DUBAI: Fifteen years after the first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie hit the big screens, the studio is ready to kick off Phase 5 of its ever-sprawling world with “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” which takes its boy-next-door superhero and throws him into the deep end of the quantum realm for an adventure that’s more “Star Wars” and “Fifth Element” than “Avengers.”
The film opens with Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and his superhero partner Hope van Dyne/Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) enjoying their cozy little family unit with Hope’s parents — Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) — and Scott’s all-grown-up daughter Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton replacing Abby Ryder Forston).
When the five of them accidentally find themselves in the Quantum Realm, a subatomic dimension familiar only to Pfeiffer’s Janet, who — if you remember — was stuck down there for more than 30 years, the group are faced with a threat unlike any other in an environment that is as alien as they come.
Filmmaker Peyton Reed, who cut his teeth on sci-fi material while directing episodes of “Mandalorian” season two — returns for “Quantumania” with a practiced eye and deftly handles the film’s visually expansive and otherworldly nature.
Almost all of the movie takes place in the quantum realm, a world chock-full of dreamscapes and creatures of all shapes and sizes. And a new world means new characters: Katy O’Brian’s freedom fighter Jentorra, William Jackson Harper’s telepath Quaz and David Dastmalchian’s ooze-like alien Veb make for compelling new beings who populate this oft-dangerous world. Even Hollywood veteran Bill Murray makes his zany MCU debut with the film.
But stealing the spotlight (and completely earning it from scene one) is Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror, a role he originated in Marvel’s Disney+ series “Loki.” The big bad of the MCU’s Phase 5, Kang fills the hole left open by Josh Brolin’s Thanos with his intensity and top-notch range. This will, of course, come as no surprise to anyone who has watched him in his other works, especially HBO’s most excellent “Lovecraft Country.”
“Ant-Man” veterans Rudd and Lilly have less to do in a film that bears their character names in the titles. But, after so many films, little is expected of them than just showing up. Pfeiffer forms the heart of the story in many ways and shines every time the lens lands on her. And Newton’s debut as the older Cassie Lang is near flawless, lending much hope to the MCU’s future.
The movie, not unlike many other MCU films, falters in its third act with an ending that might feel nonsensical at its worst and underwhelming at its best. The absence of Michael Pena as the scene-stealing best friend Luis also doesn’t help the movie.
But if you’re truly interested in finding out what’s in store for Marvel’s multiversal future, this is a ride you don’t want to miss.