Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023): A Review

I know, long time since I’ve reviewed, right?

Welcome back.

The year is 2023, and the nerds have, unabashedly, won. It seems every week brings us a new Star Wars/ Star Trek / video game adaptation / comic book movie. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has hit its 31st film1, and began its fifth phase, with this release — Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

And how bizarre is that? When I started this blog in February 2008, we were all just hoping that Iron Man would defy the odds and be a great adaptation of a B-Level hero and The Dark Knight would be a decent follow-up to the shockingly good Batman Begins.

Now we’ve got dueling comic movie universes, with DC looking like it might finally have its shit together with new leadership, and Marvel starting another phase of its (perhaps?) long-in-the-tooth franchise with a third Ant-Man movie.

That’s where we’re at now, people. THREE. ANT-MAN. MOVIES.

Dig into the power of Paul Rudd all you want, but this should not be. Ant-Man has been lucky to string three issues together, let alone three movies.

And who would have thought that this would be the lynchpin of this series of Marvel movies, introducing the awesome Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country) as Kang — yes, the guy whose action figure got dusty on pegs in stores nationwide for YEARS.

It’s a surreal mix to hang $200 million on.

And that’s the odd background that this perfectly fine movie lands in. It’s fine. Not great. Good at best. But fine overall. It’s not a disaster, it’s not the misfire that Eternals was, it’s not going to become a meme joke of a bad movie like Thor: The Dark World was (which I kinda thought was OK, honestly), it’s capital F, Fine.

The setup is actually pretty simple. It’s a few years after Avengers: Endgame, Scott Lang (the eternally cool Paul Rudd) is sort of a cult hero. Not the superstar a Tony Stark or Steve Rogers is, but he can live his life. His love interest, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly, whose political opinions you shouldn’t google) is running an incredible science division of the reborn Pym Van Dyne company, along with her father Hank Pym (Michael Douglas, happy to be here). Hope’s long lost mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) has returned from the Quantum Realm (basically, where Tardigrades live), though she doesn’t want to talk about it. Scott’s even written a book about his life, Look Out For The Little Guy!

It’s a shame he’s just having some issues reconnecting with his daughter Cassie, now an adult (thanks, The Blip®!). It seems that Cassie (Kathyrn Newton) is striking out a bit, but showing some scientific prowess. So much so that she’s building a way to map the Quantum Realm! Which sends Janet’s blood running cold…just in time for them all to get sucked into the Quantum Realm themselves.

The worry? A soft spoken, green and purple jumpsuit wearing man named Kang, who also calls himself A Conquerer. Who you may recognize from — though, really don’t need to have seen — the Disney+ series Loki.

Seems he has a history with Janet, he wants out of the Quantum Realm, and it’s gonna take the whole Ant-Man family to figure it out.

And that’s where the problem of this movie really lies.

There’s two fighting elements here, one micro, one macro.

On the micro (heh) side, there’s a really fun Journey to the Center of the Earth-by-way-of-Rick and Morty adventure here, filled with grumpy telepaths (William Jackson Harper), flashlight headed beings, Broccoli Men, and some weird goo guy obsessed with holes (voiced by David Dastmalchian, the only of Scott’s old crew to return, though as an entirely different character.)

It’s in this mode that the movie really sings. Amazing visuals, stunning creature and character designs that I only would’ve loved more if they were practical. I would love to just see a romp with the Pym Van Dyne Langs in this world.

But on the macro level, it’s time for the MCU to establish a big bad. And though he is performed admirably by Jonathan Majors, and I cannot wait to see him in more, bigger movies ahead…this is not the movie for this weight.

Ultimately, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania starts to sag whe these elements collide, and more than anything, I just wished they had picked a lane. And that’s sort of the issue with where we’re at 31 movies into the this franchise. A movie cannot stand alone, it must feed into the bigger world. And Scott Lang, Avenger though he may be, cannot anchor an Avenger-level adventure.

Sometimes, small is best, and I thought that 3 movies in, Marvel recognized what they had here. Instead, we get stuck with neither side getting what they want, as hard as they try.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is in theaters now.

  1. 31. Like the flavors at Baskin Robbins. Get it? I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but, well done, Marvel. ↩