I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into the theater for the latest Marvel outing, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” The last few MCU entries have been pretty disappointing for me, but I was hoping that the tiniest Avenger, played by the lovable Paul Rudd, could bring Marvel out of their recent funk.
The film starts on a comedic and upbeat note with Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang narrating from his memoir about his time with the Avengers and defeating Thanos. We are brought up to speed with the usual crew (though Michael Pena’s fan-favorite Luis is strangely left out). It felt like a great reintroduction to the Ant-Man world, reminding the viewers that this is a quirky and fun franchise. That fun, however, only lasts for this brief opening sequence before the heroes are whisked away on their Quantum-world saving adventure.
This movie is the big-screen appearance of Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror, supposedly the next big bad in the MCU, after appearing briefly in the season finale of “Loki” as the Kang variant He Who Remains. On paper, it seems like an odd choice to pit Ant-Man against Kang in a standalone film, and it feels just as odd watching it on screen.
Majors’ portrayal of Kang is a bright spot in the film, filling the character with intensity, rage, and just the right amount of arrogance to make him easy to root against. Kang, with all of his emotion, stands in stark contrast to Rudd’s Scott Lang, who is just as affable as ever. The whole thing feels like a bit of a mismatch, even with Ant-Man’s growing roster of support characters.
Kang is set up to be the next “big bad” of the MCU, which makes it strange to see him introduced (for a second time) as the standalone villain in an Ant-Man movie. The film’s other major villain, and fan favorite, M.O.D.O.K, is relegated to a simple sidekick for Kang in an unexpected character reveal that left many in my theater whispering a collective, “what?”
The special effects for “Quantumania” looked second-rate compared to Marvel’s other big-screen entries. Most of the backgrounds of the green-screen heavy Quantum Realm looked like recycled designs from a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. The quality of much of the CGI made the film feel much more like one of the Star Wars prequels from the early 2000’s than a Marvel feature from 2023.
Ant-Man suffers from the same problem of many of the recent MCU films- it has no clear direction. There is too much backstory, too much laying groundwork for future entries, and not enough room to breathe. The movie had to fit so much in that it forgot to tell a story along the way. What we end up with is a bunch of scenes loosely tied together that may or may not be important for a future movie.
The cracks are beginning to show in the Marvel formula. With many of the recent MCU entries receiving lukewarm reception, from both critics and audiences, Ant-Man looked like it might be able to right those wrongs and put Marvel back on track.
Despite the brilliant casting of Majors as Kang, the film never really seems to find its center. This movie isn’t bad, it is just “okay,” and in some way, that feels like the worse option.
Marvel is not taking risks and not trying to freshen up what is obviously a stagnating franchise. Maybe the next MCU adventure will help liven things up a little, but I will only be fooled into the theater so many times before the jig is up. We deserve better.