Marvel Studios' Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania sees Scott Lang, Hope Van Dyne, Hank Pym, Janet Van Dyne, and Cassie Lang trapped in the dangerous Quantum Realm where they must face their most dangerous foe yet, Kang.
This central premise is mostly engaging because Jonathan Majors' Kang (the film's highlight) proves to be menacing and ruthless and a grand villain. And yet, the grand conqueror Kang is a strange choice for the villain of this specific movie, which both underserves his performance and can't quite figure out what to do with someone of his stature and power.
Breaking from Ant-Man tradition, the third chapter of the Ant-Man franchise comes across as confused and voiceless. The comedy of Ant-Man, which was once the franchise's trademark, is surprisingly sloppy and lacking in thought. And even worse, the film has lost the visual charm of the little-big complications of the Ant-Man corner of the MCU and instead takes on a dour muddy tone that feels like it's trying less to serve the story and the specifics of the heroes and more like it's setting Marvel's expansion into the Star Wars-esque.
Along that line, the Quantum Realm, which seemed so fresh in previous portrayals, has now become quite generic, a mish-mash of Journey to the Center of the Earth, Disney's recent Strange World, and the already-mentioned Star Wars (from the costumes that Janet, Hank, and Hope wear to the actual alien cantina scene, it's really difficult not to think of Star Wars when watching this movie.)
But what is most frustrating about the third installation of the Ant-Man francise is that each time the movie is about to brush against an interesting thought, like Janet's dark past in the Quantum Realm, Scott's instinct to sacrifice anything and everything for his daughter, or Cassie's sometimes short-sighted attempts at helping people, the movie simply floats to the next scene and leaves these questions unresolved. The tension disapates before we get a chance to really feel it.
The first two iterations of Ant-Man are rooted in a deep sense of familial connection and the beautiful (and scary) complexities that these connections bring. This nuance is lost in Quantumania, as we get gestures towards lessons learned and battles triumphant, but none which feel earned.
There's too much happening in Quantumania (no, you will not learn all the new characters names nor will you understand their purposes in the film) and very little of it lands any sort of emotional arc. There are so many interesting threads that the movie is trying to set up: a revolution against tyranny, a traumatic past coming back to haunt you, what it means to be a helper, what it means to be a hero, but they all disappear into sweeping superhero music and lackluster battles of surprisingly boring Ant-Man action.
If Quantumania was released as a general MCU film, I might not be as disappointed with it, but Peyton Reed's work with Ant-Man has been a special sort of simple delight. Quantumania lacks that delight and simplicity, becoming yet another generic muddled sci-fi adventure.
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