Staff writer Josh Walbert looks at the Ant-Man trilogy from director Peyton Reed. A rocky start to the franchise led to one of its most exciting trilogies. To fully get the picture of the little guy, Josh revisited the three films in the franchise, culminating in the Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania release on February 17th, 2023. Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Douglas headline the franchise.

Ant-Man Paul Rudd


Ant-Man was a high water mark to close out phase two of the MCU. After several entries with super-powered heroes and brilliant billionaire weapons developers, we were treated to a relatively simple everyman. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) was tricked into stealing a special suit. Soon, he’s enlisted to help steal from the suit’s owner’s former company. What set the first film in this new character’s franchise apart was Marvel’s choice to mash up genres beyond the “superhero/comic book” genre and action films. In this case, Ant-Man embraced the heist film. While Guardians of the Galaxy played with the space opera, it was not far removed from the fantastical realm of the comic book flick. Ant-Man was more grounded and fresh.

After years in development and a very public walkout by former writer/director Edgar Wright, there was little expectation for the film. However, anchored with the always charismatic Paul Rudd and bolstered by fun and fresh visuals – replacement director Peyton Reed employed macro-photography to help visualize an ant’s world – Ant-Man injected a new energy into the MCU that was needed. Months earlier, Avengers: Age of Ultron existed merely to set up future stories. Ant-Man was a stand-alone story that seamlessly fit into the larger universe. The humor was top-notch. The cast was loaded with great, if underused, stars like Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly.

Ant-Man and the Wasp Paul Rudd

Ant-Man further set itself apart from the rest of the heroes through Lang’s relationship with his daughter Cassie. This became the highlight and thread of each of his appearances. Besides the surprise reveal of Hawkeye’s family, few of these characters were provided with stakes the audience could connect with. Nobody will need to stop an alien invasion or prevent the destruction of entire worlds. Everyone would move heaven and earth to protect and provide for their children. The film brought the human element back to a franchise that had just gone cosmic. It did so in a way that was still distinctly Marvel and fun.

Josh’s Rating: 8/10

Ant-Man and the Wasp Paul Rudd Evangeline Lilly

Ant-Man and the Wasp

After a tremendous opening that highlighted both the originality of director Peyton Reed and the enchanting relationship between Scott and Cassie, this film very quickly became a mess of tone and pacing. After being placed under house arrest following the events of the oft-mentioned fight at the airport in Captain America: Civil War, Scott is unwillingly dragged into a quest to save Janet van Dyne (nothing more than a cameo by Michelle Pfeiffer). Whereas he was motivated into action in the first film because of his daughter, the reverse is true here. He spends most of the film yearning to return home and sit out of the action. Cassie is almost entirely side-lined, much to the film’s detriment.

The main villain, Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), remains one of the most forgettable in the MCU. While John-Kamen plays her well, she only serves to make returning cast member Douglas’ character less likable. As a result, the film became a low-stakes game of keep away. With only one great action scene, a spectacularly dynamic car chase through the streets of San Francisco, audiences cannot be faulted for wanting more of the originality that made the first film’s action exciting.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

That’s not to say the film is without merit. Again, the main cast shines, with Rudd, Lilly, and newcomer Randall Park being particular standouts. The first proper introduction into the Quantum Realm is thankfully not overplayed. The writers opt to present it as a universe beyond ours, a place of limitless potential and fodder for future stories. The humor, again, is strong throughout, but this time it distracts from the emotional storylines of Hope’s lost mother and Ghost’s tragic story.

Ultimately, Ant-Man and the Wasp would be almost entirely forgettable if not for its end-credits scene. This is the first we see the true effects of the Avengers: Infinity War snap and the ramifications ultimately propel the overall Marvel story forward. However, overall, even for a film whose heroes are based on insects, the impact is very small.

Josh’s Rating: 6/10

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

After nearly sitting Cassie out of its predecessor, this third entry smartly brings her front and center. This allows her dynamic with Scott takes center stage. Though the third actress to portray Cassie after Abby Ryder Fortson and Emma Fuhrmann, Kathryn Newton gamely steps up to bring the same level of zeal and energy as Rudd. Although this dynamic forces Lilly onto the sidelines, the Ant-Man films have always been centered on Scott’s relationship with his daughter. It also illustrates the lack of chemistry between Rudd and Lilly throughout the trilogy. This, however, is more the fault of the writers delegating Wasp to a side-kick role than what the actors bring to the characters.

In this third outing, Ant-Man is faced with his biggest stakes yet, a wise decision to up the ante to match the size the hero can grow. After two films of being an everyman, Scott finally embraces his hero status following the events of Endgame. The cinematic introduction of Jonathan Majors as Kang, following the actor’s Marvel debut in season 1 of Loki, is gripping and immediately riveting. Majors turns a terrific and electrifying performance through a presence that looms large.

The film has already been criticized for its exposition-heavy dialogue. However, returning director Peyton Reed doesn’t allow the slog through the past to bog down the present. When your main villain is a man outside of time, the lines between what was and what is are blurred. Instead of slowing down the film, the exposition propels it forward, upping the stakes even further. Flashbacks are not everyone’s cup of tea. However, when done well (as they are here), they add a tension that a linear storyline might lack.

Where the film does stumble, as has been the case with several of Marvel’s past movies – as was brilliantly pointed out in She-Hulk – is in the CGI. While arguably the best environmental visuals of the recent MCU releases, M.O.D.O.K. (Corey Stoll) is laughable. He’s seemingly pulled straight from a poorly rendered video game of the early 2000s. Fortunately, Reed leans into the ridiculousness of the character’s appearance with the inclusion of a very funny exchange late in the film. However, the quality of this character fully illustrates the main problem Marvel has been facing. Too much content is being produced too fast. This spreads the visual teams too thin. Uber-producer Kevin Feige is seemingly aware of this criticism and has vowed to course correct. This promise regrettably comes too late for Quantumania.

Ultimately, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a great film, well-constructed with high stakes and exciting action. The laughs are honestly earned, and the cast gives franchise best performances. Newcomers Newton and provide further support. While it was clear this film is meant to set up the threat to come, that does not distract from the story. This results in a memorable addition to the larger MCU, a satisfactory conclusion to the Ant-Man trilogy, and an exhilarating start to Phase 5. That is a tall order that only a man with the relative strength of an ant can carry.

Josh’s Rating: 8/10

What do you think of the Ant-Man films? What did you think of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania? Read Alan’s review from earlier in the week. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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