‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ Review: One of Marvel’s Dullest To Date

The 31st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a jumbled collection of action and battle scenes with a plot that barely matters. At this point, is there just too much Marvel lore to keep track of? 

From left: Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man, Kathryn Newton as Cassandra “Cassie” Lang, Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne/Wasp in ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.’ Courtesy of Marvel Studios

First things first: It’s not technically an Ant-Man movie if it doesn’t include a storytelling sequence from Michael Peña’s character Luis. And Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania regrettably does not. But of all the movie’s sins, that egregious omission is the least of our worries. 

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Directed by: Peyton Reed
Written by: Jeff Loveness
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Kathryn Newton, David Dastmalchian, William Jackson Harper, Katy O'Brian, Bill Murray
Running time: 124 mins.

The 31st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which sets up Phase 5 and acts as a sequel to 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, is decently entertaining. Its villain, Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), is captivating and largely believable, even if the viewer leaves uncertain of his motivation. Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton) is a fun teaser of what Young Avengers could become. Paul Rudd does his best Paul Rudd, despite being hampered by an overly serious storyline. But Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is ultimately one of Marvel’s dullest and most unnecessary movies to date. 

The plot, when you can follow it, barely matters. Suffice to say Scott Lang (Rudd), Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), Cassie, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) inadvertently get trapped in the Quantum Realm. Janet, who spent 30 years there, has been hiding the scope of the realm, which looks like a mash-up of Star Wars and Dune. While stuck, she prevented Kang from being able to escape, leading to a lasting conflict between the villain and the realm’s colorful, alien-like inhabitants. Kang needs Pym particles to facilitate his escape—and to continue conquering worlds and timelines throughout the multiverse—and Scott’s arrival proves to be the key he’s been waiting for. 

The result is a jumbled collection of action and battle scenes that look dark and muddled in spite of the incredible CGI and visual effects efforts of hundreds of people. The characters who live in the Quantum Realm are imaginative and visually impressive, but they are stuffed into sequences that feel hard to follow. We meet some interesting new inclusions, like Katy O'Brian’s ferocious Jentorra and Bill Murray’s Krylar, but there’s no explanation as to who lives in the Quantum Realm and their history there. There’s also no explanation of the multiverse and Kang’s roles in its incursions. If you watched Loki, you might have some semblance of where this is going, but, at this point, is there just too much Marvel lore to keep track of? 

Instead of giving Ant-Man his own story, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania uses the hero as fodder to set up this next phase of the MCU (it will continue with the third Guardians of the Galaxy film in May). The prior two Ant-Man movies have been lively and fun, with jokes aplenty. There are some jokes here, but most of them don’t land (or they didn’t at my press screening). Credit to the actors for trying their best opposite what must have been many, many green screens, but Ant-Man and Rudd deserved a proper showcase for the character. Somewhere in the midst of all the CGI and plot chaos, there are a few lovely moments between Scott and Cassie. That’s the movie this should have been. 

Fans of the MCU—of which I am one—have been devoted to the endless storylines and superheroes for over a decade. We’ve watched hundreds of hours of movies and TV series and speculated about post-credit scenes. But it’s starting to feel like a sensory overload. What made Iron Man and Captain America so great was that they were about singular, compelling protagonists in high stakes situations that felt like augmented reality. Now we have to understand the multiverse, the Quantum Realm, incursions and keep track of dozens of characters and how they relate to each other. In 2023 alone, there will be two more movies and possibly five TV series. It’s a lot. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a nice two-hour diversion, although not essential viewing. Had they included Luis I might feel differently. 

Observer Reviews are regular assessments of new and noteworthy cinema.

‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ Review: One of Marvel’s Dullest To Date