Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)
Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe kind of ended with a whimper instead of a bang. Sure, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was an important movie for a number of reasons, but most of those had to do with circumstances outside of the MCU rather than pushing the story forward. Namor the Mariner may figure in to the main plot - whatever that is at this point - in the future, but the important thing was to make a movie that served as a decent tribute to Chadwick Boseman, and by and large it succeeded. In many ways it was better than the original Black Panther.
Whatever the current Avengers plot may be building up to it probably as little to do with Wakanda or Namor except for another background for a grand Avengers battle. Instead it appears to be shaping up to involve Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), a character introduced at the end of the first season of Loki as being behind the entire agency responsible for keeping time on track and preventing incursions between universes. The Multiverse itself has been pushed as the Very Important Thing for a few years now, only to have Everything Everywhere All at Once take the concept and do it better than any Marvel film has so far. It's no surprise that Scott Lang's (Paul Rudd) third solo movie as Ant-Man, while trying to bridge the phases, delves headlong into the concept.
Lang is living off his fame of being an Avenger, doing appearances and book readings while largely taking it easy and trying to spend more time with his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton). When Cassie is arrested, family conversation soon comes around to the fact that she has been working with Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) to send a probe into the Quantum Realm in order to explore it remotely. When Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) realizes what they have done she tries to end the experiment, but unfortunately an unknown force sucks the family into the Realm, where they are divided.
It turns out that it isn't the empty, lonely place that Janet described, but rather an entire universe unto itself that has a number of different species. It also has one big problem: Kang the Conqueror, who was exiled to the Quantum Realm and longs to get out. With their arrival, and with their suits in tow, Kang is given the resources for which to escape and return to the Multiverse at large. Scott, meanwhile, must find a way to rescue the kidnaped Cassie at the same time as thwarting Kang's plans, while also dealing with a former nemesis that has only become more powerful.
One of my main problems with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is that the whole movie is unnecessary. Janet made sure that Kang was locked up there, and all she had to do was be honest with her family about what that universe was like and why no attempt to contact it should ever be attempted. A few minutes of honesty would have prevented this whole mess and still prepared them, and I would assume the rest of the Avengers, for what may be coming from Kang's variants. That is the root of the whole problem with this movie: it's necessary to finally introduce the whole point of the Multiverse story arc, but the movie itself, and the events within, are not necessary at all. In all honesty this was pretty much introduced with Loki and done much better.
I was lukewarm on the original Ant-Man, but quite enjoyed Ant-Man and the Wasp. I did have some of the same issues with the first movie as I do with this one, as I believe an entire origin story for the character was not needed. The second movie does a better job of fleshing Scott Lang out and giving him a good story to be in. For all that occurs in the first movie it could have been covered in a flashback scene later on. This third entry did not have Paul Rudd assisting with the writing, which is mainly attributed to Jeff Loveness, but for all intents and purposes director Peyton Reed could have run this through Chat GPT and then handed it off to the effects crew. I know the Writers Guild, currently on strike as I write this, has some valid points about being paid for what they do, but the sad truth is they write like they've already been replaced by machines.
As for the effects crew, they may well have been on strike at the time, or just turned this over to a video game company, because that is what it looks like happened. Whatever creativity and imagination went into the movie was on how the Quantum Realm should look, but unfortunately most of it seems to have been lost in the translation. The worst is M.O.D.O.K., particularly the face under the helmet, which recalls the worst of the early '90s CD-R games that tried to incorporate real video.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is like many other recent Marvel films. Not horrible, but containing nothing to make them stand out. Although I joke about it being written by a machine, more likely, despite having a screenwriter name on it, this was written by a committee that test-marketed everything down to the last letter. Since the end was suddenly changed and forced into a reshoot I'm probably not that far off. It's also why I can't really get myself into a rage over movies like this. The MCU is now the same as current popular music: written to be experienced in the background, have little to no substance and just be pretty while occasionally stirring up a little controversy - like Hank Pym's comment about socialism - to get certain audience members riled up enough to give the movie free advertising. I keep hoping some of the life that was in the early films returns but, from what is coming up, that is highly doubtful.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)
Time: 124 minutes
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangline Lilly, Kathryn Newton, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jonathan Majors
Director: Peyton Reed