Disney owns both Marvel and Star Wars, two ginormous franchises that collectively have significantly influenced our culture in countless ways. But the company has never really experimented with a cross-over, and with good reason; they’re different universes. Right? Well, after you’ve seen this third installment in the Ant-Man film series, you might be asking yourself just how separate they really are.
Ant-Man’s adventures in the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe films have all taken place in our world, with his big superpower that he can both shrink down to subatomic size and grow to 100x the size of a normal human being. Fortunately, his clothes seem to resize with him (avoiding the Hulk’s presumed hassles with torn clothes). As embodied by comedian/actor Paul Rudd, Ant-Man is also one of the most likable of the entire Marvel panoply, an endlessly self-effacing superhero who is just as likely to hit a villain with a daft dad joke as a punch.
But Marvel’s been sliding into the multiverse, most notably with the eye-popping but rather dull Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) [here’s my review]. The problem with the multiverse as a concept is that it diffuses all tension out of a story. If something horrible happens, we’ll just pop over to the next adjacent universe where everything’s identical except that terrible thing didn’t actually happen.
As a refresher, Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018) ended with our hero Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) lost in the Quantum Realm, while Hope Van Dyne(Evangeline Lilly), Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) all vanishing into thin air due to The Blip. We learn lots more about the blip, what caused it, and how it is resolved in the films Avengers: Infinity Wars (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019). Don’t try to figure out how it all fits together as the MCU timeline is ridiculously complicated at this point. Suffice it to say that the new Ant-Man movie does not pick up immediately after the blip, but some time later, when everyone’s back and very corporeal.
The main characters have all traveled their independent timelines, which, most importantly, has meant that Scott’s daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) has grown up and become quite the young scientist and inventor. In fact, she’s invented something, with a little help from grandpa (Hank Pym), that ends up pulling the entire family into the Quantum Realm. Infinitely small, the entire quantum realm could ostensibly fit on the head of a pin, but it’s a remarkable place with beautiful and wildly imaginative terrain and creatures.
Indeed, it’s hard not to notice the Avatar-inspired area of the quantum realm before they make it to the main world, one that is absolutely inspired by Star Wars. From a cantina full of imaginative aliens to clone armies amassed and ready to fight, it’s the crossover we have all, um, been, errr, waiting for. The villain in the quantum realm is Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) and he’s clearly teed up by the MCU to be the Thanos replacement, a tremendously powerful and egomaniacal supervillain. Can Ant-Man or the Wasp stop him? Or is it going to be up to youthful activist Cassie and her new rebel friends Jentorra (Katy M. O’Brian) and Quaz (William Jackson Harper) who save the day?
Being a big-budget Marvel movie, the visual effects are excellent, the performances range from good to very good (Newton is particularly endearing as Cassie), and the dialog includes plenty of amusing one-liners and snappy retorts. The story is also too-often secondary to the effects and action sequences, as is all too common for the MCU. Still, it all looks so good that I’m ready for this team of vfx companies to tackle the next Star Wars film, whenever that shows up (2025, according to the master schedule, with no official title yet announced).
What really made the first two Ant-Man films fun, however, was the inclusion of engaging secondary characters. Luis (Michael Peña) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian) are sorely missed in this new chapter of the Ant-Man story, replaced by overly serious freedom fighters re-enacting the Star Wars Empire vs. Rebel Alliance storyline. Perhaps we live in a more serious moment and the story needed to revolve around a more profound good vs. evil tale, but the lightheartedness of the first two films is sorely missed in this new installment.
The ending – particularly the post-credits scene – is problematic to the story too, but I’ll just leave it at that so as not to have any spoilers. For a few years now I have been saying that the MCU has been getting too darn big and cumbersome, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania contributes to that bloat more than it offers a simple, coherent story that has an actual conclusion. In fact… ah, well, no spoilers.
With all of that said, however, Quantumania is definitely entertaining, imaginative, and worth a watch on a big, big screen. As with so many films in our current era, the visuals themselves make the film worth a watch, and the addition of the ever-charming Paul Rudd makes it amusing too. But really, Marvel, must every film now be expanding the web of the MCU and therefore enormous in its story and scope? No wonder people are starting to talk about MCU fatigue.
The MCU is expanding to include more of the MPU (Marvel Print Universe). The rotating roster of the Avengers alone… We’ve got three avengers-to-be (Starfox, Hercules, and the Black Knight) teased in the post credits scenes of recent movies, plus Namor ("Wakanda Forever") has ties to the Fantastic Four AND is an Avenger-to-be.
We have to bring the Fox-licensed Marvel characters (X-Men, Fantastic Four, and some of their enemies) back into the fold in current MCU incarnations before we can do Secret Wars.
Of course, if we don’t get a "Rom: Space Knight" movie, I might have to flip a table.
While we go to everything Marvel opening weekend, I haven’t enjoyed one for a while. Falcon and Winter Soldier on TV was pretty good; otherwise, I long for the first Guardians and Ant Man.
Why Bill Murray?
Why was a dorky, comical Orko from He-Man part of it?
I think I’m just no longer the target market.