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"ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA"
(2023) (Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Superhero Action: Two superheroes and their families try to make their way out of a miniaturized realm while contending with a deadly villain who's also trying to escape from that world.
PLOT:

Having previously helped save the world alongside his fellow Avengers, Scott Lang (PAUL RUDD), a.k.a. Ant-Man, is now trying to lead a normal life, including publicizing his memoir. But that changes when a surveillance device created by his daughter, Cassie (KATHRYN NEWTON), ends up sucking them, along with fellow superhero Hope Van Dyne (EVANGELINE LILLY), a.k.a. The Wasp, and her parents, Janet (MICHELLE PFEIFFER) and Hank (MICHAEL DOUGLAS), into the miniaturized Quantum Realm.

With the group being separated and Scott and Cassie being captured by freedom fighters led by Jentorra (KATY O'BRIAN), Janet -- having previously spent three decades there before being rescued and therefore knowing the lay of the land -- gets Hank and Hope up to speed. That includes needing to be concerned about Kang the Conqueror (JONATHAN MAJORS) and his cybernetic right-hand enforcer, M.O.D.O.K. (COREY STOLL). Kang is known for having destroyed worlds and was previously banished to the Quantum Realm and now thinks that the Pym technology that allows Scott and Hope to grow big or shrink small could help him escape.

It's then up to the outsiders and the local freedom fighters to make sure that doesn't happen.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10

While the vast majority of Americans get their daily water through their local municipality, a significant number still get theirs through private wells. The danger of that, beyond potential contaminants in the groundwater that feeds such aqua sources, is the possibility that one day the well will, quite literally, run dry.

That's obviously not a good thing, and while not as troublesome as that particular predicament, non-literal wells likewise sometimes end up thirsty. That's often the result of going to whatever particular "well" in question too many times, and while no one's likely going to perish from such a depletion, it can leave people frustrated, especially if they assumed it would run forever and offer an endless supply of whatever's being pumped out.

Case in point would seem to be the Marvel Cinematic Universe that was kickstarted back in 2008 with Iron Man and has since tallied up thirty movies just on the film side, along with TV shows, digital series, books, and, of course, comic books. But with the release of the 31st film in the MCU and the third offering in the "Ant-Man" series, the creative well appears to have tapped out and is now bone dry.

Yes, and beyond the partially imaginative title, "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" is a dud pretty much any way one looks at the offering. While it features a terrific returning cast -- including lead Paul Rudd, along with Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer -- and introduces a near Thanos caliber villain in Kang the Conqueror (played by Jonathan Majors) who we assume will be fleshed out more in some later Marvel installment, it's an overstuffed offering of special effects and spectacle over a good script or engaging characters.

I found the first two "Ant-Man" movies to be quite entertaining -- in great part due to Rudd's general persona and portrayal of the character -- but the joy and exuberance of watching the figure and the story built around him is all but MIA and AWOL here.

As helmed by returning director Peyton Reed who works from a lackluster script by Jeff Loveness, it starts promisingly enough as Rudd's Scott Lang walks along, breaking the fourth wall in directly addressing the viewer and telling his tale which then segues to him reading those parts from his memoir at a book signing.

He then gets his teenage daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton, who needs her own film), out of jail and must then listen to her accuse and badger him about seemingly retiring from the good fight, all in front of his superhero cohort, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), a.k.a. The Wasp, and her recently reunited parents (Douglas and Pfeiffer). And while he's impressed that she's created a mini satellite of sorts that peers into the otherworldly Quantum Realm that featured prominently in the prior films, it then ends up sucking all of them into that very place.

From this point, the special effects and a menagerie of alien characters show up and overshadow the initial ones along with any sort of creative storytelling that might have been. Yes, there's an initially fun extended cameo, but the rest -- including Katy O'Brian portraying the otherwise one-note leader of rebellious freedom fighters -- are instantly forgettable.

I'll admit some past Marvel movies haven't been as brilliant or at least enjoyable to varying degrees from a sheer spectacle standpoint as the best of the bunch. But this one lowers that bar significantly, which I guess is apropos to coincide with the creative waters level dropping. I can't remember ever wanting to walk out during a press screening of any post-2008 Marvel movie, but I had the urge this time around and wouldn't have missed much had I followed that impulse.

Let's hope the creative groundwaters filled up that well for the upcoming -- and likewise third -- installment of the "Guardians of the Galaxy" series that will mark the second offering in Phase Five of the MCU. Alas, said well is bone dry for the first, leaving not much more than boring dust of what once was a reliable superhero movie factory. "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" rates as a very generous 4 out of 10.




Posted February 17, 2022


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