Newest Ant-Man stands among MCU middle ground

Despite less than stellar moments, the newest Marvel film is solid entertainment.

With a deeper sci-fi influence and the introduction of a new Thanos-level threat, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” handles these tasks well, despite the loss of some of the fun of the last Ant-Man films and a CGI overload. The setting and characters are a patchwork quilt of strangeness, tied together by a story that has massive implications for the rest of the Marvel universe but is still driven by Scott Lang and company, now including his daughter Cassie as the hero Stinger.

The cast is a highlight of the movie, with the two standout performances of Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet Van Dyne and Jonathan Majors as Kang. Pfeiffer can dive into the depths of her character that weren’t able to be explored in the previous film, such as her lingering trauma from her journeys through the Quantum Realm. Majors’ character of Kang has many different “variants,” (the Marvel term for alternate-universe selves) that I’m excited to see him portray in Phases 5 and 6. The difference between He Who Remains, a quirky “man behind the curtain” figure from Loki, and The Conqueror, a quietly menacing villain with truly terrifying fits of rage, shows his range as an actor. Of course, Paul Rudd as Scott Lang is still humorous but doesn’t have much character development here. Michael Douglas has a great exchange with Pfeiffer about their flings while the characters were separated, while Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne listens in completely disgusted. Her character doesn’t have much to do in this movie except be there, and you can’t help but feel like she could have had a larger role in the story.

The supporting cast of characters provides a human (or almost human) element to the otherworldly Quantum Realm, and despite a few moments of humor, I feel like the film could have worked better without them. Why human characters exist in the Quantum Realm is not explained at all and some creatures are overly cartoonish, including a blob named Veb.

The design is a hodgepodge of psychedelic characters and strange backdrops, from a strange forest land to a barren rocky landscape. Nearly every scene in the Quantum Realm (about 85% of the film) is a green screen and CGI, and when the backgrounds are beautifully done, it creates breathtaking images. However, the effect of such an overload of CGI is that when a character, effect, or backdrop is even slightly subpar, it’s very noticeable. MODOK, who has a cartoonish design in the comics, doesn’t work in live-action, and the character would have far more potential if the filmmakers had gone with a stranger design.

Of course, the movie has massive implications for the wider Marvel multiverse, as Kang is a villain who exists in all timelines and can hop between multiple universes. The post-credit scenes show the scope of his threat and season 2 of “Loki”  will certainly explore this and the wider multiverse.

Overall, “Quantumania” is a fun romp through the Quantum Realm that stumbles slightly under the weight of the design and its implications on the MCU. However, the strong cast and characters push this movie above some of the worse Marvel output recently, but it can’t reach the highs of the best movies. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is in theaters right now and will be released on Disney+ in the future.