What to Watch Verdict
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is better at marketing the future of the MCU than executing an Ant-Man sequel.
Kathryn Newton as the newest Ant Family hero
Jonathan Majors as Kang
Scott's relationship with his daughter
M.O.D.O.K is a disaster
Wobbly tone between humor and seriousness
Overabundance of computer animation
Peyton Reed kickstarts Marvel's Phase 5 with an overly CG'ed sputter in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. A movie that takes place almost exclusively in the Quantum Realm means an immense reliance on digital "Cosmic Marvel" backgrounds, characters and landscapes. Where Guardians of the Galaxy or Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness excelled under these circumstances, Quantumania blurs together in a clash of post-production illustrations that scream, "we filmed this all on green screens!"
Fun MCU elements do exist between a father-daughter superhero bond and zany Quantum beings. Still, Reed generally does better marketing Marvel's future than delivering a thrilling, standalone adventure.
Quantumania is a family affair. Cassie (Kathryn Newton), Scott Lang's (Paul Rudd) daughter, builds a subatomic gadget that can transmit signals to the Quantum Realm, with encouragement from Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). But when something goes wrong, they're all sucked into the Multiverse's basement. Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) thought she'd escaped, but now she's back in her decades-long prison. The problem is she didn't tell her family everything about the Quantum Realm — including the ruthless destroyer she accidentally helped empower then betrayed, Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors).
Quantumania accomplishes the objective of hyping our excitement for future MCU properties. Kathryn Newton makes a splash as the yet-unnamed superhero version of Cassie Lang, who's at her best when proving her abilities to an overprotective yet proud Scott. Jonathan Majors is the resoundingly correct choice for Kang, laying dramatic imposition thick while displaying range that will come in handy down the road.
Reed and co-writer Jeff Loveness are tasked with using Ant-Man to introduce another Young Avenger along with the MCU's next multi-phase supervillain, which they do, but at a detriment to being a solo Ant-Man film. Especially crammed alongside Scott, Hank, Hope, Janet, an entire local Quantum rebellion, and — you guessed it — ants.
There needs to be a stronger balance between the humor that follows Ant-Man and Quantumania's tenser narrative implications. Quintessential Ant-Man moments are hit-and-miss, like Scott's sitcom-y inner monologue scored to the Welcome Back, Kotter theme song ("Welcome Back" by John Sebastian), or the abysmally failed experiment that is Corey Stoll's M.O.D.O.K (Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing). Bless Stoll's commitment, but M.O.D.O.K's unmasked appearance is unquestionably the worst Marvel eyesore to date, torpedoing any scene where he appears.
Reed struggles to channel his inner James Gunn when embracing the Quantum Realm's "weirdness," outside an ooze man who loves talking about "holes" or Hank discussing ants in his kooky grandpa voice. What should shine a light on levity frequently lands flat between Kang's doomsday threats.
Also frustrating is how, as an Ant Family movie, the core collective appears incomplete. Hope Van Dyne doesn't feel characterized enough beyond fulfilling a mother archetype for Cassie. Hank provides comedic relief and life-saving escapes, while Janet's withheld information always comes out when it's too late.
William Jackson Harper as the over-it telepath Quaz or Katy M. O'Brian as resistance leader Jentorra make more of an impression, but Quantumania falls victim to the MCU problem of stuffing too many characters into a single feature. Scott's ho-hum relationship with Hope pales compared to Scott's sweeter fatherly growth with Cassie, yet we're stuck splitting time because of the film's scope.
Visual effects workloads for Quantumania are astounding but can also produce numbing results. Interstellar cosmos swirls, amorphous amoeba shapes and furious weather patterns combine to distinguish this Quantum Realm that always seems to be tearing apart yet seeps together like randomized sci-fi gruel. Colonies of settlers resembling geodes, broccoli or pink blobs attempt this melting-pot Star Wars population without the authenticity of Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy or The Mandalorian's civilizations. A cinematographer like Bill Pope is lost on the nondescript copy-and-paste tactics of Quantumania as Kang's soldiers fight rebel alliances photocopied across the screen. No matter how comic-book correct, there's a quantity over quality effect to the abundance of VFX.
As an origin for new heroes and mighty villains, Quantumania establishes what the MCU requires. That said, there needs to be more connectivity as an Ant-Man sequel. Quantumania can't pass on Cosmic Marvel tapestries alone, especially when stretches of advanced green screen technology remind us actors are asked to perform against blank spaces and pixelated co-stars for long periods. Everything reads as James Gunn Lite, beholden to multi-film plot creation that supersedes a Quantum Realm uprising in the now. While brimming with imagination thanks to environmental Quantum designs, Quantumania doesn't escape feeling like a layover between major franchise destinations.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania releases exclusively in movie theaters February 17.
Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for What To Watch, IGN, Paste, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria and countless other publications. He is a member of Critics Choice and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.