. He’s taking this very seriously, and the movie does a good job of building up to when we meet Kang proper. General audiences might not know Kang’s significance as a villain in the Marvel canon, but hopefully, Majors gets to play the breadth of the character and his many variants.
Summary: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is an ambitious adventure that wants to be much bigger than the first two Ant-Man films. In this aspect, it succeeds, containing impressive world-building and a sense of adventure. However, the movie feels clumsy and muddled by its third act, and despite some imaginative design work, the synthetic nature of the digital settings creeps up on audiences after a while. Jonathan Majors’ portrayal of Kang, poised as the next major MCU villain, is a highlight. Stick around for one mid-credits scene and one post-credits scene.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars