The Ant-Man movies aren’t among the best movies in the MCU by any means, but they were fun, charming, and worked as pallet cleansers following major Avengers movies. I rewatched the two movies for the first time since I saw them in cinemas, and I appreciate them a lot more now, especially compared to much of the MCU nowadays. So with that in mind, making the third Ant-Man movie the introduction of the MCU’s next major villain (named Kang) was certainly a strange decision. I had doubts that it would work, but I thought that it would end up working itself out. Turns out I was a bit too optimistic.
The first 5 minutes of Quantumania resembles the Ant-Man films with a light and comedic tone. From the moment the main characters are transported into the Quantum Realm however, everything falls apart. Gone is the familiar charm and humour, as it moves from familiar locations into a sci-fi setting. It even lacks some of the supporting characters and cast from the previous two movies, including Michael Pena, Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale, which is a little disappointing. A lot of what made Ant-Man appealing was his operation in a normal sized world, whether he shrunk down or grew larger. Setting the movie in an already microscopic world removes the uniqueness of those abilities. Not only that, but instead of focussing on relatively smaller stakes, the film is at an Avengers level scale with higher consequences. If Quantumania is meant to be a trilogy ender, then it’s a terrible note to end on. So as that, it’s very disappointing. However, even on its own, it is a very generic sci-fi movie. The familiar plot involves a revolution against a dictator (Kang) and it’s just so hard to care about anything that’s going on. There is barely any development to any of the characters, and not much for Ant-Man or The Wasp to actually do. Honestly, they could’ve swapped Ant-Man out for any Avengers character, and it would’ve worked the same. Much of the movie feels dull and on autopilot. I tolerated the first two acts because of the mystery it was building, but I would struggle to get through it a second time since it’s a whole lot of nothing. Most of it consists of people moving from place to place with a lot of exposition dumped about the Quantum Realm or Kang, and then occasionally something somewhat exciting happens. The third act did have a somewhat entertaining climax, at least in contrast to the aimless first two acts. Even the Quantum Realm is a very dull and standard sci-fi setting. Much of it plays like a bad Star Wars knock off. The creatures and ships are weird, but in a half-hearted way, as if the visuals and the writing were generated by an AI. It has some humour, but it’s less like the comedy in the Ant-Man films and is more of the obligatory Marvel humour in most of their movies nowadays, which misses more than it hits. For what its worth though, it doesn’t drop to the level of the humour in Thor: Love and Thunder. Quantumania is essentially a 2 hour trailer for what’s to come with the Kang era. The “setup for the next movie” criticism can apply to many of the past MCU movies, Iron Man 2 being an example. The difference is that you can still find an actual story and movie in that, and you feel that things are at least moving. Quantumania however feels hollow, not much of consequence happens, and not much of significance happens with these characters. And while it aims to get audiences interested in what’s to come, I don’t think it really succeeded.
Paul Rudd once again plays Scott Lang/Ant-Man and as always, he’s effortlessly charming and delivers in his scenes, whether it be with the comedy or the drama. As I said earlier though, it feels like there’s not much for his character to do. Despite being a third of the title, ironically The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) doesn’t play that significant of a part, and doesn’t leave any impression on the movie. Kathryn Newton plays Scott Lang’s now grown-up daughter Cassie, and I don’t think she was very good. That being said, the writing given to her was terrible. The dynamic between Cassie and Scott looked like it was going to be a major part of the movie, but this arc is sorely underdeveloped that you could practically miss it. It doesn’t help that Newton and Rudd have virtually no chemistry. Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer reprise their roles as Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne, and they are mostly just fine. Pfeiffer at the very least had a much bigger role in this movie compared to the last, and does handle her part well. Douglas however seems like he doesn’t want to be in these movies anymore. Bill Murray is in the movie for a bit, but he leaves so little of an impression that they really could’ve hired anyone for the role.
