‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ Review: Hail The Conquering Shrinking Hero

Michael Lee reviews Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the enjoyable third entry in the Ant-Man series, which introduces Kang and more storylines while still delivering plenty of fun.
User Rating: 8

Ever since he made his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in 2015, the Ant-Man film franchise, though smaller in stakes, has brought plenty of laughs and epic superhero moments. Though the stakes were smaller compared to some of the other heroes’ standalone films, the everyday man Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) introduced a more playful tone to the MCU and still had some connective tissues in it to attach it to the different phases and major events post-Avengers films. However, Phase 5 epically launches the Multiverse Saga, with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania introducing Kang the Conquerer (Jonathan Majors), a time-traveling antagonist who promises to be a force to be reckoned with.

Quantumania opens with a prologue that tells the story of how Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfieffer) survived the Quantum Realm for almost 30 years with the help of Kang. The two stranded in a world beyond their understanding would work together to rebuild his time ship. But she makes the ultimate sacrifice when she discovers his intentions after he escapes. She destroys the only thing that would reunite her with her beloved daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) and her husband Hank (Michael Douglas).

Set after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Scott regales about the time he saved the world with the Avengers in his newest memoir, “Look Out For The Little Guy.” While on his book tour, he reminds his fans not to underestimate anyone. However, how title hero finds himself questioning his place in life now that his days as an Avenger is in a respite phase.

Things are even more complicated when Scott finds out that his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) is following in his footsteps as a social activist who finds herself in jail. Cassie worries that Scott needs to live up to his reputation as a hero. Not the Avenger that he and the world sees, but the father who would fight for the marginalized. Moreover, she has also been keeping the fact that she is building a subatomic Hubble Space Telescope to communicate with those in the Quantum Realm a secret from Scott.

And it’s just as hard with the Pym family, with Hope desperately trying to connect with her mom Janet after the two had been separated for the better part of 30 years. Clearly traumatized, Janet isn’t ready to reveal all that has happened during her imprisonment. Instead, she warns Cassie about the dangers of making contact when the device is activated. But it is too late when Janet destroys it, and the two families are pulled into the Quantum Realm. Now separated from each other, they must find a way to reunite before Kang discovers the heroes who have the technology to restore his time ship are there.

Family continues to be the beating heart of the Ant-Man franchise, with Cassie being Scott’s biggest motivation in everything he does. He wants to make up for lost time after being trapped in the Quantum Realm. Likewise, with Hope, who is no longer cold and detached based on the loss of her mother, who was also trapped in the Quantum Realm. As such, the idea of wanting to make up for lost time plays well for Kang, a villain on a quest to control all of time. It’s also fun to see how the film leans into the “look out for the little guy” mantra because the stakes are bigger, and Scott has to fight someone more powerful than anyone he has faced on his own.

By now, fans should be familiar with how these films, no matter how small, still serve a larger purpose in furthering the MCU. So by having a character like Kang, not only can fans see the vastness of this villain but also Major’s versatile performance. To go from the enigmatic TVA founder He Who Remains in the Disney+ MCU series Loki to the egotistical vengeful Kang the Conquerer is quite a feat. And that’s only two. Imagine an entire multiverse and all variants of the same character played by one person.

Unlike He Who Remains, who would often speak in riddles, Kang is more direct and nefarious. He isn’t as cheesy or corny as some of the other villains. Having Kang be a different variant allows us to see more nuances of one character with multiple variants. Not only is he menacing in his words, but he also brings a brutal physicality to the role, unleashing the kind of viciousness rarely seen in the Ant-Man films. And there are also softer moments that allow audiences the sympathize with Kang’s desperation to escape. Finally, there’s a Shakespearean feel to Kang’s dialogue. Because he will be the significant villain going into the Multiverse Saga, audiences must pay attention to every word he says.

