Film Review: Mostly Entertaining “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” Is a Lot to Handle
Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | February 16th, 2023
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (Peyton Reed, 2023) 2½ out of 4 stars.
It can be tough to keep up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but if one is on top of the vast saga, the new Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which launches “Phase 5,” has a lot to offer, even if not all of it sticks. Filled with jokes, battles, George Lucas-inspired creatures, questionable CGI, twisting narrative curves, and the complicated science of the multiverse, the film is a lot to handle. Byzantine structure notwithstanding, both busy and messy in equal measure, it’s also often engaging, thanks in no small part to the performance of Jonathan Majors (Devotion), who incarnates principal antagonist Kang the Conqueror. I’d watch the man in just about anything, as he elevates everything he touches.
We begin in San Francisco in the aftermath not only of the Thanos “blip” of Phase 3 (which affected the end of the last Ant-Man and the Wasp film), but also of all the films made since, along with the many Disney+ series. Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd, once more), is living the dream, his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton, Freaky) now by his side (when not arrested for civil disobedience) and Hope Van Dyne, aka The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly, also reprising), a faithful romantic partner. In a jokey opening montage, set to the theme from “Welcome Back, Kotter,” he even appears to have made nice with FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park, Always Be My Maybe). Life is very fine.
Until it isn’t. It turns out that Cassie, working with Hope and her father, Hank Pym (a returning Michael Douglas), has designed a miniature satellite to communicate with particles down in the Quantum Realm, from which Hope’s mother, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer, back for more), was recently rescued. Ah, had they but run this by Janet first, the ensuing violent misadventures might never have happened. But then there would be no movie.
For something wicked lurks down in the microscopic world below, hinted at in a prologue set before Janet’s escape. That something is a someone: Kang, last seen in the final episode of Season 1 of Loki, at the end of time, where he explained that only he could stop the Kangs from every other universe from destroying life as we know it. Too bad that Sophie, Loki’s twin from another dimension, killed him.
But here he is again, somehow, and not happy to be stranded with a power source. Locating Janet’s signal thanks to Cassie’s satellite, he pulls everyone into the Quantum Realm, exploding Scott’s fantasies of peace and quiet. Everyone must rise to the occasion, including Hank’s trained ants. Along the way, we meet plenty of new characters and are treated to a delightful cameo from Bill Murray (On the Rocks). We also find ourselves mired in rather ordinary action sequences and lengthy exposition. Occasionally, there are cool moments such as replicating Scotts in a probability storm that raise the sci-fi/action bar.
Overall, we have fun, even if these endless treatises on the multiverse that Marvel is further developing prove tiring through repetition. What novelty exists here threatens to be swallowed by the ever-escalating stakes that were missing in the last two Ant-Man films, which were blissfully scaled smaller than their Avengers counterparts. Still, Rudd is charming and Majors riveting. That’s enough to carry us through, along with some interesting mid-credits and post-credits scenes. Like Kang, I’ll be back for more, even if I’m exhausted by the mania.