I’ve made it no secret that, in the past, I’ve been a fan of the MCU for years. That said, the most recent era of it has been a mixed bag. I’ve enjoyed works like WandaVision, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Ms Marvel, but you can tell that scheduling issues caused by COVID and issues of keeping the series going on after the seemingly perfect finale of Avengers: Endgame. This is a clear case of a film that was meant to be earlier in the MCU, but the delays caused by COVID meant it is now the start of Phase 5, and it really does not suit being in this place, and is one of the weakest films in the MCU so far.
After the events of Endgame, the film follows Scott Lang, who has become a celebrity after his involvement in the fight against Thanos became public, although it has resulted in a bit of tension with his daughter Cassie. It soon becomes apparent that Cassie has helped Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne to create a way to contact and map the Quantum Realm. However, when the device is turned on, it results in the characters, including Janet Van Dyne, being dragged into the Quantum Realm. It soon becomes clear that the Quantum Realm is more evolved than previously thought, with a full civilization down there, and that Janet has a history there, mainly involving Kang the Conqueror, who was exiled there, with him becoming a clear threat to the future of the MCU. The big issue that the film has is that it is trying to do too much. It tries to evoke themes related to the ongoing issues people are facing with homelessness following the Blip (previously explored in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier), the need to keep up with fighting to help people against tyranny, even when you are not directly involved in the fight at first and the lingering guilt felt after leaving a fight, along with how freedom fighters can be corrupted. It also doesn’t help that it is also establishing Kang the Conqueror as the main villain for the future of the MCU. By trying to do all these elements in 2 hours, none of them get the time they need to develop. The part I do think works is putting Ant Man in this situation, as it shows the need to keep up the fight and how being a celebrity has reduced the desire of Scott to battle for people, with the events of the film showing him still needing to help people. It also shows the threat of Kang, with Scott being out of his depth, which helps demonstrate that everyone in the MCU is threatened by Kang.
The performances are pretty solid throughout. Paul Rudd remains a charismatic presence as Scott Lang, and it is clear that there was an arc planned over Scott feeling guilty over missing so much of Cassie’s life, with Rudd doing a good job at showing the love Scott has for Cassie, and he does a good job at showing the arc of Scott in becoming more willing to help people in the fight against Kang. Evangeline Lilly is okay as Hope Van Dyne, she doesn’t have much of an arc here and, whilst she is an engaging presence, she just felt underutilised. Whilst I would have liked Emma Fuhrmann to have been kept as Cassie, Kathryn Newton is still a charismatic presence, having great chemistry with Rudd and her desire to help people and be willing to fight for freedom is palpable throughout. Michael Douglas remains a compelling presence as Hank Pym, although he doesn’t really get much to do until the end of the film. I felt that David Dastmalchian, William Jackson Harper and Bill Murray were pretty wasted here, even though they were entertaining presences. Katy O’Brian and Corey Stoll are fun here, with Stoll doing some fun work as MODOK, although his development feels rushed. The MVPs though are Jonathan Majors and Michelle Pfeiffer. Majors makes for an intimidating villain as Kang. He plays the character here so differently to the way he played He Who Remains in Loki, having a more antagonistic presence here, and it’ll be interesting to see how Majors is present in the rest of the MCU. Michelle Pfeiffer meanwhile does a great job at showing the guilt felt by Janet over leaving the Quantum Realm and her previous actions with Kang, the interactions between Pfeiffer and Majors being the highlights of the film.
The technical elements of the film are a bit of a mixed bag. There is some decent CG at some points in the film, and I like that the MCU is going in weirder directions with the design of characters, but having so much of the film be CG does expose some of the gaps and there are some areas where the CG is weaker. There is some decent cinematography, helped by how good a DP Bill Pope is, but there are a few points where the CG is pretty obvious. Going back to designs, I personally enjoyed the design of MODOK. Given the design of the character in the comics there is no way the character would not come across as silly, with the way the character is implemented here going back to the first Ant Man. The action scenes are decent enough, but nothing really special, with there not being the same level of inventiveness with size changing as in the first two films. There are some interesting visuals taking advantage of the Quantum Realm, with a scene with multiple possible Scott Lang’s being a highlight, but these are few and far between.
Overall, this is easily one of the weakest films in the MCU. Whilst it’s not a complete disaster, by trying to do too much, and moving away from the low key roots of the Ant Man series, it does end up being clear that this was meant to be in the middle of Phase 4, not the start of Phase 5. There are some inventive visuals and there are strong performances from Jonathan Majors and Michelle Pfeiffer, but it is a disappointment on the whole.
My Rating: 2.5/5