The feature-length films of Phase 4 MCU, which kicks off with ‘Black Widow’ before culminating in ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’, were pretty much a bumpy ride. I personally enjoyed ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ and ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ and, to a certain extent, ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.’ But I found others like ‘Eternals’ mostly a mixed bag.
And now, we are heading to Phase 5, which continues the Multiverse Saga, focusing on the return of Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), where we last saw him – not counting one of the episodes in the animated anthology series ‘What If…?’ — in ‘Avengers: Endgame’ four years ago. Here’s a quick recap: He became one of the pivotal characters who devised the plan of traveling back in time using the Quantum Realm to retrieve all the Infinity Stones before the Snap takes place with the help of the surviving Avengers team.
In ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,’ which marks his third solo film, Lang and Hope Van Dyne/Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) along with Hope’s parents, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Lang’s 18-year-old daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton) as they accidentally end up in the Quantum Realm following an incident gone wrong. From there, they encounter Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors, playing a different role from the He Who Remains’ alternate-timeline variant character seen in the Disney+ series, ‘Loki’), who happens to be trapped in the Quantum Realm as well.
For years since Scott Lang/Ant-Man was first introduced in 2015, Paul Rudd has carried his now-iconic role well enough, but his first two solo films were largely erratic. The first film was decent, thanks to Edgar Wright’s additional input in the screenwriting department. But the 2018 sequel – ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ – was a step-down effort that, despite the return of Peyton Reed, the story was marred by hit-and-miss comedy moments and an underwhelming introduction of the enigmatic Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). Not to mention the sequel feels more like an extended filler episode, as if it was served as both appetizer and dessert between the huge entrée of ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and ‘Avengers: Endgame.’
This, in turn, actually worries me a lot because history might repeat itself in ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.’ But it looks like there’s a glimmer of hope after Jeff Loveness is given the solo writing credit for the third movie instead of enlisting the same screenwriters from the 2018 sequel. If his name doesn’t sound familiar, it’s worth noting that he’s responsible for writing several episodes for the animated series ‘Rick and Morty.’
The good news is, Loveness’ script does evoke a certain out-there and surrealistic ‘Rick and Morty’ vibe from the kooky introduction of several alien lifeforms (among them includes an odd-looking creature with a head literally looks like broccoli, a jar-shaped slimy blob named Veb (David Dastmalchian) and the scene-stealing giant floating head nicknamed M.O.D.O.K. — short for Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing) to the Schrödinger-style ‘probability storm’ sequence. The latter sure feels like I’m watching a snippet of a “Rick and Morty” episode.
Peyton Reed, who directed the first two movies, is again calling the shots for ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.’ He does an adequate job mixing the wacky silliness of Loveness’ script with a surprisingly hefty amount of a dark and serious tone this time around. This is particularly evident with the supervillain appearance of Kang the Conqueror. His character is given substantial screen time here.
While I’m getting a certain Denzel Washington-style of contemplative and intense acting prowess within Jonathan Majors’ performance, it still made me feel like Reed is missing the opportunity here. An opportunity that could have made Majors’ Kang a stronger and more imposing figure. We learn about what Kang can do, but how Reed portrays his character is well, disappointingly restrained. For an antagonist who shaped up to become the next Big Bad after the fearsome Thanos (Josh Brolin) in the first three phases of MCU movies, he certainly deserves better than just slapping him with a perfunctory backstory and character motivation.
Reed also could have embraced Loveness’ trippy narrative structure, but there’s a nagging feeling like he’s holding back when he should be let loose. Besides, this is supposed to be the MCU’s continuation of the Multiverse Saga. The word ‘multiverse’ itself means it should have been a movie that explored infinite possibilities and a whole lot of imagination. It’s not like Reed doesn’t give us imaginative set-pieces (the aforementioned ‘probability storm’ sequence comes to mind), but these scenes only occur a few and far between.
The heavy use of CGI is good but not great. At least it doesn’t end up looking like I have to tolerate the inferior and atrocious digital fakery seen in the likes of ‘Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over’. The action, in the meantime, lacks palpable tension and thrills. They tend to look visually incomprehensible with the over-reliance on blur effects and quick pans, as if the movie wants to cover up some of its rough-around-the-edges CGI effects.
As for the cast, Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang/Ant-Man character is charming and likable as always, while he gets to stretch some dramatic acting muscles in some of the emotional moments in the movie. Casting Kathryn Newton proves to be the studio’s right choice, as evidently seen in her spot-on plucky performance as Cassie. Michael Douglas delivers a solid supporting turn as Hank Pym, and then, there’s Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance, who brings enough gravitas to her role as Janet. Still, it’s kind of a pity that Evangeline Lilly is somehow underutilized as Hope Van Dyne/Wasp.
Likewise, don’t forget to stick around for two extra scenes, including mid-credits and post-credits stingers.