Marvel’s Phase 5 finally begins with “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”!, the third film in the Ant-Man trilogy. Yep! In a world where Superman, Hulk, and other high-profile superheroes don’t have a trilogy, we now have one for Ant Man.
Before I talk about this film, I should share my thoughts on the other Ant-Man movies. Overall, I consider them good. They are not groundbreaking by any means, but I believe that is the point. They’re the palate cleansers that people watch after something big like “Avenger: Age of Ultron” or “Avengers: Infinity War”. This is fitting considering each of the first two films came after both Avengers movies. The best way I can describe them is like the side issues that you would read after a big comic event. For example, after you finish reading something like “Secret Wars”, the comic writers follow up with a side story on Silver Surfer or She-Hulk.
While that might make people question why they should see these films, the Ant-Man movies stand out because the filmmakers behind these films are aware that a superhero who grows/shrinks and controls ants is a weird, yet creative, concept. They embrace the weirdness by having fun with the characters, powers, and technology that provides it. It also helps that both the comedy and drama are conveyed by big name actors like Michal Douglas, Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, and Michelle Pfieffer. Their performances help people invest in the stories. In some scenes we get engaging humor, like a giant Ant-Man is riding a truck like a scooter through a city or Luis narrating flashbacks in a hilarious way. Other scenes, offer an emotional payoff, like Scott Lang spending time with her daughter Cassie or Hank Pym and Hope strengthening their father-daughter bond or working on a way to rescue Janet from the Quantum realm. Some are bizarre ideas, but in my opinion the filmmakers managed to find the right balance between zany humor and serious/emotional engagement.
Now we have this third film, which seemingly attempts to break the Ant-Man mold and become more of the big epic that many other comic book movies are trying to be. You can definitely see all the money on screen with its new world and characters (except on a certain character, but we’ll get to that in a bit).
In my opinion, certain aspects of the film kept it from being one of the better MCU films. With that said, I understand why an Ant-Man film in the Quantum Realm would be used to begin the new overall Avengers arc. In addition, I admire how they are aiming to go bigger with the Ant Man ideas and concepts, while still balancing it out with comedy. I don’t think the film was well-balanced in this aspect, however. That is probably because we have been trained to expect an abundance of comedy in Ant Man films and this film was not nearly as funny as the first two. To give you an idea, the film starts by showing Scott as having become a famous superhero after “Avengers: Endgame”, and how well everything is going for him. The film then show cracks in Scott’s perfect life by showing how he does not spend much time with his daughter Cassie, who he hadn’t even realized wants to get into superheroics. While there were small jokes along the way, they don’t balance out the way comedy does in the first two films.
I’m not suggesting you avoid this film, however. There are several elements that I do feel work and help the film stand out. One thing I will say is that this is hands down the best looking of all the Ant-Man movies. The Quantum Realm is one of the most interesting looking places I have seen in any comic book film. I did see this movie in IMAX and that is the way to see it so that you can fully experience this new works and its landscapes. Thera are so many creature and character designs that remind me of the background characters from the Mos Eisley Cantina from “Star Wars”, or the Spirit Spa House from “Spirited Away”. I was very interested in watching these people, how they work, and the bizarre the locations where they live. There are people who look like broccoli, there’s an ooze that acts like a universal translator by drinking it. They even have buildings that are alive and move. Elements like this are creative and help this place stand out from something like Wakanda from “Black Panther” or Xandar from “Guardians of the Galaxy”.
I will also say that the actors are still enjoyable. Some of my favorite scenes are when they are all together. This dynamic kind of reminds me of “The Incredibles” in that it’s a superhero family. I always enjoyed relationships such as this in comics, so to see that here is a plus. In terms of performances, the biggest standouts are Michelle Pfhieffer as Janet van Dyne and Jonathon Majors as Kang. That may be because they have the largest character arcs. When we are with these people, we actually learn things about them.
The main draw of this movie is obviously Kang, who has been built up for the past two years as the next Thanos-level threat in the Marvel Universe. I have read Kang in classic comics, including the storylines “Avengers Forever” and “The Kang Dynasty”. Given those storylines, it makes sense to use a character like him when dealing with the Multiverse. Major’s performance here is good but, while this character is powerful, I did not feel the Thanos threat level. This may sound underwhelming especially after the buildup from the season one finale of “Loki”. But I do not think we are supposed to be there yet. I remember when Thanos was being built up leading to “Avengers: Infinity War”, and people doubted that he would live up to the hype. Thankfully, it led to a massive payoff as Thanos was both riveting and effective as this massive threat. I am hopeful the same will apply to Kang in future appearances.
Even though ants were not used much in this film, one scene does a great job of using their nature to show the tight connection between Scott and Hope. Scott begins to multiply into hundreds or more of himself, each a different Scott based on a different decision he might have made in the past. Those versions are chaotic, not working together and inhibiting each other from succeeding. That changes when Hope flies in, and all versions of themselves work together as well as the ants we’ve seen throughout the series.
While the world and people in the Quantum Realm are interesting to watch, I did not feel the same emotional investment in the inhabitants as I did with Scott Lang and his family. That is to be expected, as we are just introduced to them in this film. We don’t much time to know these characters. We know they are part of a resistance trying to take down Kang and we get that Janet set events in motion that have destroyed their community, but don’t quite feel the pain they’ve endured.
Overall, the world and villain were cool, but the humor and emotional weight I’d hoped for. In the end, it was style over substance. I did enjoy it, however, and am glad I saw it. Yet, I’m even more excited for “Loki” Season 2.
Rating: 5 out of 10