If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That seems to have been a Marvel mantra ever since kickstarting the MCU, with nearly every film following a reliable formula. There’s a sameness to their narratives that, depending on your level of investment, is either comforting or increasingly stale.
The arguable exception would be the first two Ant-Man movies, which were enjoyable anomalies. Breezy and humorous in tone, they were welcome breathers in between the ominous implications and apocalyptic spectacle of other films in the MCU, with a likable, laid-back and fallible protagonist. While obviously still part of the franchise’s overall story arc, these films lightened things up a little. Even the action and special effects were created to induce more amusement than wonder.
Not this time.
The Ant-Man series wasn't broken, but for some reason, they decided to fix it anyway. Though occasionally funny, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania eschews nearly everything that made the first two endearing, resulting in a bigger but distressingly generic Marvel movie, emphasizing hyperkinetic action and special effects over its own established characters.
It begins great, though, with Scott Land (Paul Rudd), settling back into a life of normalcy while enjoying a bit of local celebrity status for helping save the world. He also has to contend with his daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton), now a rebellious teen who’s proven to be a genius at quantum physics, much like Frank Pym (Michael Douglas). The first ten minutes are as charming and funny as anything in the other two films, effectively re-establishing the main characters as something of a family.
All that ends once a device Cassie built sucks everyone into the Quantum Realm, where Hank’s wife, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), was trapped for 30 years. It’s now ruled by Kang (Jonathan Majors), a tyrannical megalomaniac with an axe to grind, especially with Janet, who once prevented him from escaping. The rest of the story feels like a placeholder, setting up the next big MCU story arc with the Kang as its new Thanos-like threat.
|"I sneezed in my helmet."|
Speaking of the Quantum Realm…it is, of course, colorful and elaborate. There are some clever touches (such as “living” buildings), but since depicting imagined universes has always been part of the Marvel formula, there’s little that makes this place distinctive or memorable. The same criticism can be applied to the action. There’s a ton of it, of course, capped by the usual epic clash involving thousands. But again, we’ve seen all this before. Ant-Man was a lot more fun when bad guys could be taken out by an oversized Pez dispenser.
Instead, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is just another chapter in service of Marvel’s ever-expanding universe (the beginning of Phase 5, apparently). Most of what made the first two films a charming respite from the usual superhero spectacle has been stripped away. I suppose it's watchable, especially for those who feel the need to keep abreast of all things related to the MCU, but this is definitely a case where bigger isn't better.
FEATURETTES - “All in the Family”; “Formidable Foes.”
2 DELETED SCENES
AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Peyton Reed and screenwriter Jeff Loveness.