ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA movie poster | ©2023 Marvel/Walt Disney

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA movie poster | ©2023 Marvel/Walt Disney

Rating: PG-13
Stars: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors, Kathryn Newton, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Katey M. O’Brian, William Jackson Harper, Corey Stoll
Writer: Jeff Loveness, based on characters created by Stan Lee & Larry Lieber & Jack Kirby
Director: Peyton Reed
Distributor: Walt Disney/Marvel
Release Date: February 17, 2023

From his first introduction in 2015’s ANT-MAN, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has always been one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s sunnier characters. Scott is a good-hearted former thief who got into the superhero life accidentally by coming into possession of a suit that allowed him to become tiny, or huge – and to communicate with ants.

The first ANT-MAN, while live-action, was so playful as to at times resemble a Pixar film. Parts of the new ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA may remind viewers of yet another Disney subsidiary, Lucasfilm. QUANTUMANIA has the feel of a STAR WARS movie – not the more recent glum stuff, but the oh-how-cool-and-enjoyable-and-what’s-this? sensibility of the original trilogy. QUANTUMANIA even gets into fighting an evil empire, with battles that have unique elements, but still give off something of a STAR WARS vibe.

2018’s ANT-MAN AND THE WASP was about how Scott, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), who has her own supersuit as the Wasp, and Hope’s father and the suits’ inventor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) got together and rescued Hank’s wife/Hope’s mother Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the quantum realm, where she’d been trapped among the tardigrades for three decades.

The quantum realm is a place of subatomic tininess that is in effect its own universe, or rather one of many tiny multiverses. For earlier explanations of the multiverse, please check out SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (2021), DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS (2022), and the first season of Disney+’s LOKI (2021).

For viewers new to (at least most of) the whole shebang here, LOKI may be the primary material to watch before QUANTUMANIA. The series not only gets into the nitty-gritty of the multiverse concept, it also introduces QUANTUMANIA’s primary antagonist, Kang (Jonathan Majors).

Indeed, it may be a bit confusing to look at (or remember) the end of ANT-MAN AND THE WASP, since Janet – along with Hope and Hank – are encouraging Scott to explore the quantum realm to obtain something to help someone. (Then the blip came, leaving Scott stranded in the quantum realm; then the unblip came in 2019’s AVENGERS: ENDGAME. Those unfamiliar with the blip, please research elsewhere.)

In ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA, it turns out that Janet was not entirely candid about what happened during her thirty years in the quantum realm, and would rather nobody ever go back there. (Hence the “Say what?” about the end of ANT-MAN AND THE WASP.) But no sooner does Janet start to explain herself than she, Hope, Hank, Scott and Scott’s now-teen daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton, new to the role) all get sucked into the quantum realm.

Director Peyton Reed, who also helmed the previous ANT-MAN movies, and screenwriter Jeff Loveness bring a lot of sheer likability to the proceedings. Reed also makes great use of how CGI and motion capture can create various beings, and gives a kind of Maxfield Parrish does sci-fi look to the quantum wilds.

This being a Marvel movie, there’s also lots of action. The climax may cause many people to reflect that we probably don’t need to see every single permutation of two people slugging and stomping it out, but that’s the fashion nowadays.

The cast is perfect. Rudd has just the right amount of goofiness and self-engagement, along with an underlying kindness, as Scott. Pfeiffer makes it easy to believe that Janet makes a huge impression wherever she goes, Douglas has deft comedy chops, and Newton is wonderfully game as the family idealist. Lilly, with a less distinct role, provides good support. Katy M. O’Brian and William Jackson Harper also score as characters we meet for the first time.

Majors makes an enormous impression. He has a gravity, thoughtfulness and an unexpected gentleness that make Kang appropriately multidimensional in the multiverse.

Corey Stoll proves he’s a good sport in a surprising turn, and there are several fun cameos. Yes, there’s a mid-credits sequence that’s worth staying for, and a post-credits scene that’s even better.

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA doesn’t try to be profound or groundbreaking. It tries to be ingratiating, and it largely (apart from maybe a few too many punches and laser blasts) succeeds.

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