The nigh-unstoppable juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues with their 31st movie, which of course doesn’t count the various Disney tv shows and specials. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” both gives us the return of several heroes, the arguable debut of another one, and the theatrical debut of a major new villain: Kang the Conqueror. As usual, this review will be spoiler-free.
The movie also neatly sidesteps what’s been called the “shared universe” problem. If our hero or heroes are facing a serious threat to the world (or more), and they’ve worked with other heroes before, why don’t they call for help? It’s a problem in comics, the DCAU, the Arrowverse, and the MCU. Events here spin out so quickly, and are so isolated, that there’s no chance for the almost never-made request for backup/reinforcements.
The movie opens with Scott enjoying a kind of celebrity, based on a novel that was hinted at back in the Ms. Marvel series. It’s apparently selling well, as he’s doing book signings and being recognized on the street. It’s all going well for him, Hope, Cassie, Hank and Janet… until. Because of course there’s an until.
Cassie gets in some trouble, and Scott has to bail her out. This leads to a family meeting over pizza ala Pym, and Scott finding out a lot of people have been keeping secrets. One of those secrets brings everyone to the lab in the basement (that sounds creepier than it is) and things kick into high gear. Another project that wasn’t being shared comes back to bite everyone. Secrets going wrong seem to be a common theme, at least for the first part of the movie.
Suffice to say everyone ends up back in the Quantumverse, and little is what it seems. They are definitely experiencing some things that neither Hank nor Scott saw in their previous trips there. It’s not exactly a spoiler to say that Kang plays a part in what’s to come. Kang, or a version of him, played a part in Loki’s season one on Disney+. Jonathan Majors did a great job portraying him, both then and in this movie. Other interesting things turning up include MODOK, and Bill Murray making his MCU debut.
There are debatably five main characters, and everyone gets a chance to shine. There are a lot of surprises, but they all work, at least in my opinion. And, because it’s the MCU, it’s part of a larger world (no pun intended) and we get nods to Endgame, Civil War, the first Ant-Man movie, and names dropped include Spider-Man, Captain America and Thor. Some of the rumors I’ve heard about this movie were true, some not. I will say it sets up for major problems coming for Phase 5 of the MCU. There are, of course, two end scenes, and they’re worth staying for.
What I Liked: Like the other Ant-Man movies, this has a sense of humor, but it’s not over the top. Hank, Janet, Scott, Hope, and Cassie all got good screen time and cool moments. They did a good job with MODOK, and even made his really odd appearance kind of make sense. Jonathan Majors was fantastic as Kang. There were some great callbacks to other movies, in both large and subtle moments. I liked that the story worked, and solved the shared universe problem. The end scenes were great. Jimmy Woo even gets a cameo.
What I Didn’t: Janet seemed to slide back and forth between bad-ass fighter and damsel in distress, sometimes in the same scene. Scott’s heist crew doesn’t show up at all, and I missed them.
I enjoyed the movie, and don’t really understand the negative reviews and word of mouth it has gotten. I’m giving it a 4 out of 5, and I’d put it solidly toward the top of the middle rank of the MCU. If that sounds like faint praise, remember how truly outstanding some of those movies have been.
Kang, we’re told, will return. The next MCU projects coming up are Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 (the final Guardians movie, and the end of the road for at least some characters), and Secret Invasion over on Disney+.
Young Avengers Checklist:
For those keeping track about this admittedly lesser-known group of Marvel heroes, here’s where we stand:
Stature (in costume but not called that)
Kate Bishop (in costume, and the Hawkeye name hinted at)
America Chavez (costume, powers, and by name)
Kid Loki (at least in passing)
Patriot (civilian identity, but with what seems like the right backstory)
Speed (civilian name, approximation of costume and powers)
Wiccan (civilian name, approximation of costume and powers)
Marvel hasn’t officially commented on if they’re going to do a version of the group, but this seems like an awful lot of them to have shown up in one form or another just by coincidence.