So much of the movie is hyping up the main villain and next major antagonist of the MCU, Kang. To be fair, actor Jonathan Majors is doing some heavy lifting and makes the character better than it was written. The movie picks up somewhat whenever he’s on screen. It’s just as well that they got an actor on his calibre considering that Kang’s first appearance (outside of the Loki show) wasn’t the greatest. Quantumania’s idea of building up Kang comes from people talking about all the things he’s done, despite himself not actually doing anything significant in the movie. Contrast this with Thanos; multiple films had characters talking about the things he’s done and how dangerous he is, and then when he finally served as a central villain of a film, he killed significant MCU characters and erased half of the universe. I can assure you that nothing of the sort happens in this movie with Kang. It really doesn’t help that they keep him hidden for much of the movie, with characters referring to him as “him” or “the conqueror”. While I get that they wanted to build suspense, his character ended up being really underdeveloped and with unclear and generic motives. Any depth that was given to the character was provided by Majors. As for how they convey how dangerous Kang is, any possible threatening factor he has is nullified by the fact that his first opponent in the movies is Ant-Man, and he isn’t able to instantly kill him without a second thought. Honestly, he made a much bigger impression in the Loki Season 1 finale. There’s another villain worth mentioning, Kang’s henchman in the form of MODOK, who’s pretty much a guy with a giant head and a small body. He’s a ridiculous character in the comics and so a ridiculous character here, and they really lean into the silliness and comedy. The writing isn’t really that funny, so it’s just as well that actor Corey Stoll performs it in such a way that it is funny. For what it’s worth, the movie does actually pick up a little whenever he’s on screen.
Peyton Reed returns to direct the third Ant-Man movie. While I liked his work in the previous two films, his work in Quantumania is severely disappointing. His direction worked for the smaller stakes and identifiable setting, but it didn’t work so well for a sci-fi epic. The action is fine but very generic and basic. Quantumania very likely tops Thor: Love and Thunder as the worst looking MCU movie. The visuals are beyond terrible, so much of it looks fake, and there are multiple points where it straight up looks like Sharkboy and Lavagirl (which came out nearly a couple decades ago). I lost track of the number of times actors would be standing in front of blatantly obvious greenscreen, with nothing in the scene looking real. Even Ant-Man’s ability to shrink and grow isn’t that special this time around. As I said, making Ant-Man grow large to the size of a building or shrink down to the size of an ant worked in his previous appearances, because there’s identifiable scale. When it happens in the Quantum Realm, it just doesn’t have the same effect. The creatures and alien designs are certainly strange, but almost ripped from aliens in other sci-fi movies. And if that’s not enough, there’s also the look of MODOK, which is quickly one of the biggest jokes from those who have seen the movie. I get that he’s supposed to look weird like he does in the comics. However, instead of coming across as creepy or gross, in Quantumania he just looks like a guy who just can’t get enough of a wide angle lens snapchat filter, or a villain in a rejected straight to dvd sequel to Sharkboy and Lavagirl. However, I’m not going to harp on MODOK’s design too much despite how hilarious of a misfire it is, because it did provide some unintentional entertainment.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is yet another low point for the MCU. A product that is lacklustre, dull and generic with terrible visuals, and was mostly a slog to get through. It sacrificed the fun and charm of the previous Ant-Man movies for a bad sci-fi flick to set up future films in the MCU, and it didn’t even succeed at that. There are some enjoyable moments, some of the action is entertaining enough, and the performances from Paul Rudd, Jonathan Majors and to a degree Corey Stoll elevated the experience somewhat. Overall though, it’s at least in the top 2 worst movies from the MCU alongside Thor: Love and Thunder. That being said, despite being a worse movie, at least Love and Thunder wasn’t trying to be “The Beginning of a New Dynasty” as Ant-Man 3 so boldly claimed it would be. While I liked most of its movies, Phase 4 was a meandering mess for the MCU, and Quantumania was meant to kick off Phase 5 with a bang. Alas, it looks to be even worse.