Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania – movie review

The fifth cycle of Marvel Cinematic Universe films kicks off with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. In the hands of director Peyton Reed (who directed the previous two Ant-Man films), this feels like something of a throwback. While nodding to the MCU’s current multiverse mania, Reed delivers an action film steeped in nostalgia.

The only problem with the film’s plainly strong feelings for the past is that it becomes quite derivative. Leave aside that the plot is basically the same as the recent Strange World – itself an updated version of 1950s films like Journey to the Center of the Earth – Reed seems to be genuflecting at the altar of sci-fi canon while the plot struggles along in the background. If you pay attention, you may spot references to Star Wars, Dune, Back to the Future and many more. The difficulty of course is that these are all much better films; and calling attention to them only invites comparison.

When we pick up the story, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) – a.k.a. Ant-Man – is pretty content with life as an Avenger. He’s parlayed his fame into a book and is basking in the limelight – even if fans sometimes mistake him for other superheroes. He’s re-united with Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) – the Wasp – and her parents Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer). Scott’s daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) is now a young adult. Seems Cassie has inherited some smarts because, in between arrests for protest activity, she’s been busy working with Hank on a device to contact the Quantum Realm (see the first two Ant-Man movies if you don’t understand what that is). But as Cassie activates the device, Janet urgently warns her to turn it off. But it’s too late – family pizza night is transformed into a deep dive into the Quantum Realm.

Hope, Janet and Hank fall into a different area of the Quantum Realm to Scott and Cassie. Surprisingly, they discover that the Quantum Realm is home to humans – or at least human-like beings – as well as bizarre alien creatures. Janet, who was trapped in the Quantum Realm for years, luckily knows her way around. She contacts an old ally, Lord Krylar (Bill Murray), who reveals that things have changed since she left and that he’s now working for a new ruler, Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). But a double-cross is on, and the trio flee after stealing Krylar’s ship. Meanwhile, Scott and Cassie have found a group of rebels led by Jentorra (Katy O’Brian). She warns them about Kang and reveals Janet was somehow responsible for his rise to power, which involved a critical device known as a power core. Kang’s forces however have located the rebel base and attack. Scott and Cassie are captured and taken to Kang, who demands that Lang help restore the power core to him – or he will kill Cassie.

Unsurprisingly, after the fairly lengthy set-up, things devolve pretty quickly. Reed and screenwriter Jeff Loveness don’t seem to be able to rein in the chaos once it starts. The plot actually doubles down on it, leading to a pretty clunky ending. The fact it needs at least two deus-ex-machina moments to get to some kind of resolution kind of says it all.

For all its plot problems though, you can’t accuse Quantumania of being boring. The set-piece battles are excitingly staged and the characters are generally pretty likeable – especially Cassie who’s been transformed from poppet-in-peril in the early films to fully-fledged butt-kicking superhero here.

Paul Rudd brings his usual charm to the role of Scott. Evangeline Lilly is also good but under-utilised as Hope; and the same goes for Michael Douglas as Hank. Michelle Pfeiffer has more to do, but she’s mostly a catalyst for the plot, rather than a driver. Kathryn Newton brings a spark to Cassie, and makes the most of the opportunity. But the film really belongs to Jonathan Majors as the enigmatic villain. As usual, post-credits scenes are included, and these hint at an expanded role for Kang the Conqueror in the future. I do however feel for Corey Stoll who makes a surprise re-appearance in the Ant-Man universe in a truly thankless role.

Quantumania continues the general trend of post-Endgame MCU movies for me – I found it okay but not great. It lacks some of the charm of the other Ant-Man movies, and takes a lot of strange turns. That said, if you’re into spectacle on a grand (or is it microscopic?) scale, then this is probably a film for you.

David Edwards

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