The Marvel Cinematic Universe has made it its mission to mainstream comics into popular culture by adapting their printed material into live-action content, hoping to watch the comic book movie genre flourish as its grip on filmgoing tightened. Marvel movie premieres become an increasingly popular event as the fandom swelled tremendously. Its omnipotence over media becomes divisive as the studio continued to climb upwards - and eventually, hits its peak. The studio brought some of the comics' storylines to life while attempting to tap into a devoted audience eagerly awaiting the next slate of movies, later spiraling into an even more elaborate timeline as they viewed television as an alternative vehicle to drive up viewership. While titular heroes such as Iron Man and Captain America earned their respected followings, some (literally) smaller heroes set out to impact the MCU in a big way. Ant-Man crawled into theaters in 2015, and since then, has played a larger role in the greater scope of a tiringly endless sea of Marvel titles. It's upon the third entry of the Ant-Man saga that really asks the question: is Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania really about Ant-Man anymore?
Marvel Studios has become far too comfortable with making its cinematic entries crossover events that have lost touch with their purpose over time. The success of the Avengers series has reassured that these grandiose multi-level stories are profitable, but are they narratively necessary? The first two Ant-Man movies were focused and concentrated on its key players, all while not taking themselves too seriously. They were praised for their genuine sense of fun and doubled as easy, effortless watching that required little research, making it accessible to more casual audiences interested in dipping their toe into Marvel's vast collection of entertainment. While Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania intros itself with enough context (in classic Ant-Man style), the pacing to hurry along feels rushed. Ill-timed pacing gives no time for scenes to sink in. Though Marvel claims they're set on pursuing a new phase with new adversaries, there's still the refusal to move on from Josh Brolin's Thanos and the infamous "blip." The heavy reliance on reminding audiences of the past takes away from the future.
There's no clear direction in tone or plot, and the finalized screenplay feels light or thin in comparison to the thematic landscape of what Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania sets out to achieve. Ant-Man 3 really wants to retain its brand of humor but sometimes finds itself swapping silliness for spite. It takes a while for the movie to hit that stylized sense of comedy that gave the first two Ant-Man movies a sense of personality. There's a bit of an identity crisis at play as it departs further from being an Ant-Man and Wasp adventure, sprawling into a Pym-Lang family affair. A few quick-witted one-liners find their way back to signature quips, but amid the mania of the Quantum Realm (which is vaguely explained and left up to audience interpretation as to what it really is), the fun is lost. It's easy to forget that this is an Ant-Man movie and not another massive collaboration across Marvel's many channels. Its success is in its most intimate subplot: Scott "Ant-Man" Lang (Paul Rudd) reconnecting with estranged daughter Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton). Their on-screen relationship matures through strengthening bonds, and while it's a heartfelt angle, is sometimes overshadowed by overarching storylines distracting from their refreshed relationship. There's little to Cassie besides breathlessly calling out for her father and Newton acting her way through her Ardell Lash Wispies - especially when there should be more in store for her future.
It shouldn't be a chore for billion-dollar studios to perfect their CGI formula. For a movie so reliant on green screen technology to bring psychedelic worlds to life, the final editing is mostly disappointingly poor. The inconsistency of graphics varying from scene to scene is greatly distracting, and any rendering used to replicate human figures is unsettlingly uncanny. In an age where tech reigns supreme, Marvel Studios shouldn't be struggling to nail its approach to how digitalization fares on screen. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania's experiential strangeness feels far too removed from the Marvel Cinematic Universe's future plans. It's certainly the most distant title to step back from the Ant-Man series. Those who dwell in the Quantum Realm look and feel as if they've stepped out of Star Wars, Dune, or Mad Max as popular science fiction influence contributes to unique characters (and character designs).
The need to bloat the B-Level heroes into something bigger than themselves takes away from what makes them significant, and it feels as if Ant-Man is sidelined for the sake of an ensemble cast to work in tandem. Michelle Pfeiffer's Jane Van Dyne steps up significantly as a priority character, but it's Jonathan Majors who steals the show. Majors is truly fantastic as Kang the Conquerer and effortlessly delivered the best MCU villain to date. Brutal, intense, and cruel, Majors' Kang is simply the most intimidating foe deserving of fear to enter Marvel's live-action catalog. It's made incredibly clear that Marvel insisted on a more serious approach for the threequel; Kang's sheer presence is enough to shift the tone significantly. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been in need of a villain that demands respect and sincerely evokes dread of what's to come next. Majors carries Kang's cold, manipulative, and ruthless persona with ease.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quatumania is designed with diehard fans in mind who are dedicated to pledging their allegiance to the studio - even when the quality may not be there. There are moments that can be praised about the sequel, though by the end credits' grand reveal, it proves itself to be more of a stepping stone than an Ant-Man movie. While an ant can lift 5,000 times its own body weight, there's little to support here. 5/10.
*There are two post-credit scenes.*