This review is spoiler-free.
Marvel needs to shape up and make a real comedy, because this self-deprecating quip situation is outta control. In the awkwardly-titled Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Ant-Man is a goofball who repeatedly draws attention to the weirdness of his life as one of the less-impressive Avengers. The tone is unserious without being particularly funny, making it hard to either embrace as light entertainment, or engage with Quantumania‘s greater purpose: Introducing Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) as the MCU’s next big supervillain.
Director: Peyton Reed
Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) joins his family for an adventure in the Quantum Realm, an alternate dimension full of quirky aliens. But without a compelling purpose beyond introducing Kang (Jonathan Majors), this formless threequel falls flat.
In the wake of Avengers: Endgame, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is resting on his laurels, publishing a dorky memoir and enjoying celebrity life. However, this happy epilogue gets interrupted when he and his family are sucked into the Quantum Realm, where Scott’s mother-in-law Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) was previously trapped for 30 years.
We assumed that Janet spent this time hanging out in a deserted timewarp, but it turns out there’s a whole civilization down there. Populated by gloopy creatures, Star Wars-adjacent vehicles, and a rebel community led by a Xena-style warrior (Katy O’Brian), we’re offered some enjoyably silly Quantum Realm worldbuilding and character design. Inevitably though, it’s sabotaged by Marvel’s terrible CGI/lighting situation. The large-scale backdrops may look cool, but every close-up is tinted with a murky bronze or purple light that saps any sense of visual energy. Eurgh.
As Scott traverses the Quantum Realm with his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), Hope van Dyne/The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), and her mother Janet, we learn more about Janet’s experiences here—a story that honestly sounds more appealing than the one at hand. Without going into spoilers, I think it’s safe to reveal that Janet had a run-in with Kang.
First introduced in the multiverse-hopping spinoff Loki, Kang will be the main villain of the next Avengers movie. But while Jonathan Majors has plenty of screen presence, Kang’s role is far too reliant on pure exposition. To make a supervillain personally compelling, we need to engage with their emotional journey. Characters like Magneto, Killmonger, and Loki all combine strong dramatic performances with interesting political or personal motives. They’re not just some guy monologuing about his desire to conquer the universe, which is basically Kang’s role here.
To be honest, Ant-Man and Kang are a weird match-up. Ant-Man is dorky and ineffectual, better suited to a low-stakes Disney+ dramedy. Meanwhile, Kang is meant to be terrifyingly powerful, foreshadowing an interdimensional apocalypse. Here, screenwriter Jeff Loveness (Rick and Morty) drops him into a thinly-drawn Quantum Realm conflict, with MODOK (a giant floating head) as his comedy sidekick—the film’s most egregious victim of Marvel Quip Disease.
This kind of movie relies on creating a sense of peril around characters who are clearly going to be fine, a simple blockbuster task that director Peyton Reed immediately flubs. There are just too many moving parts: Kang, a MacGuffin subplot, the Quantum Realm aliens, a paint-by-numbers father/daughter narrative. Now an adult, Cassie embodies a rather condescending trope: A young woman whose political activism is framed as a lovable act of rebellion, ultimately less impactful than her superhero dad’s ability to protect her. She just isn’t a very interesting character in herself. Nor is Hope van Dyne, who hardly deserves her title billing.
Everyone here would be better served if Rudd was allowed to be properly weird and funny, while Pfeiffer and Majors starred in a weightier origin story for Kang. As it stands, Quantumania is neither fish nor fowl. Mostly it exists as connective tissue between different eras of the MCU, displaying embarrassingly little interest in its own main characters.