Time sneaks up on all of us. Just 8 years ago, Paul Rudd made his debut in the MCU. The comedian found time to balance his already busy schedule and deliver stellar performances in various projects. This weekend sees Rudd’s fifth appearance as Scott Lang, a man troubled about the time he lost during the blip. Rudd does his best to shoulder the launch of Phase 5. However, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania delivers questionable story beats and world-building that leave the audience wanting more.
Scott Lang (Rudd) finally gets the respect he deserves. In addition to being recognized on the street as an Avenger, his memoir has become a hit. His relationship with Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) remains strong with date nights in San Fransisco. He enjoys family dinners with his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), even after picking her up from jail. One day while eating dinner with Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), Cassie reveals she’s been working on Quantum Realm technology. Janet yells to unplug the machine, sending a signal to the other world. However, it’s too late: a mysterious force pulls the family into the subatomic world. Below, Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) awaits.
While clocking in under two hours, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania suffers from pacing issues. There are large sequences in the film that barley generates laughs or world-building, despite being chalked full of exposition. A particularly egregious scene introduces Bill Murray, who might as well have skipped being in the movie at all. Shockingly, the comedian is not really funny or even charming during his limited time. Almost as if it’s assembled by committee, Quantummania carves up the storylines and injects them back into the story awkwardly. More than once, we leave a tense situation, get more exposition from another character, and then return to the last scene as if we never left. Any tension created earlier is gone by the time we return, leaving the return ineffective.
The poor pacing in the scene is hurt by a need to jump between storylines, which becomes a theme throughout Ant-Man‘s latest adventure. Quantumania wants to transport us to a world as inventive as the ones in the Guardians films. However, without Gunn’s oddball and compelling characters, we are left with weirdly contrived bits.
The two new characters that seem to escape this fate are William Jackson Harper‘s Quaz and Katy M. O’Brian‘s Jentorra. The return of Corey Stoll as Darrin/M.O.D.O.K. will potentially draw ire from some fans. It’s a performance and character that will certainly have its fans but will likely see just as many detractors. In many ways, he’s the face of the “contrived bits” issue. On one hand, it’s nice that Marvel acknowledges just how weird the world has become. On the other hand, the lack of seriousness can be offputting. Characters undermine their own perspectives, creating an issue where characters begin to beat themselves with self-deprecating humor during high-stakes situations.
These moments stand in contrast to the seemingly empathetic story. Much of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania tries to make us care about Scott and Cassie. Rudd remains the real MVP and Newton is actually game to match his energy. Their chemistry helps balance the rocky boat, and they rarely appear without the other. This works to Lilly’s detriment, who seemingly takes a back seat in the story to the other four core characters in the franchise. Douglas delivers several of the funniest lines in the MCU to date in a film that asks him to seriously stick his hands into blob jello to drive a spaceship. Finally, Pfeiffer gets to showcase more badass wanderer vibes. She gets several flashback sequences that flesh out her skittish nature, and when those moments land, they show her talent is impossible to contain.
After his brief moment in Loki, Jonathan Majors makes a genuine arrival that will shake the MCU to its core. He brings equal parts terrifying strength and unyielding charisma to draw us into his journey. He openly discusses the multiverse and the fights that are on the horizon for the Avengers. Majors wields omnipotence like a weapon. His performance here makes Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania a must-watch. It also makes the issues with the comic book film feel even more apparent.
The craft side of Ant-Man also hurts the film considerably. For all the cool things it wants to show you, we are once again met with questionable CGI. This world is so overpopulated with visual effects we have very little perspective on what makes Ant-Man a special character. In prior fights, we’ve seen Scott rise to the size of skyscrapers. We’ve seen him shrink to fight next to a train set. These moments felt incredible, but in the Quantum Realm, we essentially drop the size antics in favor of track laying for the future MCU. This is the kind of film that undermines the idea of the MCU consisting of different franchises combining only in big moments. The visual style alone kills the idea of the small-time caper comedies that made the first two Ant-Man films stand out.
The real question about Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania comes down to your preferences as a moviegoer. This is the definition of an empty-calorie but entertaining comic book flick. Rudd lands jokes and punches. There’s oddball Marvel humor sprinkled throughout. Some entries in the MCU took on a serious tone last phase, allowing Shang-Chi and Wakanda Forever to rise to the top of the heap. However, if you’re looking for a lighter Thor: Ragnarok, Quantumania might be for you.