Review

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023) Review

There was a time when solo Ant-Man movies were seen more as placeholders after higher-stakes Avengers films including Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018). Not to mention the first two Ant-Man were depicted as lightweight caper comedies with smaller-scale conflicts and lower stakes. Well, there’s nothing wrong with having an MCU movie that doesn’t has an Avengers-level of threat as long as it’s good enough for a solo effort. But the previous Ant-Man movies could only muster up a decent first film before the franchise falters with a limp sequel even with Paul Rudd’s undeniable comedic charm in his iconic titular role.

So, is the third time’s the charm for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which marks Paul Rudd’s return to his role — excluding the What If…? episode on the Disney+ animated series — after the events of Avengers: Endgame in 2019? Before I get to that, here’s what the third film is all about: The story follows Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Rudd), who is trapped in the Quantum Realm alongside Hope Van Dyne/Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) as well as Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Lang’s grown-up daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton, who replaced Emma Fuhrmann from Avengers: Endgame). As they try to find ways to get out of the Quantum Realm, they also find themselves dealing with a new villain named Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors).

Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror in "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" (2023)

This is the first time we get to see an Ant-Man movie positioned as a starter rather than a palette cleanser seen in the first two films. It was supposed to be a big deal since Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania represents the beginning of the Phase 5 MCU that continues the Multiverse Saga while setting the stage for more MCU films until Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars, which is currently scheduled for 2025 and 2026 respectively.

Now, for the review. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania gives me mixed feelings after watching the movie. This is the kind of film that could have reached a level of greatness since the story is about facing Kang the Conqueror, who turns out to be one of the most powerful Marvel villains ever created. We have Jonathan Majors playing the antagonist here with a mix of quiet intensity and steely demeanour. But only to a certain extent because returning director Peyton Reed could only give him a superficial character arc to work with throughout the movie. And the same also goes for Kang’s backstory and motives. Frankly, it was a missed opportunity that could have turned Majors’ Kang into the next Josh Brolin’s Thanos-like imposing and formidable threat.

Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer in "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" (2023)

Reed also doesn’t make full use of Jeff Loveness’ otherwise lively script — the Rick and Morty scribe, who gives the movie an added wacky sci-fi comedy vibe similar to the aforementioned animated series. Sure, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania does contain some imaginative moments with the “probability storm” sequence being one of them worth mentioning here. But the thing is, I’m not sure why Reed feels the need to restrain the eccentric and sci-fi-heavy nature of the movie’s Quantum Realm-set storytelling. I get that he wants to include a more dramatic side of the story this time around, especially given the appearance of Kang the Conqueror. Still, that doesn’t mean he has to ground everything to the point the combination of sci-fi wackiness and dramatic weight feels like they are missing the potential to push the narrative to the next level.

The action is surprisingly lacking the kooky and inventive visual flair of the first two films (remember the sequel’s San Francisco-set car chase scene?). Even the fight choreography — the scene between Ant-Man and Kang comes to mind — feels like it was hastily put together.

A scene from "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" (2023)

But at least the third film is a step up over the lacklustre 2018 sequel. It may have its fair share of flaws but it contains several entertaining and worthwhile Rick and Morty-esque moments while the CGI is good enough without making me feel like I’m experiencing another bad case of Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over syndrome. Reed deserves mention for bringing out the best in some of the cast here. Paul Rudd’s effortless charm continues to remind us why he is one of the greatest assets in the MCU. He even gets to show off his dramatic acting prominently as well, proving his Scott Lang/Ant-Man character is more than just a comic relief.

Kathryn Newton equally stands out as the feisty and headstrong Cassie while Michael Douglas made the best use of his screen time in his supporting role as Hank Pym. Michelle Pfeiffer steals the show again with a bigger role as Janet Van Pym after her memorable brief appearance in Ant-Man and the Wasp. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Pym/Wasp, in the meantime, is sadly neglected to an underwritten role that should have been part of her major show anyway (otherwise, what’s the point of calling this Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania in the first place anyway?). The introduction of the mechanised giant floating head dubbed M.O.D.O.K. is a fun addition here, thanks to a certain actor who brings this bizarre role to life. I also enjoyed some of the new characters in this third film including a blob-like creature named Veb (David Dastmalchian, giving a spot-on voice performance) as well as William Jackson Harper’s mind-reading Quaz and Bill Murray’s hilariously deadpan cameo as Lord Krylar.