Review: ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ (it’s probably fine)

Marvel’s “Rick and Morty.”

Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) has been enjoying life since Endgame. He’s been dating Hope Van Dyne aka The Wasp (Evangeline Lily) whenever she’s not running her dad Henry Pym’s (Michael Douglas) old company, spending time with his young-adult daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) whenever she’s not fighting injustice, and peddling a new self-help autobiography. What he hasn’t been doing a lot of is Avengering, nor has anyone exactly been calling for his help. That opportunity presents itself when the aforementioned semi-dysfunctional family gets sucked into the Quantum Realm by an old nemesis that Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) has a prior undisclosed and ashamed history with… and he is less than happy with how things were left.

Being director Peyton Reed’s third time out with Ant-Man and the gang, things were going to be a little different; it’s the first film of the MCU’s Phase 5, and the story seeds sown throughout Phase 4 are starting to take hold. The biggest has already been revealed in the Disney+ “Loki” series (some spoilers): He Who Remains aka Kang the Conqueror, played by Jonathan Majors. The conclusion of that limited series made one thing very clear: the multiverse was being kept in check by the TVA (Time Variant Authority) by pruning branches from a predetermined timeline ensuring other Kangs could never rise to power. Once Pandora’s box was opened, being seen avoiding variant Kangs only draws attention from them, and they don’t miss much. The biggest question is, how screwed is the multiverse already?

At a little over two hours, Quantumania throws a lot at its audience and fully expects it to keep up. The Quantum Realm itself is the Heavy Metal magazine-inspired acid trip one would expect, looking like the first cousin of the Dark Dimension occupied by Dormammu from the first Doctor Strange movie stocked with more creatures. Inspirations from Star Wars, Independence Day, and other sci-fi tent poles serve as production shortcuts, from faceless troopers to gathering armies. At any given moment, there’s a lot on the screen — perhaps too much, like a moving Where’s Waldo game trying to spot the heroes — with the same sense of whimsy that undercut Thor: Ragnarok but thankfully with more weight given to lives lost. Edited to the bone to avoid Eternals-like running time and over-exposition, Quantumania comes up short in emotion and extreme for spectacle. The impending dread of the ending won’t be what Ant-Man fans are expecting, but the MCU is betting big it’s what viewers need. Hey, at least it isn’t the Snyderverse, okay?

Anyone trying to wrap their heads around this whole Kang thing and why it’s important: Kang is the MCU’s Rick Sanchez, the overconfident mad scientist of “Rick and Morty” but with a predisposition toward conquering everything he can; it’s no accident screenplay writer Jeff Loveness also wrote for “Rick and Morty.” If you understood that reference, picture the Council of Ricks, where the Ricks of every dimension gather to ensure no one Rick takes too much for themselves (read: assassinates other Ricks); violating that edict brings Seal Team Rick down upon them. So if Kang is Rick, who’s Morty? In what may be the kookiest idea the MCU has ever committed to screen, that role went to M.O.D.O.K., and don’t look up who the actor is if you don’t already know. At thirty-one films in and counting, the Marvel Cinematic Universe demands you keep up; it may all be connected, but it’s no longer intended for the casual moviegoer to take in a random Marvel movie.

The excellent Jonathan Majors is the best reason to watch, his second MCU variant thus far with more to come; Michelle Pfeiffer reminds everyone she isn’t one for waiting around to be rescued. Everyone gets a moment to shine in the core cast, but the citizens of the realm are all one-note — revolution woman, torture guy, mind-reader man — mostly played for much-needed yet still throwaway laughs. For those who know they’re seeing Quantumania and those already done with the MCU, this review nor the film is going to change anyone’s mind. You’re either in or you’re out, and like its comic book origins, Marvel hopes your love of one beloved character or group will pave the way to see others as everything crosses. Quantumania may not be the best film in the series but neither is it the worst, and the fans already speculating where the films go from here means Marvel still has their attention.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is rated PG-13 for violence/action, language, and drinking the goo.

Three skull recommendation out of four

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