Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania review – Marvel’s Phase 5 gets off to dull, disappointing start

Paul Rudd in Ant-Man 3.Disney/Marvel

The third instalment in the Ant-Man trilogy finds Scott Lang going toe-to-toe with his fiercest enemy yet. But what should be the most dramatic of the Ant-Man movies is deadly dull – a visual and narrative bore that doesn’t bode well for Phase 5 and 6 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Ant-Man movies are the MCU’s least serious films – bright, fun-filled confections that revolve around an inherently silly character.

The first two flicks entertained in forgettable fashion, pitting Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) against underwhelming villains, while he learns that family is the only thing that really matters. Repeatedly.

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Marvel has decided to change things up for Part 3, doing a darker Ant-Man, both metaphorically, and for much of the movie, literally. The result is a film that will be remembered – but not for the reasons the studio and director Peyton Reed are hoping.

Entering the Quantum Realm

Following a brief prologue that details Janet van Dyne’s (Michelle Pfeiffer) first interaction with soon-to-be Conqueror Kang (Jonathan Majors) – more on him later – the film starts proper with Scott Lang in a good place.

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Still living in San Francisco, he’s a local hero for helping to save the world, and a successful author, thanks to the publication of his memoir, “Looking Out For the Little Guy.” A title that (very vaguely) becomes the theme of the movie.

But Scott has become complacent. Unlike daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), who now has a super-suit of her own, and is using the family tech to shrink cop cars for a good cause. And Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), who is also doing good, reclaiming the family business, and using Pym Particles for global change.

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Scott’s malaise gets discussed over pizza with his loved ones, before talk turns to Cassie’s interest in the Quantum Realm, and her invention of a satellite to explore whatever’s down there. Though panic sets in when Janet realizes it works like a two-way radio, and before you can say “Quantumania,” the Langs, Pyms, and Van Dynes go sub-atomic and are transported to the mysterious realm.

Scott and Cassie’s little adventure

The group split up during the journey, meaning we’re now got twin storylines happening, with Hank (Michael Douglas), Janet, and Hope going one way, while Scott and Cassie head in the other.

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Ant-Man’s is the least interesting of those adventures, with Scott and Cassie meeting a few locals, including telepath Quaz (William Jackson Harper) and freedom fighter Jentorra (Katy O’Brian), both of whom fail to light up the screen.

Their mate Veb is pretty funny however, looking like a big pink condom, and as voiced by David Dastmalchian, obsessing over holes and what comes out of them. A weird joke that pays off during the film’s finale.

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Their most bizarre – and the movie’s most disastrous – interaction is with M.O.D.O.K., which is the name Darren Cross from the first film now goes by. Seems Darren is now the “ultimate weapon” – a mechanised killing machine with a small body, tiny legs, and a giant head. Trouble is, when he removes his mask – and reveals actor Corey Stoll’s face stretched across that giant bonce – he looks ridiculous.

M.O.D.O.K. was always a pretty wild character on the comic book page, and Marvel has taken a big swing in trying to bring him to life onscreen. But it fails spectacularly, with M.O.D.O.K. one of the worst additions to the MCU ever.

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Hank, Janet, and Hope’s (slightly) bigger adventure

Much better is Hank, Janet, and Hope’s journey, which brings them into contact with more interesting characters, in service of a more compelling story.

They first head to the Star Wars cantina, with the original trilogy casting a long shadow over this movie, especially from a visual standpoint. While there they meet a man from Janet’s past in the shape of Kylar. Who is played by Bill Murray in a brief, but effective, cameo.

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Seems Janet and Kylar have something of a history, which puts Hank’s nose out of joint. Then through their tense back-and-forth, we learn why Janet has been so reticent to discuss what happened to her in the Quantum Realm. Seems Van Dyne made decisions for the greater good. But those decisions had devastating consequences for Kylar and his people. All because of a Conqueror named Kang.

Meet Kang the Conqueror

Via flashback, we learn that Kang arrived in the Quantum Realm claiming to be a scientist and traveller who was washed off course. He works with Janet to fix his ship, and promises to take her home.

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But Kang isn’t being entirely truthful, and Janet soon sees exactly who he is: “A monster who thinks he’s a god,” and a being who erases worlds and totals timelines.

Rather than arriving by accident, Kang has been exiled to the Quantum Realm by some unknown force, stranding him in a place where he has no power. So rather than aid his escape, Janet maroons them both there, in the process turning Kang into even more of a monster.

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That’s the bulk of Kang’s backstory in Quantumania, save for a post-credit scene. Which frankly isn’t enough. This is the big Phase 5 and 6 bad. An antagonist that will be filling the sizeable shoes of Thanos for the foreseeable future. But we never get a sense of where he comes from, or why he’s so hell-bent on universal destruction.

“You have no idea what I have lost,” Kang claims, without ever telling us what that is, the information clearly being saved for a future film. But we needs this knowledge in the here-and-now to give the character layers and depth, and to make him more than the vaguest sketch of a villain. Jonathan Majors does his best, bringing gravitas to the character, and delivering his lines with a steadfast belief. But the result is an antagonist who is much less terrifying than the movie wants – and needs – him to be.

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Why Ant-Man is a bit of a blur

While Kang is disappointing, the film’s visuals are truly distressing. The Quantum Realm is so dark that there are times it’s tough to make out what’s happening. Particularly during the kinetic action scenes that make up the movie’s messy climax.

Meaning the finale plays out in something of a blur, all oppressive blacks and browns, which are briefly brightened by the odd burst of neon, before plunging the audience back into darkness.

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Marvel movies have teased the Quantum Realm for years, giving us glimpses of what’s down there while building up to this big reveal. And it’s grim; a drab visual soup that you’ll be wanting to escape as much as the characters trapped therein.

The Verdict – Is Ant-Man 3 good?

Ant-Man 3 should be the best of the man-ant flicks. The stakes have been raised. The tone tweaked. And a great villain teased. But Quantumania ends up being the worst film in the trilogy, feeling less like a self-contained story, and more like two hours of setting the character of Kang up for future films. With both Ant-Man and the Wasp becoming bit-part players in their own story.

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Trouble is, come the end of the movie, we still don’t have a sense of who Kang is, or what he wants beyond burning stuff down, which completely undermines the third act, and turns a film about time into a giant waste of it.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Score: 2/5

A visual and narrative mess, don’t be surprised if this is the last of the Ant-Man movies.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is in cinemas now, and you can check out more of our coverage below…

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Ant-Man 3 review | Ending explained | Quantumania characters and castWho is Kang the Conqueror? | Ant-Man 3 Easter EggsDarren Cross as MODOK explained | Has Kang already killed an Avenger? | Who is Victor Timely? | Bill Murray’s character explained |  What is the Quantum Realm? | Post-credit scenes explained | Will there be an Ant-Man 4? | All the Marvel movies in order

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