Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)

Witness the beginning of a new dynasty.

Ironically, in the MCU, Ant-Man has always been a smaller hero — his films aren’t as ‘must see’ as others, the Ant-Man movies focusing on more personal, small-scale stories; and, as a result, their box office receipts have been lesser than some of Marvel’s juggernauts — think Iron-Man and Captain America. But the ‘little guy’ has been given a fairly big responsibility this time around with Quantumania, the third movie in the Ant-Man trilogy. Quantumania, you see, is officially kickstarting Marvel’s Phase 5, this next phase apparently ‘the middle chunk’ in what is now being referred to as ‘The Multiverse Saga.’

After last year’s sub-par efforts from the usually reliable Marvel Studios, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, at the very least, puts Marvel back on the right path; Phase 4 felt scattershot and directionless, and films like Thor: Love and Thunder and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever disappointed and underwhelmed in equal measure. Fortunately, Quantumania gives audiences that grand blockbuster spectacle we’ve been missing as of late, mixing action with humor, emotion, and heart. The film also reveals Marvel’s next big bad, Kang the Conqueror (who made his comic book debut in 1963 and is played by a game Jonathan Majors), whilst laying the groundwork for the next Avengers team-up, slated for 2025. If anything, it’s definitely renewed my waning interest in superhero fare.

… a secret universe beneath ours.

Written by Rick and Morty (2013) scribe Jeff Loveness and based on the characters created by Jack Kirby, Ant-Man 3 opens in San Francisco to the sounds of John Sebastian’s ‘Welcome Back,’ where we see what couple Scott Lang (Paul Rudd reprising his role as the size-altering hero for the fifth time now) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) have been up to since the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019). Scott has settled back into family life, reconnecting with his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) after being away for so long — Scott, if you can recall, was stuck in the Quantum Realm for five long years during the Blip, when half of the world’s population was reduced to dust. Scott has also become something of a local celebrity, posing for photos and scoring freebies now that he’s widely loved for saving the world. And Hope, well, she’s saving the world too, but through research and science now. There are some genuinely great moments here, such as Scott being mistaken for Marvel’s other famous insect, Spider-Man — yes, a spider is technically an arachnid. There’s also an amusing scene where we see Scott doing a reading in a bookstore of a novel he’d written in the interim, titled “Look Out for the Little Guy,” addressing a group of giddy children in Ant-Man cosplay.

Cassie, however, is becoming a bit of a freedom fighter, going to rallies to support those who’ve lost their homes after returning from the Blip — at one point, a frustrated Scott must bail her out of prison (like father like daughter, I guess). Cassie, you see, is sick of her dad’s carefree attitude, who’s simply coasting on the fact that everyone should be grateful that he (and his Avenger buddies) saved them all from Thanos, constantly referencing his pivotal role during the Battle for Earth in Avengers: Endgame.

Welcome to the Quantum Realm

A family argument at the dinner table — which includes Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her husband Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) — gets Cassie to reveal that she’d been ‘secretly’ building a device, with the help of Hank, that can send signals down to the Quantum Realm, a microscopic world beneath our own. Janet, however, disapproves of the research due to being trapped in the Quantum Realm for thirty years prior, before being rescued at the end of 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp. Naturally, things don’t go according to plan, and the entire Ant-family wind up getting sucked into the subatomic ‘microverse’ via the Quantum Tunnel and trapped there after some tinkering goes askew. Once in the Quantum Realm, our heroes are separated — Scott and Cassie are dropped into a different zone of this strange infinitesimal dimension, splitting up from Hank, Janet, and Hope. Either way, both teams must navigate through this dangerous alien terrain to find their way home; but all paths lead to the feared ‘Conqueror,’ a much less hospitable variant of Kang than He Who Remains, whom we met in the Loki Season 1 finale.

Directed by Peyton Reed (in his third consecutive go behind the camera), Quantumania is predominantly set in the Quantum Realm. With that said, filmmaker Reed certainly has fun with the world-building, as well as exploring this uncanny miniature land, which itself is a wacky cross between the Star Wars universe and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, only more corpuscle looking. There are tentacled mitochondrion-type creatures galore, manta-ray ‘birds’ and slug-like ‘horses,’ along with a rebel alliance of creatures that look as though they walked off the set of Taika Waititi’s Thor movies.

The Conqueror.

Reed does well with the action, too, a highlight being a scene where Ant-Man is replicated millions of times by ‘probability doubles’ and must work with himself to complete a near impossible task. Another high point is a skirmish in a Star Wars Cantina-type of bar, where our heroes meet up with Bill Murray’s Krylar, an ex-rebel who has a history with Janet and now works for Kang. We also meet a stack of interesting new characters — there’s telepath Quaz (William Jackson Harper), freedom fighter Jentorra (Katy O’Brian), and, my personal favorite, Veb, a pinkish transparent gooey blob who’s obsessed with holes (voiced by David Dastmalchian) — all of which are sadly underdeveloped.

The film also shines in its quieter moments, chiefly when exploring the relationship between Kang and Janet; Janet discovers Kang when he crash-landed in the Quantum Realm as a stranded traveler. It’s these smaller scenes where Janet learns more about this mystery man that mostly stand out — we eventually find out that Kang was exiled from the world and banished to the Quantum Realm to put an end to his tyranny over the multiverse.

We’ve got a brilli-ant plan!

It should be noted that Michelle Pfeiffer, Batman Returns (1992), is dynamite here in more of a leading role as Janet van Dyne, with Pfeiffer nailing all the film’s dramatical beats, along with the action, her presence a definite high point of the movie — I wish, one day, she’d reprise her role as Catwoman. Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods (2020), is also solid and makes for a menacing antagonist as Kang, even if he comes off as a bit silly the deeper we get into the film. And while I believe that Kang the Conqueror is an excellent villain in comic books, his transition into film has been a little wonky. The notion of a Big Bad with thousands of variations might be a smidge too confusing for casual moviegoers, some of these more complex concepts likely to go over audiences’ heads, unlike, say, Josh Brolin’s more traditional bad guy Thanos. Kang’s skills and abilities aren’t clearly defined either, which, again, might confuse some patrons further. And let’s say that everything worked here and Kang had been developed properly, then whose idea was it to pit Kang, who’s supposed to be this epic, almighty villain, against Ant-Man and his goofy band of mish-matched monsters?

Paul Rudd is delightful as the everyman-turned-superhero Scott Lang, who’s become a little complacent post-Snap. Rudd, however, manages to convey the emotion needed to make a subplot regarding the years of abandonment between his daughter, who’s portrayed by Kathryn Newton, really work, this story anchoring the movie as the emotional crux. Both Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas feel a little sidelined this time around — at the expense of the script trying to do a lot in one film — but have a couple of standout moments throughout the adventure. Then there’s Corey Stoll’s Darren, the corporate villain from the original Ant-Man film who returns as M.O.D.O.K. (an acronym for Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing), a mutated, cybernetically enhanced mutant with an oversized head. While it’s awesome to see another comic favorite up on screen, it’s a shame that such a great villain goes to waste here despite having a handful of cool, weirdly grotesque moments.

‘So, what’s it gonna be, Ant-man?’

At the end of the day, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania achieves what it sets out to do: successfully launch Marvel’s Phase 5 and introduce us to the next big baddie who’ll be ripping it up in the MCU. Heck, we also get an intriguing world to explore within the Quantum Realm and some closure to Scott Lang’s own personal story. So, yeah, Quantumania isn’t perfect, but it’s a promising enough start to this new Marvel chapter and has me eagerly ant-icipating what’s in store next.

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by Stu Cachia (S-Littner)

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is released through Disney Australia