'Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania' Is a 2-Hour Prelude for Marvel's Next Phase, Not 'Ant-Man 3' (Review)

One of the big challenges with getting into reading comics, especially for Marvel, is the sheer volume of what's available. Where do you start? What do you have to know about the characters before going in? Do you need to read all the crossovers to understand what's going on with your favorites this month? The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become so huge that you have to start asking yourself those same questions when entering Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. If you loved the first two Ant-Man movies, which were silly, lower-tier Marvel adventures centered around heists, that's not what you get here. Instead, Quantumania is really just an introduction to the big bad villain of Marvel's Phase 5, Kang the Conquerer.

Quantumania doesn't pick up where Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018) ended. Since everything in the MCU is connected, it's assumed that the audience knows how Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) escaped the quantum realm after The Blip and helped the Avengers stop Thanos. Instead, we find Scott enjoying his life in San Francisco, releasing a memoir, and reconnecting with his daughter Cassie (a wonderful Kathryn Newton). While he was away saving the world, Cassie became fast friends with the Pym family – Hank (Michael Douglas), Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), and Hope (Evangeline Lilly) – and developed a way to map the quantum realm without actually going there. When Janet tries to prevent Cassie from using the device, they all end up getting sucked into the quantum realm anyway, and that leads them on a bombastic journey to meet Kang (Jonathan Majors).

(Photo: Jay Maidment/Marvel Studios)

The script by Jeff Loveness (Rick & Morty, Jimmy Kimmel Live!) gets the five-character group into the CGI world known as the quantum realm as quickly as possible. He and director Peyton Reed only have two hours to work with, so Quantumania has to move fast. Any hope that Scott's motivations for even considering working with Kang in order to spend lost time with his daughter will be further explored is dispensed quickly because Scott is not the main character of his own movie. Quantumania is about expanding on the character of Kang, a version of whom was first introduced in the Disney+ series Loki. It turns out that all the scenes hinting at a "Faustian" bargain between Scott and Kang were used up in the trailers.

Scott isn't the only part of the Ant-Man family lost in what is supposed to be the third film in the Ant-Man trilogy. Scott's hilarious supporting cast is nowhere to be found, and Hope only swings in as a last-second crutch during fight scenes. Yes, Evangeline Lilly is in the movie, supposedly, but she doesn't get much to do. Michael Douglas is just along for the ride (and paycheck). At least Michelle Pfeiffer seems game for whatever weird creatures get in her way. Then there is the mighty scenery-chewing from Jonathan Majors, who just tears into Kang as if this character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby stepped out of Shakespeare.

The trouble with Quantumania is the incredible reliance on CGI. The animated creatures look fantastic, but some of the close-ups of live-action actors in front of CGI backgrounds look laughably bad for a big-screen movie. Mary Poppins dancing with penguins felt more organic than Douglas riding an ant. Then again, this does allow Reed to fully embrace the zaniness of Marvel comic characters. After Marvel movies rejected the colorful comics that birthed these characters at the start, it's fun to see Kang look like the character in the books.

Quantumania is impossible to see as a stand-alone movie, and clearly, Marvel doesn't want audiences to see it that way. If an audience member thought they just needed to see the first two Ant-Man movies to understand this one, they would be completely puzzled. Just like Captain America: Civil War wasn't really much of a Captain America movie like its predecessors, Quantumania trashes nearly everything Reed and Paul Rudd did well in their first two Ant-Man movies to make what amounts to a messy introduction for what comes next. At least we got to see Michael Douglas talk to a guy with a stalk of broccoli for a head.