Phase 5 in the MCU has officially begun and we have our small hero Ant-Man is here to usher it in. Ant-Man has long been one of the few franchises and characters to ground the MCU in some realism and keep things “Street Level”. The stakes never got too high, the villains and their threats never got too abstract or menacing. Once, a welcome reprieve from the space faring adventures and now the ever expanding quantum realm and multiverse. The MCU as a whole is going into some pretty insane places and needs heroes like Scott Lang to keep the balancing act between earth and literally everywhere else.
With the events of Endgame behind us, the inevitable journey into the quantum realm as bound to happen, but to bring this hero, and this series of films and setting it entirely in a place its never been before is a recipe for disappointment. Paul Rudd was an inspired choice for an “everyman” type, he had real life issues and worries, he worked at Baskin Robbins and just wanted to be with his daughter. He joined the Avengers and helped save the world, but he was clearly distinct. Setting this third film entirely in the quantum realm and ushering the new big bad in Kang really seems like a misfire and the stakes for the future of the MCU really feel low.
Peyton Reed is back helming, while Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, and Michelle Pfeiffer reprise their roles. But the biggest and best casting is bringing in Jonathan Majors as Kang. Majors is absolutely electric, commanding every second he is on screen, his presence will be felt for a long time and he will certainly leave his mark on the MCU. Other newcomers are Kathryn Newton as Cassie, William Jackson Harper, Katy M. O’Biran and David Dastmalchian in a different role, playing the voice of Veb.
When Cassie inadvertently sends a signal into the quantum realm, the signal is answered by something they could never have imagined. They are sucked into a portal within the first 10 minutes and spend the remaining 2 hours exploring and discovery this world beneath our world. Right from the start this already patently does not feel like an Ant-Man film. Yes the humor and quirky dialogue is there, but it doesn’t last long, and feels very out of place for this character who is now essentially in a Star Wars film.
The world building here is massive in scale, there are dozens of new races and characters all being introduced at breakneck speed. There is a lot here owed to Star Wars, including a scene at a bar that’s straight out of Mos Eisley. But despite the world building and creature designs, it all feels so wrong with Scott Lang running around. Ushering in Phase 5 of the MCU and showing that Kang is the new threat would make a lot more sense if the previous phase had set up any kind of overarching themes or arcs. We’ve had the briefest of glimpses on the overall impact of the multiverse and the quantum realm, but the stories told so far are so insular that once Quantumania ends, it falls flat, even though the excitement for more Jonathan Majors looms large. There is nothing in the MCU, as it currently stands, that feels like there is a clear direction moving forward. There is no team, the new characters and their films are still flying solo, not even teases to them being recruited or coming together. At this point, 6 films into phase 1, we had already seen the Avengers take on Loki and Thanos was revealed. There was clearly some singular and one-off films, but the team was still coming together in a tangible way and you had a very clear idea about where things were going.
No matter how you slice it, phase 4 and now 5 are so far, disconnected and meandering. A clear focus is needed to bring the audience back into its good graces. There are a few things that save this from what could have been a disaster, as previously stated, Jonathan Majors is an absolute stand out and soars above the rest of the cast. There is so much CGI in every single frame that it all kinds of blurs together, but there are a couple action sequences that are fun. Some of the new characters are downright hilarious and a few I’m hoping to see in the films to come, William Jackson Harper and O’Brian are great additions. The world building is fantastic, I want to spend a lot more time down here getting to know the different creatures and their habitats. There is certainly the potential for a lot of fun stories. The use of “The Volume”, ILM’s innovative replacement for green screen, employed throughout The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and Obi-Wan Kenobi. It uses a massive, curved LED screen to create photorealistic backdrops, its use here is very interesting for the future of film.
The bad here overshadows the positive elements unfortunately. The plot device that brings them to the quantum realm is so forced and silly, and even sillier when it comes into play late into the film. The much anticipated MODOK is not funny at all and absolutely bonkers in a bad way, the most distractingly terrible use of CGI in any MCU film, ever.
At the end of the film, when its all said and done, the stakes of this particular threat feel disappointingly low, after dealing with Thanos and expecting an “Avengers level threat”, this leaves some to be desired. Keeping the MCU as a whole separate from this, there is plenty to like and fans of Ant-Man will get to see him do way more than he has before, testing his strength and resolve.
3.5 out of 5