Marvel is promising a brand new big story arc in its new phase of the MCU that is, to begin with, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania or Ant-Man 3 for short. The ocean of superhero movies has already caused fatigue in some moviegoers affecting both the usually strong box office and word-of-mouth praise with the latest Marvel films. Ant-Man 3 wants to be the first to kick things off in a big way, but unfortunately, this third installment falls flat in almost every path possible as it tries to be a big blockbuster action MCU film rather than the genuine, heist comedy that it should be. At best - Worth A Look
The character of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) in those first two Ant-Man movies was something special. His introduction to Civil War and the eventual Endgame was just brilliant. Those smaller, fun movies were a much-needed breath of fresh air that went against the grain of those bigger action MCU movies. And having an every-man like Paul Rudd as front and center only added to the charm of the character. He never needed to be the go-to action hero like Captain America or Iron Man. He was there for support and was just happy to be a part of the team. And director Peyton Reed delivered those movies very well in those confines.
Reed is a conundrum and an enigma at the same time. The man brought Bring It On and Yes Man to the big screen, but then gave the world his version of Ant-Man and perhaps the best episode of Star Wars with Episode 16 of The Mandolorian titled The Rescue. Having such banal mediocrity and extreme greatness so close together is truly a mystery. But one thing is certain here, Reed always stayed simple and stuck with those important character moments of tenderness and wit rather than some giant spectacle with dense narratives and too many characters to count. Unfortunately, that is the case with Ant-Man 3. Basically, this was out of his wheelhouse and it misses the mark.
It's easy to see how Ant-Man 3 was some sort of congratulatory movie for Rudd and Reed for a job well done in past movies. It was as if the MCU said, "Hey, you've done well for us, so here, have at it with a big blockbuster action-hero movie. But before you proceed, you must incorporate Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy tropes and humor in your movie without actually mentioning them. Ok, go." The result is a sluggish two-hour film that doesn't feel like it's in Ant-Man's world but rather some other movie that never quite knows what it wants to be. Part of it is awkward humor that never works and the other part is an all too-serious action movie with so much talk of infinite universes and timelines, the multi-verse, and the quantum realm that it's difficult to find any sane narrative within the story. And that's what worked so well with the first two Ant-Man movies - its simplicity and charm, two things that this third movie has almost none of.
The first five minutes of Ant-Man 3 are its best because it follows Scott (Rudd) in San Francisco, living his life as a hero and author who saved the world. Its funny approach is infectious, but after that five minutes, his now teenage daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) has taken it upon herself to learn the technology and build herself a secret Ant suit that gets everything and everyone in her basement sucked into the Quantum Realm that includes her and Scott, Hank and Janet (Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer), and their adult daughter Hope - AKA the Wasp (Evangeline Lily). Like Fast and Furious likes to emote, it's all about family this time around, plus all of Hank's ants are now in the Quantum Realm where Janet holds a secret. That secret is Kang (Jonathan Majors), a man she met while she was trapped there for decades who just wants to destroy every universe, every timeline, and everyone in it. Basically, Kang is billed as the new Thanos here, but with no real motive yet.
From here, The Quantum Realm is revealed to have seemingly infinite realms and lifeforms of all shapes and sizes that live together in cities much like how Star Wars integrated all life on certain planets. There's even an ode to the land of scum and villainy here, which falls flat as well. Most of all, what set aside the Ant-Man films from the rest was its ability to play it simple and keep its characters grounded while being funny and sweet. That's all out the window here as almost every situation is now serious and not played for laughs or thrills, but only to further the MCU story for Kang and that's just not good storytelling.
It's not all doom and gloom though with this third movie. There are actually some great flashes that if executed better, would have been marvelous to play out. For example, instead of relying on the vastness of the multiverses and multiple universes in this movie, there is a small subplot about Hank's ant farm that gets sucked into the quantum realm. Once the ants are in the quantum world, they grow smarter than anybody could imagine and has a fairly great outcome, but the moment lasts only seconds and is never paid any serious attention to other than that. If this was the big overall narrative, the movie would have had a better flow and outcome, but instead, Kang, the supposed new Thanos of the MCU gets all of the attention.
Paul Rudd is, of course, always fun to watch on screen, because he is Paul Rudd. His charm, wit, and likability know no bounds. But here, almost every performance feels phoned in and dreary, most likely due to the seriousness of this action movie and it not having the comedy chops the first two films had. Jonathan Majors is a powerhouse actor and his stepping into those Kang shoes is something fierce, but again, in this third Ant-Man movie, his performance shines because compared to the rest of the cast he's the only one who really showed up to work. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is here to remind everyone that the MCU needs to take a vacation, enjoy some relaxation, and come back refreshed with new material because this just doesn't stand up to what MCU has delivered in the past, especially prior to Endgame. If you feel up to sticking through the credits, there is a mid-credits and a post-credits scene.