So the stakes are more significant this time, which is new for the Ant-Man franchise considering those films were more personal than anything else. As such, it has to lay the groundwork for the rest of the Multiverse Saga by introducing Kang and yet stay true to the franchise’s spirit by centering it around the theme of family. And for the most part, Peyton Reed finds that balance, knowing how this film will impact the Multiverse Saga. With that said, at a tight two hours, Jeff Loveness‘ script seems to hurry through the first act in an attempt to recap what happened to Janet and how Scott is adjusting to life as the everyday man who happens to be an Avenger. But, the film finds its footing as soon as our family of heroes finds themselves in the Quantum Realm.

The Quantum Realm is another vital narrative setting essential to the MCU’s expansion. After hearing about it for so long, we finally see how it’s more than just a void but a fully functioning world. The visuals of this world pull microscope imagery and blend in a few cinematic inspirations. While we see bits of Flash Gordon and flashes of Barbarella, everyone will be talking about how it looks like Marvel Studios’ take on Star Wars. Much of that relates to Reed’s time as a director of The Mandalorian, as much of Quantumania was filmed in The Volume. The LED immersive soundstage creates an almost 360-degree stage of a seamless artificial setting that embraces the oddities of being a world within a world. Reed can use that technology to push Scott’s character arc to new and scary places.

Because the Quantum Realm comes with a new set of rules, it’s the perfect place to see why Cassie is such a big motivator in Scott’s life. Knowing that Scott would do anything to protect his daughter, Kang uses her as a bargaining chip and forces the hero to retrieve an item in a void. Navigating through it is hard enough to begin with, but once there, his mental state begins to break as this void reveals multiple versions of himself, all of whom have him go through an existential crisis and question if he is worthy of being Cassie’s father.

However, the Langs and Pyms fighting Kang aren’t the only characters populating the Quantum Realm. And the new characters are just as quirky as the world itself. David Dastmalchian returns as a new character named Veb, a slimy creature who wants to experience what it’s like to have holes. Reed also reunites with his Mandalorian season 2 finale star Katy O’Brian, who plays freedom fighter Jentorra. Then there’s Quaz (William Jackson Harper), a telepath whose powers hilariously backfire when he meets Scott. And finally, Bill Muarry‘s Lord Krylar plays a sketchy yet very charming ally to Janet. And Reed certainly had a lot of fun bringing in MODOK by giving the huge-headed killing machine a playful arc. Of course, spoiling its identity would ruin the fun, Quantumania has a way of working with what we’ve seen before in the MCU.

And the main cast works as well, carrying on what they started with without missing a single beat. Hope’s role is far more substantial than before, as she has been able to repair her relationship with her father and desires to connect with her mother. Though it may feel like she is underused, given that the film has an impact when it puts Scott opposite Kang. Still, Lilly, Douglas, and Pfieffer make use of the time they have together. And given the nature of their relationship and how the idea of secrets can undo a family, we get to see a vulnerability and relatability that allows us to connect to these characters.

The only place where Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania falters is in its overplotting. It is understandable how the film acts as a launchpad to further the Multiverse Saga by introducing or reintroducing a variant of Kang. But it does so much at once that it takes time away from some of the newer aforementioned characters who act more as filler than anything else. Luckily, when the film circles back to its title heroes and other legacy characters, the fun starts right back up.

Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania is undoubtedly the film franchise’s darkest and most mature installment, which is a nice change of pace, considering how the first two entries were comedic breaks for the MCU. Moreover, the third entry plays a vital role in furthering the Multiverse Saga by placing the underestimated and goofy title hero opposite one of the most powerful villains in Marvel Comics. But even if the stakes are bigger for our heroes, the film never forgets where it all started and what it’s about. Plus, the film is not short on fun and it is certainly big on visual spectacle. All of that makes this latest Ant-Man adventure an epic one.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania opens in theaters on February 17, 2023.

Written by
Michael Lee has covered the film industry for over the past decade for sites like Geeks of Doom and That’s It LA. He looks forward to all kinds of films of all sizes whether it's the commercial blockbusters or small independent fare. But what he is most interested in is pushing for more diversity and representation, whether it is on screen, behind the camera, or at the top of a studio office.

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