Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania
Let me just say that I do NOT understand what is going on with the reviews of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Currently (the evening of 2023.02.17), Rotten Tomatoes has this movie sitting at a Tomatometer of 48%. That feels like an incredibly low percentage for a movie that I really enjoyed. That isn't to say there aren't issues to be had with this movie, but I found it to be lots of fun. I do know that I'm pretty good at allowing myself to enjoy movies without engaging in too much criticism. I just enjoy the rollercoaster for what it is and don't sweat the details too much in the moment. I also know these characters and often the comic storylines that are being referenced which obviously can change how a film is approached.
There will be some minor spoilers below...
There's a brief bit of backstory and then things switch over to show how Scott and family are doing in the current MCU timeline. We still have Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), daughter Cassie Lang (Kahtyrn Newton), Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) all together. There's a fun family dynamic where they all kind of pick on Scott, but it does feel like it is done out of love. However, there is real constructive criticism that Scott is playing it safe and is no longer trying to do anything more than live his life. This leads through some short conversation to a project Cassie has been undertaking to map the Quantum realm via a signal. This leads to some conflict and a portal that pulls them all down to the Quantum realm.
The Quantum realm is where all of the action and 99.9% of the rest of the movie occurs. The Quantum realm is weird & otherworldly and while I've seen complaints about the CG quality, this is where the movie becomes beautiful to behold. There are stark mixes of dark and light with brightly lit elements everywhere. The environments are often alive in some way and I really enjoyed the experience. There is a whole host of characters present here, but they are mostly present for comic relief or to give tale to the central story that the Quantum realm contains a menace known as the Conquerer. As a quick aside, WHY is there humanoid life in the Quantum realm that didn't come from somewhere else? The movie never explains and I think that's for the best. Getting back to the menace, anyone who has been paying attention to the marketing for this movie knows that everything is leading up to the introduction of a new villian, Kang the Conqueurer (Jonathan Majors). Just to state the obvious (in my opinion), Jonathan Majors chews up every scene he's in. He is either completely manacing or calmly trying to gain acquiescence (before destroying those who fail to yield). I loved his portrayal of the character that is not completely comic canon accurate, but tweaked to fit into the current MCU story. He WAS the highlight of the film for me.
There is the introduction of another classic comic character in this movie and it seems rather divisive. M.O.D.O.K. (i.e. Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing) joins in the chaos fairly early on. I don't want to spend much time on the MCU backstory as if you haven't been spoiled it probably is kind of a fun reveal. However, it is one of the worst kept secrets around so you probably aren't coming in fresh. The CG for this character is uneven and better in some scenes than others. I actually enjoyed the armored version in practice while I was sure I wouldn't in advance. Just to get it out of the way, M.O.D.O.K. is ridiculous, but the comic M.O.D.O.K. was also ridiculous. This was fan service, through and through, and while I'm not sure it was successful, I enjoyed how they adapted the character and that M.O.D.O.K. himself was really kind of uncertain of his own motivations. He simply acted out of emotion without much thought and provided some comic relief. He could have been MUCH more menacing, but that would've taken away from Kang, so maybe ultimately the right choice and possibly a one and done character here. I can't say I was the first to think of this, but I think this line from Ant-Man sums up my feelings on M.O.D.O.K.
From here, there are various machinations all focused on Kang getting back to conquering all of time & space. He has power through his tech and his intellect, but needs his power core (i.e. MacGuffin) to truly become who he was/wants to be again. Obviously, things ultimately go his way and he is about to leave the Quantum realm when the heroes intervene. There is heavy use of the Giant-Man abilities of Ant-Man within these scenes, but almost none of the drawbacks highlighted in previous MCU films (save the resulting hunger and love of citrus). This is a huge plot hole, but one I choose to fill as Scott/Hank have come up with new enhancements allowing for him to better use the ability. It is never explained and I feel it would've been better had that been fixed. I also choose to ignore that growth on that scale would cause numerous issues that are better left to suspension of disbelief in favor of enjoying the movie. There is near constant action and flipping from character to character and leads to a bit of a herky-jerky feel to these scenes to get everything in.
As the heroes seem to "win", we get drawn in to the final battle with Kang. It is an MCU film after all and there is an obvious formula at play. This battle seems somewhat anticlimatic as Ant-Man (with a bit of help) is able to defeat Kang (again, this is the MCU that rarely subverts its own formula)? This doesn't feel quite right for a character that is supposed to be the new big bad of the MCU, but we are reminded multiple times that Kang is a multitude of variants. So, it will be curious to see which Kang shows up next.
There are 2 stingers, a mid-credit and a post-credit, and atypically they both focus on the same character (I bet you can guess who). The mid-credit is a vague hint of what is coming, but the post-credit scene is a more solidly grounded setup for upcoming MCU faire.
All in all, I really enjoyed this movie for the visuals and portrayals. It is uneven. It is still a bit too by the numbers MCU film and I wish they would step out of that comfort zone. Howver, as part of the Multiverse Saga, I would put this movie in the middle of the outings so far. It's hard to rate without a rewatch and we don't yet know how Kang will playout. This movie may improve as the start of something amazing if the big bad works out as Marvel hopes he will.