Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the 31st entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe mega-franchise and the third film centered on Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), a hero who can control his size. By now, the MCU has solidified a formula that works and a “type of movie” that fans know and expect; Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is decidedly in and of that type and just below the halfway mark in my MCU ranking. 

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is directed by Peyton Reed, who helmed the first two Ant-Man films, and Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, and Michelle Pfeiffer return in leading roles. Joining the cast are Kathryn Newton as Scott’s daughter, Cassie, and the villain of Phase 5 of the MCU, Jonathan Majors’s Kang.  

In the broadest possible terms, after Scott’s family gets sucked into the quantum realm, a sprawling and dynamic world beneath our world, Scott must find lost family members and return home. Ruling over the quantum realm is Kang, a mysterious and powerful being that is treated like Voldemort (He Who Shall Not Be Named) for the film ‘s first act. 

The plot lacks complexity to a fault. Kang does bad things because he’s the bad guy, and Scott and his family do good things because they’re good guys. There is a tease of thematic depth when Cassie argues that superheroes should do more than maintain the status quo, but whatever character arc that can be wrung from this conflict is flat and shuffled aside.  

The characters play the pronoun game with Kang (“he” and “the conqueror” are used to evade identifying him) for too much of the film, and the obligatory exposition dump about his origins is too long delayed and unsatisfying; if they’re trying to build suspense, it doesn’t work. For all that’s the case, Majors brings equal parts menace and vulnerability to his performance, and he is captivating. Marvel movies need good villains, and future films featuring Kang will be in good hands. 

Within the film’s fiction, the quantum realm is subatomic and the home of a diverse range of beings and laws of physics. Whenever the scientific explanations would get too convoluted during the previous two Ant-Man films, the characters would add “quantum” to another unfamiliar word and consider the matter settled; Ant-Man 3 continues that tradition, and if you don’t get on board with the idea that some weird and fantastical world exists in a subatomic realm, then Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is not for you. What unimpeachably works about the quantum realm is the visual effects. Led by visual effects supervisor, Paula Gonzalez Abad, the team of VFX artists created an amazing and beautifully compelling landscape in the quantum realm, a fully realized world that rivals the most interesting moments of Avatar: The Way of Water. 

Where that same VFX team fails is in the rendering of one surprise character. This villain is straight out the uncanny valley, and while there was always something goofy inherent in the character’s design, what appears on screen is distracting. 

What made Ant-Man work was the fun premise of “a heist film in the MCU,” and while there is a second act sequence that feels like a shadow of that concept, most of the aspects that made Ant-Man unique are stripped away in favor of the generic Marvel “type.” Some of it works, but overall, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a mixed bag of tropes that only the most committed Marvel fans will enjoy.