Kevin Feige has some major problems.
The longtime head behind Marvel Studios and overseer of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has often felt untouchable, almost invincible in a way due to his cultivation and crafting of a seemingly endless stream of comic book franchises.
But at this point, comic book fatigue combined with too much concern for spectacle and laziness in storytelling have left a once great collection of films with no real direction for the future.
Marvel enters Phase V of its MCU with director Peyton Reed’s third installment in the Ant-Man series with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which seeks to showcase the next intergalactic threat to humanity by shrinking its heroes down to subatomic levels to wage war against a nefarious, mysterious villain.
Quantumania for almost all its two-hour running time just feels like actors walking around in silly costumes in front of green screens, which really accentuates the ridiculous lengths the MCU must now go to try and craft a new story as it seems they’ve mined all their best material 30-plus films and several spinoff television shows later.
Films in the MCU have long since not felt like self-contained stories, rather just another random episodic piece of a larger puzzle that audiences leave the theater scratching their heads at.
From the outset, it’s clear that Quantumania is a small cog in a gigantic money-making machine and that the stakes of the film simply both matters too much and not at all in the grand scheme.
Perhaps this is due to the studio’s heavy hand on the wheel or Reed’s lack of directorial vision to craft something meaningful, but Quantumania is incredibly bland even in terms of the comic book science fiction mashup that it strives to be.
Gone almost completely after the first 15 minutes is the wry humor that set the original Ant-Man film apart and made a comedic director like Reed a solid choice at the helm. There’s just no heart to any character motivations and the film lacks the cinematic flair that the first two installments had.
Ant-Man films, in a general sense, were created to be heist movies and Quantumania is not that at all. It’s a glob of rushed, ill-considered, computer graphic mess thrown onto a screen in order to hold viewers over until the next round of CGI mess.
Paul Rudd returns as Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, and is largely stripped of the ability to use his earnest comedic charms aside from select moments at the beginning and conclusion of Quantumania and most of the heroes around him – especially Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne and Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym – are underwritten story filler.
Even Michelle Pfeiffer, whose Janet Van Dyne is the centerpiece of the narrative arc of the film, isn’t able to make what happens in the Quantum Realm exciting or even entertaining.
The film’s saving grace and lone bright spot comes from Jonathan Majors, who has emerged as one of Hollywood’s most compelling young actors and takes what could easily be a silly, mustache-twirling villain character and transforms his Kang the Conqueror into a principled arbiter put at odds with the film’s heroes.
Majors continues his strong work in the MCU, carrying over from the Loki miniseries on Disney+ that establishes him as the next primary antagonist for the larger Avengers franchise and is quite probably the only compelling reason for cinephiles to be excited about the MCU’s prospects moving forwards.
Undoubtedly the weakest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2013’s Thor: The Dark World – another miss of a sequel meant only to serve as a table setter for things to come – Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania doesn’t need to be seen on the big screen and could easily be skimmed over during an at home viewing on Disney+ for hardcore Marvel fans wanting to prep for the next Avengers film.