I think it’s best that Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the last in the series. That is not meant as a condemnation of the film; in my opinion after this outing, it is hard to see how the series fits into Marvel’s overall plans. I’m sure Ant-Man and the Wasp will be featured in the future Avengers movies, and that is fine, but as a solo vehicle, this film kind of showed that the prestige for this franchise has faded. When the first film was released, I was skeptical of what value it could bring to the franchise, and I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed it far more than I expected to. The sequel was decent enough, while in some cases lacking some of the comedic elements of the first one. This time, the film seems to have lost all the lighthearted humor and felt forced. Rudd does his best to endear the character to the audience, but in this incarnation, he feels more like a secondary character in a film where he plays the titular character. Then there is the other titular character, the Wasp, a.k.a. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne. Her role, too, feels reduced. When the two main characters become the least significant characters in their own franchise, I believe that signifies that the writing is on the wall. It’s time to hang it up.
That said, there were still things that I greatly appreciated about the film. Most notably, another opportunity to observe Jonathan Majors as a villain. His introduction in Loki garnered a lot of intrigue, and despite that short appearance, it was clear that he was going to be a significant force going forward. It left us starving for more, and he did not disappoint on this second outing. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that he became the biggest draw for the film. Jonathan Majors is an actor who seems to have exploded on the scene. He brings something different to every performance. This is a quality that is greatly appreciated, and needed given the person that he is portraying. This version of Kang is not the version we met in Loki. In Loki, we met He Who Remains; here we are being introduced to the Conqueror for the first time. The film does a great job of building up the mystique of the character long before we see him on the screen via the fear that characters such as Janet Van Dyne (Pfeiffer) exhibit at the mere mention of him. And then we see him, and he embodies everything that you want in a Marvel villain. Majors delivers a compelling performance. Though his interpretation, Kang has a quiet strength. He hardly raises his voice, but he intimidates you all the same. There is an intensity to him; the smallest gestures have deep impact. A perfect example of this is shown when he disciplines an underling for stepping out of place. He barely twitches a finger, but the end result demonstrates why this character is as feared as he is. Only Majors could command that kind of presence in my opinion. Presence is what the franchise needs as they look to reestablish their dominance following the epic conclusion of the Infinity Saga. As we enter the Multiverse Saga, I believe Majors will be relied on greatly to propel the franchise forward, and I have no doubt that he is up to the task.
This film serves as the first film in Phase Five of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). This time out, Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne, along with Hope’s parents, Hank Pym (Douglas) and Janet van Dyne, and Lang’s daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton of Supernatural fame replaces Emma Fuhrmann) are transported to the Quantum Realm, finding their relationship tested as they face off against Kang the Conqueror (Majors). The premise was interesting, and I believe that the film had all the tools to be compelling, but it falls short of executing this. For one, the film hints at a rift between Scott and Cassie as a result of his disappearance during the blip, but this subject is barely touched on. This would have been a great avenue to explore, especially given the emotional context attached to it; it’s evident that Scott has feelings of guilt’ while Cassie exhibits signs of hostility over her perceived abandonment. This could have gone a long way toward providing the film with much need emotional depth. Then there is the relationship between Hope and her mother, which is strained due to Janet being emotionally closed off. These two situations could have been explored in a two-fold flip with an intercutting confrontation sequence. I think it would have gone a long way towards establishing emotional resonance with the audience.
The whole film was rushed. The setup is barely established before we are thrown in the thick of things. We needed more setup given the long gap between films. It’s been nearly five years since the last film; we need more time to get reacquainted with the characters. Additionally, another character’s role (Cassie) is being upped, not to mention the recasting of the character; time was needed to form a connection with the character. It is rare that I argue for a film to have a longer runtime, but in the case of this film, it was very much needed.
I’m not sure how I feel about Phase 5. If I’m being honest, I’m not overly excited for the current expected slate. Naturally, I will watch Guardians of Galaxy Vol 3; However, barring that, none of the other films really excite me. I will confess a curiosity about the reintroduction of Blade into the franchise, but that is about it. I’m much more excited for Phase 6.
As far as the future of Ant-Man, as I previously mentioned, I just don’t see a way forward that doesn’t diminish it further. There is supposed an idea out there about focusing on the Hank Pym’s years as the titular character, and that could be interesting I suppose, but I stand by my earlier suggestion. This should be Ant-Man’s last solo endeavor.