Movie Review: ‘Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania’ is a wild launch for the next MCU phase
“Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania” will launch Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) on Feb. 17, 2023, with out-of-this-world visual effects, intense action, laughs galore, and the big-screen debut of Kang the Conqueror.
“Quantumania” is the third Ant-Man vehicle, and we find Paul Rudd’s endlessly likable Scott Lang wanting nothing more than to bask in the afterglow of his “Endgame” heroics with his family, including 18-year-old daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), partner Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), father figure Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and his wife Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer).
As a world-saving Avenger, Scott is now a celebrity in his hometown of San Francisco. He high-fives local kids, takes pictures with his fans’ dogs, and gets free coffee from the local cafe owner, who mistakes him for Spider-Man. (Close enough, right?) Scott has even written a memoir about his adventures on the Avengers team, “Look Out for the Little Guy!,” giving a reading to an enraptured audience at the famed City Lights bookstore. He’s also hit his stride in his family life, aside from Cassie occasionally landing in jail due to her overzealous efforts in pursuing social justice. All is well in Scott’s world, and he doesn’t want to rock the boat.
However, family secrets put the Lang/Pym/Van Dyne clan at risk, especially when Janet finds that Hank, Hope, and Cassie have been experimenting with mapping the Quantum Realm, a submicroscopic dimension that exists outside of space and time. Ant-Man fans remember that Janet was the original Wasp and was lost in the Quantum Realm while disarming an intercontinental ballistic missile on target to hit the United States. In 2016’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” Hank finally developed the technology to enter the Quantum Realm and was successful in his mission to bring Janet home. But Janet spent 30 years in the Quantum Realm and avoids speaking about her experiences, so her family is clueless about how dangerous the place can be for interlopers.
Through a series of missteps, Scott, Cassie, Hope, Hank, and Janet are pulled into the Quantum Realm and have to navigate this strange new world. With landscapes, costumes, and characters inspired by everything from electron microscope photography to 1980s sci-fi novel covers, and heavy metal magazines, the Quantum Realm veers wildly from fantastically kooky to oddly beautiful.
Director Peyton Reed, who also helmed the previous Ant-Man films and has had a long career directing comedies, leans into the inherent absurdity of comic book stories, mining the plot for any opportunities to infuse Ant-Man’s trademark humor. The tone shifts can be jarring at times, but after the horror-tinged “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and the emotional weight of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Quantumania” is a refreshing palate cleanser to set up the next phase of Marvel Studios’ storytelling.
Of course, Rudd is up to carrying the film’s various moods, deftly shifting from action-adventure heroics to dad jokes. He’s genuinely funny, and it’s impossible not to root for him. Ant-Man is easily the most accessible and relatable Avenger, and his love for his family is his motivational core.
Scott is still a (mostly) regular guy who remains in disbelief as to how exactly he became an Avenger, and that’s why The Wasp/Hope is his ideal partner. She never hesitates to save the day or dive into a dangerous situation if help is needed. When Scott loses confidence, Hope will inevitably swoop in, and they get the job done together. She has repeatedly saved his life in all three Ant-Man films, proving she’s far more than a sidekick and essential to Scott’s success as a superhero. Scott, in turn, softens Hope’s sharp edges and loves her for the intelligent, accomplished, and compassionate woman she is. Lilly is equally comfortable playing Hope’s tenderness as she is kicking butt in scenes with hand-to-hand combat.
Scott’s daughter Cassie shares her dad’s sense of humor, but she has a unique desire to rectify injustices wherever she sees them, even when they don’t involve her or her family. With her perky ponytail and bright Disney Princess eyes, Cassie doesn’t look like a formidable opponent, but with Newton’s charming and spirited characterization, Cassie more than keeps up with her heroic family. Yes, she’s impulsive and untrained, but she faces her fears and is a quick study, showing similar potential to Scott’s in the first Ant-Man movie.
Pfeiffer plays an essential role in “Quantumania,” as she’s the guide to the Quantum Realm and its inhabitants. As more of Janet’s secrets come to light about her other life, we discover how hardcore she became to survive her harsh surroundings and the guilt she bears about her decisions while stranded in this strange dimension. (Look out for a fun cameo from Janet’s past, which we won’t reveal here.) One of those decisions involves Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), a character already familiar to fans of the Disney Plus “Loki” series.
As Kang, Majors projects a Shakespearean gravitas that is both seductive and terrifying. Like the most insidious villains, he lures in his prey and toys with them until they no longer serve his purposes. Majors is truly an actor’s actor, and his performance is nuanced and charismatic for a character that could have quickly become broad and ridiculous in another’s hands. When the film starts veering too far into comedic territory, Kang’s presence grounds the story and raises the stakes sky-high.
The man who started it all, Dr. Hank Pym, is still hanging out with his ants and has progressed even further in harnessing their abilities to build and cooperate. Douglas is another grounding presence in the movie, infusing Hank with a mellow and congenial vibe in his advanced years. He takes all of the weirdness of the Quantum Realm in stride, and even with the revelations about Janet’s other life, he’s along for the ride and will do what it takes to save his family.
It’s clear that Reed and the producers and artists of “Quantumania” had a blast creating the Quantum Realm. It’s packed with eye-popping visuals and odd characters, like the Mos Eisley cantina mutated and ran amok through an entire dimension. Who needs to travel into space when you can enter a subatomic world of wonder here on Earth?
Through all of the adventures in the Quantum Realm, Reed and screenwriter Jeff Loveness never lose track of the heart of the Ant-Man stories, which is Scott’s love for his daughter and his newfound family. Scott is doing his best to make up for lost time and be a great dad to Cassie, and it’s easy to cheer for a character with such wholesome motivations for being a hero. And Rudd’s goofy charm as Ant-Man never gets old.
“Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania” opens in theaters nationwide on Feb. 17. Moviegoers should stick around for both mid-credit and end-credit scenes.
In the Parks
Disney California Adventure guests can meet Ant-Man and The Wasp near Avengers Headquarters in the Avengers Campus section of the park. (Check the Disneyland app for details.)
Walt Disney Studios park in Disneyland Paris is celebrating the release of the film with several limited-time experiences in the new Marvel Avengers Campus, including a meet-and-greet with Ant-Man and The Wasp and a “Heroic Welcome” on Stark Plaza. Other offerings include interactive “missions” for families, collectible cards, unique photo ops, and a Marvel-themed art show at the Disney Hotel New York.
Visitors to Hong Kong Disneyland can experience the Ant-Man and The Wasp: Nano Battle! attraction and enjoy an in-person experience with the Heroic Encounter with Ant-Man and The Wasp on the Tomorrowland Stage.