Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

photo from Reddit

photo from Reddit

Taiden Iizuka, Staff Writer

This serviceable but ultimately disappointing third installment strips the franchise of its best qualities in order to promote yet another seemingly indestructible MCU villain. Rudd is so charming that the movie’s opening segment in San Francisco will garner laughs and reminders of how Ant-Man, like Hawkeye, is one of the humblest Avengers — a flawed guy who’s never been afraid of doing shady stuff to get things done with his crew of misfit (and hilarious) friends. But all of Scott’s comic-relief X-Con Security pals are gone without explanation (Michael Peña’s scene-stealing Luis is especially missed), and all that’s left is Scott, Hope, Cassie, and the Pyms. Perhaps because Cassie is basically a brand-new character here (since she was a tween in the last movie), there’s less feeling between her and Scott than there was before. She’s also simultaneously self-righteous and naive, making her both sweet and unlikable.

The quantum realm is a creature fest with so many beings that it’s hard to get a hold on who’s from where. Of course, none of it really matters, because the star of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” isn’t Ant-Man, the Wasp, or their loved ones. It’s the villain, played by the excellent Majors with a solemn gravitas that’s usually reserved for DC characters. The time-jumping Kang’s backstory isn’t deeply explored (there must be more to come in the next film, one imagines), but he’s definitely a Big Bad. Kang is a supervillain with no complicated familial or romantic attachments — just an unquenchable thirst for revenge, even if wiping out entire planets and timelines is what he needs to do to state that desire. Since Janet is partially to blame for Kang’s genocidal antics (in the quantum realm, at least), she’s on a redemption tour, while Scott tries to keep Cassie free from harm. Is it worth watching this to keep up with the MCU? Sure. It’s hard not to root for the “little guy.” But this movie is “just fine” instead of particularly funny, thrilling, or memorable. And in the MCU world, that means it’s the second (or third) tier.

“ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA” begins with the theme from Welcome Back, Kotter playing as Scott Lang explains how great life is now that Thanos has been thwarted and he’s recognized around San Francisco as an Avenger (although he’s occasionally mis-identified as Spider-Man). He’s even written a biography called Look Out for the Little Guy and enjoys family dinners with his now-18-year-old daughter, Cassie, who’s a budding activist; partner Hope; and her parents. But when Cassie’s science experiment with “Grandpa Hank” goes unexpectedly, the entire crew is sucked back into the quantum realm — the very place Scott and Hope rescued her mother, Janet, from after she’d been stuck there 30 years. They find out rather quickly that Janet had kept some important details about her three decades in the quantum realm a secret. There’s an entire universe of Star Wars-meets-Guardians of the Galaxy-style creatures and worlds down there, and they’re all quaking in fear of the movie’s tyrannical, genocidal Big Bad, Kang the Conqueror. He has a plan to escape the quantum realm and get revenge — and he needs Pym particles to do it.

I can honestly say, as I walked out of the theater, that this latest iteration of the Ant-Man franchise was not bad. It wasn’t good, but it also was not nearly as painful as everyone made it sound. Maybe this was just because I walked in with my expectations not too high, but I had a good time. The CGI and visual effects were not nearly as distracting as I was led to believe, there were some pretty cool action sequences, and the movie didn’t drag on for nearly three hours. If you walk into it kind of expecting something akin to Thor: Love and Thunder – shallow, full of the just-so-of-grating brand of Marvel humor, but also kind of fun, you’ll enjoy Quantumania.