It feels like the MCU has been in a holding pattern as of late as it decides when and how to give audiences something of true substance, and at this point, I’m kinda getting tired of it.
The first chapter of the next phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania sees the second Ant-Man, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), his daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton), his partner in crime and current Wasp, Hope (Evangeline Lily), and the original Ant-Man and Wasp, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), as they are transported into a subatomic world full of danger, intrigue, and apparently, random Bill Murray cameos. Stuck in the Quantum Realm with no clear way of getting out, our protagonists are soon set upon by a highly dangerous individual, the ruthless temporal conqueror known as Kang (Jonathan Majors), a villain that’s hellbent on making his way to the world above while annihilating any who step in his way getting to it. Desperately needing to return home without unleashing Kang and his armies on an unsuspecting Earth, Scott Lang and crew must find a way to bring Kang to his knees while simultaneously saving the Quantum Realm in the process, a feat that’s far easier said than done.
I honestly don’t know what to expect from the MCU at this point. Ever since the conclusion of The Infinity Saga, the MCU has done a lot to prepare for their next big story arc, The Multiverse Saga, with their recent entries more often than not releasing to middling results. Spending most of Phase 4 introducing but not exactly developing a whole slew of new heroes and villains, the last few movies — from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to Thor: Love and Thunder to even Black Panther: Wakanda Forever — feel as if there’s some kind of disconnect going on between what audiences expect and what the filmmakers are willing to deliver, a problem that plagues Quantumania almost from the jump.
Less humorous compared to the last two Ant-Man entries (both of which I highly enjoyed) and completely doing Ant-Man mainstay Luis (Michael Peña) dirty by not featuring him in the movie at all, the inventiveness of the series’ patented shrinking and growing gimmick is almost nowhere to be found in this threequel either, instead replaced by more green screen and CGI fuckery than most other Marvel movies put together. Sure, seeing the Quantum Realm come to life is fun enough, especially when Kang gets involved, but for a follow-up to a set of films that prided themselves in not being these over-the-top effects-driven movies, and any real excitement at what we’re watching on screen gets brought down by some head-scratching world-building and a giant third act battle that nearly every MCU film coming out nowadays can’t seem to do without. And while the introduction of Kang, the next Big Bad of the MCU, was handled well enough (despite a few nitpicks that I’m sure will be ironed out by his next appearance), there are only a few funny/exciting sequences sprinkled throughout (M.O.D.O.K. was cool I guess?), making it clear that this one needed a much better purpose on a narrative and character level before it was given the green light.
As a comic book film, this one does its job well enough, what with all the wacky superhero shenanigans going on, but as something of meaning, substance, and quality, it ultimately comes up lacking. I don’t think I’ll ever outright dislike an MCU movie, but the growing pains and set-up fatigue that dogged Phase 4 is still present and accounted for at the beginning of Phase 5, putting Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania in an unfortunate middle ground that doesn’t help it much. Still, I’m excited to see where things go from here, especially Jonathan Majors’ Kang, so here’s hoping these next few MCU entries get better fast, or else us nerds are gonna have a problem.