‘Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania’ Review: Paul Rudd Is Back In Action But Has He Met His Match In Jonathan Majors‘ Kang & What Does It Mean For MCUs Phase 5 Start?

With the Avengers: Endgame now history for a few years, and its place in the boxoffice realm currently challenged more by Avatars than any one Marvel character, the MCU, under orders from Marvel Chief Kevin Feige is now entering Phase 5, and using the third cinematic incarnation of Ant-Man and the full-blooded emergence of multi-villain Kang The Conqueror to carry it forward in what is essentially a stand-alone transition movie. As such Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania is a mixed bag, still containing the lighter comedy of the 2015 original and 2018 followup, both set in San Francisco, but now taking us deep into a subatomic universe where the familial characters will experience both good and evil forces, some wacky new creatures that look like they are straight out of a Star Wars bar, and a mission to save this dizzying community of colorful beings who are being terrorized by another comic book legend now embodied by the imposing and talented Jonathan Majors, clearly aiming to be the next major player in the MCU.

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As it gets rolling, we see Hope Van Dyne aka The Wasp ( Evangeline Lilly back in style) has managed to help free her mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer in a welcome major role here) who has been stuck in the Quantum Realm for 30 years, and like a soldier returning from the sheer hell of war is reluctant to share her experiences. We meet her back on Earth in San Francisco, and also there is Scott Lang (Paul Rudd in happy-go-lucky mode) now strutting down the streets to the tune of John Sebastian’s catch Kotter theme “Welcome Back”. It is five years past his world-saving efforts as an Avenger with no discernible superpower other than shrinking down and communicating with Ants, he has written a best selling book, and seems content to be a family man with teenage daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) and domestic bliss with Hope as well as her parents Janet, and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) who has turned over the day-to-day operations of future of the Pym Foundation to Hope. However the family life is hardly re-started when an experiment of Cassie’s goes awry and they are all sucked into the Quantum Realm, just like Alice was straight into the Rabbit Hole.

This weird place is no wonderland though as we can tell from Janet’s troubled expressions and veiled warnings that there is more there than meets the eye of its carnival-like freak show vibe. We got the clue at the start of the film when the frightening presence of Kang, whose biggest and scariest attribute is his ability to defy all logic of time to his overwhelming advantage, as he first encountered Janet back down there in the day. She knows a lot, but chooses to keep much of what she knows a secret. She definitely has relationships including with the Mayor-like presence of the rather goofy Lord Krylar (Bill Murray in an extended cameo), more than an aquaintance it seems.

Also there to guide the newcomers to the state of this union are the freedom fighters led by Jentorra (Katy O’Brian) and Quaz (William Jackson Harper). They have their hands full as Kang is truly a terrorist, helped by his number two, a weirdo floating head named M.O.D.O.K . (short for Mechanized Organism Designed Only For Killing), and hey, doesn’t he have the distorted face and voice of none other than Darren Cross, the Yellowjacket done away with in the first Ant-Man? Is he back, or is this another trick of Kang’s time traveling antics.? Nevertheless, although not listed in the press notes (but is prominent on closing credits), Corey Stoll is playing him, and in a word steals this movie. He is a riot.

Of course, as in any Marvel movie the crux of it all eventually is the action and battles for world supremacy, and that is what our heroes must deal with on two different trajertories as Scott and Cassie are separated from Janet, Hank, and Hope, and ultimately their altar-egos when they buzz in to save the day. Keep in mind though, and it is not a spoiler to note, that all of this is meant to set up a future set of movies, not necessarily continue this one as evidenced not only by the inevitable Easter eggs in the closing credits, but also the James Bond-like promise on screen: “Kang Will Return”, but just how (we certainly can look forward to where Avengers: The Kang Dynasty takes us). Majors definitely has strength here, if not nearly the fun of some other Marvel characters, and has already previously embraced one variant in the KCU (Kang Cinematic Universe) as He Who Remains in the Disney+ series, Loki. The possibilities are endless apparently. Rudd is a delight to welcome back in his signature role, as is Lilly. It is also great to see Douglas still going strong and especially Pfeiffer who gets a lot to do this time and really socks it home. Newton is a keeper as well, no matter where we go from here. Of the various creatures, Veb as voiced by David Dastmalchian is a whole lot of fun.

The visual effects team earns their money, no doubt, but as noted really seem more inspired by George Lucas’ world than Marvel’s in terms of all the new merchandisable creatures created for this Quantum leap in the series. Also I have to confess I am getting quite sick of the sorceror-style flashy and fiery effects so many of these comic book movies revel in. Mix it up next time, guys.

The ultimate verdict in all this though belongs to the fans, and the big question is just how they will embrace all that Feige and team have in store as we move into this new phase of the MCU. Stephen Broussard produced with Feige. Peyton Reed directed the Jeff Loveness script, both delivering in time-honored Marvel style.

Disney releases Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania with Thursday previews and full Friday opening, even day and date in China, which means this could have a very pleasant Presidents Day holiday weekend.

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