Dreamy Paul Rudd kicks off MCU's Phase 5 with big performance in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
When last we left the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was at the end of the shared grieving process that was Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. While that film contained at least one character from other Marvel properties and introduced a possible new recurring character, it was mostly a pause in the grand overall storyline of the MCU.
Now it’s back to regularly scheduled programming with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which – at long last – collides the movie and TV sides of the MCU as the beginning of its Phase 5. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is now a local folk hero in San Francisco, as his exploits with the Avengers as Ant-Man make him popular wherever he goes. His life is good with his girlfriend Hope/Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) and daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), along with mentor Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer).
All of that and more is thrown into peril when an experiment with quantum mechanics by Cassie winds up sucking all five of them into the quantum realm. There they discover a vast world full of innumerable strange flora and fauna, one where pretty much everybody is afraid of a man named Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). A confrontation between Kang and the main group is inevitable, as each hopes to find a way to make it back to the “real world” on Earth.
Directed once again by Peyton Reed and written by first-time feature screenwriter Jeff Loveness, the film accomplishes the feat of staying true to the goofiness of the previous Ant-Man films while still providing lots of great action and moving the overall story forward. The inventiveness of the characters – and the people/voices playing them – is constantly entertaining, whether or not you’re familiar with the comic book stories from which they originate.
Despite the story taking place almost entirely in a location necessitating an overwhelming amount of CGI, the imagery holds up throughout. Perhaps it’s because everything except the humans is computer-generated, but the graphics never “feel” fake, which makes all the difference in accepting the story at face value. Even better, the main showdowns feature the actual actors facing off instead of ones where the CGI does all the work.
Also helping matters is the (re)introduction of Kang, previously seen in the Disney+ series Loki. As played by Majors, he is menacing in all the best ways, charismatic enough to be appealing but mean enough to want to see his demise. And Majors doesn’t try to overplay his hand; instead of hamming it up, he uses subtle facial expressions and hand gestures to show that Kang doesn’t need to do much to exert his power.
Each of the main actors are once again a delight to watch. Rudd is the ideal everyman, even when doing superheroic things. Lilly is a great counterpart, complementing Rudd while showing her own strengths. Douglas and Pfeiffer are not just along for the ride, using their Oscar-nominated acting skills to class up the Marvel film. Newton, now the third version of Cassie, is a great addition to the cast and fits in very well.
The first of three MCU movies in 2023, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania bodes well for Marvel's plans for the future. There can be a lot of fatigue going through the seemingly never-ending superhero saga, but if they continue to be of this quality, fans will keep flocking back to movie theaters.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania opens in theaters on February 17.