Genre: Superhero Running Time: 2 hrs. 5 min.
Release Date: February 17th, 2023 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Peyton Reed Actors: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors, Kathryn Newton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll, Bill Murray, Katy M. O’Brian
ife is good for Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). Despite his storied past as a petty thief and burglar, he’s now world-renowned as the hero Ant-Man, a member of the Avengers, and most recently as the author of a successful autobiography. With the planet saved and steadily returning to normalcy, Lang’s primary focus reverts to repairing the strained relationship with his daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton). Unfortunately, the rebellious activist doesn’t quite see him in the same idealistic light that the public does.
When Cassie, with the guidance of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), builds a device that can map areas of the Quantum Realm, the revolutionary telescope looks to be the catalyst that will bring father and daughter closer together. And it does, but with the unexpected result of pulling Cassie, Scott, Hank, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), and Hope (Evangeline Lilly) into the subatomic world. When Scott and Cassie are captured by a group of freedom fighters led by Jentorra (Katy O’Brian), the duo are astounded by the appearance of sentient life in a zone that Janet claimed to be barren. But the existence of an eclectic variety of intelligent species wasn’t the only important revelation she concealed, as the band of lost travelers soon realize they are being hunted by both a mechanized killing machine (Corey Stoll) and a warlord (Jonathan Majors) hellbent on conquering not just the Quantum Realm, but every universe imaginable.
“What is this place?” The Ant-Man household is exceptionally glib and casual when it comes to abusing their technology – perhaps a bit like Iron Man. There isn’t really anyone to rein them in, either, as the notable appearance of government goons from the Avengers films and, most recently, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” aren’t anywhere to be found. This leads to a plot solely based around a careless accident, quite comparable to “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” in which a fouled-up spell sets in motion a series of catastrophes that would compose the entire picture. Here, Cassie’s meddling with the Quantum Realm is completely avoidable, especially if the Pym tech wasn’t so freely available to be toyed with. It’s particularly irking since the mishap is both stupid and exhaustively inexplicable.
That, however, is how “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is designed. Since it’s set in a world thoroughly independent from the main timeline, everything conducted in the subatomic territory has no bearing on normal life. This allows for unlimited creativity, but also considerable meaninglessness; when nothing has genuine consequences for the cast, no incident possesses any weight. And that’s ultimately one of the primary problems with the Quantum Realm and the related Multiverse: everything can be undone or redefined when there aren’t any rules to begin with. “My life doesn’t really make sense.”
As a result, the plot here is colossally trivial. On the creativity front, concepts range from borrowing from “The Lost Continent,” “Fantastic Voyage,” and “The Land that Time Forgot,” to lifting imagery from the “Star Wars” universe (and “Stargate” and “The Time Machine”), to reminding of the disaster that was “Strange World,” in which gooey, bubbly visual concoctions didn’t have to follow any sort of cohesion. Just as with the characters and their superpowers, which once again remain unspecified, the varied, diverse assortment of alien denizens establishes zero boundaries for what they can do or what is possible with their cities and weaponry and technology. A broccoli-headed humanoid could be the most powerful creature on the planet – or he could be utterly useless. A few designs are functional, but most exist simply to dazzle for the brief seconds they’re onscreen (again, quite a bit like attention-grabbing Star Wars creatures that walk past the frame).
“What is he talking about?” Further hurting the sci-fi potential is exasperatingly uninspired dialogue; most conversations are merely the trading of tired cliches. And, as if becoming common in spectacle endeavors, the one character with all the answers refuses to divulge clues until nearly an hour into the running time, frustratingly withholding information by using the flimsy excuse of urgency in planning a rescue. Plenty of action and explosions occur in the interim, but they mean so very little when it’s unclear what exactly the heroes are fighting for/against and why. “I’m sorry I never told you.”
It’s additionally disappointing when multiple roles spontaneously don costumes as if they materialized around them – somewhat like Superman in reverse, who tears away his work suit to reveal the colorful raiment that is always underneath. Can’t the villain simply be already wearing his intimidating uniform? And this new baddie is incredibly dull, considering that he is yet another in a long line of seemingly invincible, all-powerful, telekinesis-using super-beings with never-ending resources, armies of troopers, and the ability to shoot laser beams from his fingertips (laser beams that only cause damage to background characters). At one point, it’s crucial that he employ Ant-Man to do a specific job, but it’s unclear why he can’t just do it himself. But so much of the plot relies on that very notion: only one entity can accomplish a given task, and so a series of missions and goals is established. Or, a phrase like “probability storm” is tossed about, pretending to explain why something ludicrous is occurring. “Just be glad I need you.”
Also difficult to digest is M.O.D.O.K., a character that might delight longtime Marvel fans, but will surely test the limits of what non-fans will accept. It doesn’t help that the film acknowledges just how silly this monstrosity is; he’s still included, and given an inordinate amount of screentime, nearly all of which involves poking fun at his appearance. Perhaps he sums up the predicament of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”: it’s a wealth of visual chaos that hopes to distract from the absolutely nonsensical ideas. And it doesn’t help that the finale is a mess of repetitive standoffs, proving that no one is in any real trouble, while the closing sequences reiterate that this episode essentially exists just to introduce a new archenemy, a nemesis that will play a major part in the upcoming Avengers sequels.
– The Massie Twins