2023 | PG-13 | starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michelle Pfeifer, Michael Douglas, Kathryn Newton, Jonathan Majors, William Jackson Harper | directed by Peyton Reed | 2h 4m |

Ant Man has come along way from being the project that Edgar Wright left over creative differences. When the original film dropped in 2015 it was a welcome low-tech comedy-centered return to Earth for the Marvel Universe which was evolving deep into Norse God and outer space lore.  Now 2 films and 3 Avengers team-ups later, Ant Man has become the big CGI space battle adventure it used to be the antidote too. It’s story, journeying deep into the series fabled Quantum Realm follows the pattern of all of this phase of Marvel films. Where the franchise started by bringing super-heroes into the regular world, now it’s flipped to sending normal people into fantastic worlds, from the other dimensions of Shang-Chi to Doctor Strange’s Multiverse, Marvel it letting weirdness be the name of the game.

Now an author and San Francisco neighborhood hero for his time as a side-Avenger in the battle with Thanos, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) tries to connect to daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton, Freaky) who aged while he was trapped in the Quantum Realm and the world blipped. An experiment from Hope (Evangeline Lilly)’s mother Janet (Michelle Pfeifer) goes haywire and traps the entire family in the Quantum Realm, forcing everyone to come to terms with the monster Janet secretly helped gain power during her time there, Kang (Jonathan Majors).

There are two types of World Building. One where we are immersed in the day to day lives of a world outside ours, whether it’s a desolate Star Wars planet or the home life of the family in Hereditary, it feels lived-in and we learn the economy, customs, politics, social dynamics and other details of the world around us. Then there is Marvel World Building. Where fantastical landscapes are created and populated with bizarre sights and creatures. It’s visually interesting, there is some creativity to it, but it’s ultimately pretty shallow. That’s how Asguard works. It’s how Wakanda works and it’s how the Quantum Realm works. It’s full of weird creatures, living houses, gelatinous navigation and it all feels flat.

Quantumania commits the crime of burying Paul Rudd’s charm (and removing franchise favorite Michael Pena entirely) under another cartoonish CGI adventure, swapping out these characters for any old adventure and seemingly proving that all avengers are basically interchangeable. They don’t lend the movies their own tone, genre or even visual style. This movie is one of the most detached and disengaging of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. It comes off like a Star Wars prequel. An opportunity to line up kooky creations and cameos (including one from an actor whose entire career is applause-line cameos now) and microwave for Instant Fun. The thing feels like actors working against a green screen. Talking to tennis balls and interacting with nothing.  By the time William Jackson Harper rolls up with a forehead blinking telepathy power with his Quantum Realm refuges, it seems like all of his lines were designed around saying something generic enough to animate in post later. There is not a single authentic moment in the film.

The third act becomes the usual Marvel battle that was probably animated years before a director was assigned. The film is designed to set up Kang the Conquerer, our next Thanos-level big bad. It’s unclear if Majors (great in movies like The Last Black Man in San Francisco) is miscast here or if Marvel is uncertain of how ferociously to pay this villain, leaning hard on Majors’ ability to generate sympathy and an eerie calm in his violent turns. He is set up as a force so powerful he’s cut down multiple Avengers in multiple universes but gets completely knocked on his back when Ant Man grows big. The action isn’t fun, the comedy isn’t funny and the sound mixing is off keeping the soundtrack lower than the effects.

I’d like to imagine that Disney came up with a premise: a family journeys into a fantastical sub-terranean land full of alien creatures with the help of a parental figure who has been trapped in there. Then they farmed it out to two studios: one turning it into a Marvel movie and the other turning it into Strange World. 

The title is clever though. QuAntuMania