Even the most fervent fan of the MCU has to admit that the gargantuan super-franchise lost some of that revered cohesion during its fourth phase as the majority of the titles collected within primarily dealt with its gaggle of characters struggling to deal with the fallout and trauma of Endgame with no real direction. Simply put, despite an onslaught of content both on the large and small screen, it seemed that the MCU wasn’t really going anywhere ir leading to anything despite the odd collision with the much ballyhooed Multiverse.
Well, with the beginning of Phase 5, that issue looks like it’s being directly address by becapped bigwig Kevin Fiege and his cronies with the latest Ant-Man excursion, which throws off its comedy/heist trappings to go almost full Star Wars as they dive into the Quantum Realm in order to lock up with the MCU’s next big bad.
Hopefully, things are about to change in a big way…
Since Thanos was dusted at the end of Endgame, Scott Lang has enjoyed being somewhat of a celebrity after stumbling on the method of time travel used to defeat that despotic purple people beater, but while he enjoys all the book signings and movie premiers his newfound fame brings, he still laments the five years he’s lost with his daughter Cassie while stranded in the Quantum Realm. His anxiety is tweaked just that little more when he has to bail her out of jail for using the size-altering Pym Particles for worthy, but illegal causes, but his parental judgment has to be put on hold when Cassie’s investigations into mapping the sub-atomic realm result in Scott, Cassie, Hope, Janet and Hank all being zapped down to the freaky, miniature universe with no hope of getting back.
Split up, both Hank and Hope find that Janet has had good reason to not have spoken about the thirty years she spent after being trapped here during her superhero days and her spouse and daughter are stunned to find the Quantum Realm packed with intelligent life. However, the sheer weight of Janet’s silence can be measured by a figure from her past, one who has been alluded to before in the form of He Who Remains – a figure who once sat at the end of time, pruning the timeline in case any of his nasty, multiversal variants popped up to destroy and conquer. This particular variant is known as Kang The Conqueror as despite living up to his terrifying potential, he has been banished and trapped within the Quantum Realm in order to keep him out of trouble – but trouble has found Kang in the form of Ant-Man who is offered a deal: help the war mongering time Hopper get his tech back up to full strength, or see his daughter fall before the frenzied might of his wacko enforcer – M.O.D.O.K..
Anyone hoping that the MCU would hurry up a get back to laying out more obvious breadcrumbs to where Phases 5 & 6 are heading will no doubt be nicely sated by the fact that Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania is completely willing to sacrifice itself in order to to get the larger ball rolling, but this selfless plot shifting nevertheless comes at a cost. In the overexcited haste to anoint purple helmeted invader Kang The Conqueror as the next Avengers level threat, director Peyton Reed and former Rick And Morty scripter Jeff Loveness willfully ditch some of the franchise’s strengths in order to move the gargantuan movie forward.
Gone are Michael Peña’s Luis and his million miles an hour monologues and also missing by their absence is the grounded goofiness that the Ant-Man installments usually bring. In their place is a gonzo, surreal sci-fi flick that goes the Thor: Ragnorok/Guardians Of The Galaxy route and presents us with what feels like a full-on merging of Star Wars and Looney Tunes that serves up truly brain drying concepts like a sentient blob obsessed with orifices, cannon-headed robots and living houses (“Yours are dead!?”).
As a visual feast, it’s quite a jump from ant assisted robberies, but Reed (obviously stealing wholesale from his old, rejected Fantastic Four pitch for Fox) is having a blast, hurling weirder and stranger stuff the further we go, heaping on Bill Murray cameos, numerous action scenes and a cracking sequence where Scott has to negotiate thousands of similarly panicked variants of himself as he tries to negotiate a probability storm. However, the expense of all this relentless CGI is that not all the players get to shine with Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym and Evangeline Lilly’s Wasp get somewhat pushed aside by the need to keep piling on the crazy. However, Paul Rudd still manages to bring that likability factor as Scott Lang attempts to focus despite being horribly out of his league and Michelle Pfeiffer finally gets to shine after her glofied cameo in the last movie as she starts spilling on her harrowing past with the malevolent Kang.
Ah yes, Kang. Seemingly the real reason we’re all here. Thankfully, the wait to see Jonathan Majors ascend to the throne of MCU super-villainry has been worth it as he bestows his multiversal motherfucker with all the gravitas and weight you’d hope this guy would bring. Quiet and rational when plotting his next bout of conquering, yet prone to brutal, laser spraying rages whenever shit doesn’t go his way, Majors is a face that’s confirmed to reappear in many different forms and guises and based on this performance (not to mention his brief stint in Loki) I cant wait to see him again.
So, bigger picture aside, does Quantumania stand on it’s own two feet? Well, not really, no. But that doesn’t mean it’s still not a ton of fun if you can handle the huge, tsunami-sized amount computer generated tomfoolery that makes up the final act. In fact, how much you like Ant-Man’s third solo outing can probably be measured by how much you take to Corey Stroll’s purposefully irritating M.O.D.O.C.K., a repurposed Darren Cross from the first movie who has taken his second life as boulder-headed henchman as licence to be the biggest dick he can. If you can handle the fact that the film treats the character (and the film in general) with a sense of what-the-hell ludicrousness, it’s a fun romp. But anyone wanting a more touching and involving third go round for Lang and the gang will no doubt be disappointed that precious little of the father/daughter stuff lands as much as it once did.
Flawed? Almost certainly and it probably won’t convert anyone who has already decided that the MCU has hit the skids ever since Disney+ turned up, but if you focus fully on the delirious weirdness and the fact that we’ve finally started on the road that leads to the Kang Dynasty and beyond, then Quantumania is a dumb-but-fun adventure that refuses to shrink from the terminally bonkers in order to prioritise maximum Kangage.