Director: Peyton Reed Screenwriter: Jeff Loveness Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Kathryn Newton, David Dastmalchian, William Jackson Harper, Katy O'Brian, Bill Murray Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Running Time: 124 min. MPAA: PG-13

As the third Ant-Man movie, Quantumaniana feels the most fantastical and the least like Ant-Man’s zippy capers. Gone are the slick sensibilities of a quirky thief-turned-hero, replaced with a lost-world fantasy where the multiverse is on the line. This results in a conflicting film that struggles to maintain the sense of family in the Ant-Man movies amid setting the foundation for the next big Avengers movies.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is posed with a carry-on attitude. After enduring the events of Avenger: Endgame and missing five years of his daughter’s growth, Scott lavishes on his fame while trying to maintain the relationships with his teenage daughter Cassie, his lover/partner Hope (Evangeline Lilly), his mentor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and Hank’s wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) recently rescued from the quantum realm. Given that the quantum realm remains mysterious after two movies, this third one spends 90% of its running time in this fantastical world.

To the film’s credit, this is a realm of sublime visuals and wild character designs. Too much, as it turns out. So much of the first act is spent marveling at the oddness of it all that by the time the characters learn that buildings are living creatures in this realm, it feels expected. The entire Lang and Pym family ends up in this land of flying monsters, dangerous armies, and strange creatures. Naturally, they use this adventure to better grow as a unit and find more honesty amid a revolutionary war among this realm’s inhabitants. They also unearth dark secrets about Janet’s past, the dangerous powers within the realm, and the volatility of the multiverse.

But does this sound like an Ant-Man movie? Because it doesn’t play like one. Whereas past movies carried a sense of brilliant humor and cunning cleverness to their growing/shrinking hero, this film seems to drown in its lore. This is due in no small part to the involvement of Kang (Jonathan Majors) as the lead villain, previously seen in the Loki TV series. Kang is set up for the next Avengers big baddie, considering the next Avengers movie is called The Kang Dynasty. Kang is a compelling villain for his grander ambitions, scornful expressions, and short-fused tolerance for anybody who gets in his way.

Although Kang has some history with Janet and the quantum realm to make him more cohesive to the Ant-Man side of the MCU, there still needs to be some comic relief. This comes in the form of MODOK, a giant head monster designed only for killing and is bound by revenge against Scott. The film dusts off a previous actor to surprise for this role, and he has a decent amount of comedy to him. After all, look at MODOK with his tiny appendages. Ant-Man and company have gotta laugh at this guy, especially since so much of the film is stooped in world-ending conflict and revolutions against unjust hierarchy.

There is simply too much going on in this film. Everything from Hank’s experimental ants to the quirk quantum folks played by a slew of actors with solid comedic timing mount up too quickly. There’s hardly any time in this rip-roaring adventure to explore Hank’s forgiveness of Janet’s past or Scott’s uneasiness with his daughter growing up. We barely get any of the quantum realm weirdness present in the previous films, reduced to Scott having trippy visions of clones while infiltrating a multiverse device. This makes for a film with too much exposition for its good, only minorly punctuating that boredom with many look-at-these-cool-creatures moments.

The good news is that there’s a solid payoff to all this. The many arcs slam together brilliantly in the obligatory big war against Kang, complete with a large and angry Ant-Man smashing up buildings. Somewhere around the time Scott starts swatting at hordes of spaceships while leading a revolutionary force against a citadel, I sat back kinda impressed that the finale managed to pull off some sci-fi satisfaction and present a different kind of Ant-Man. It doesn’t all work, but the few times it comes together to make the movie worth it.

Quantumania is the black sheep of the Ant-Man movies for being so wildly different in its story and tone, for better or worse. As far as the ranking of all the Ant-Man movies goes, this one is at the bottom. Even so, it still has its charms and at least explores more of the Lang/Pym dynamic, albeit in rushed and resolved arcs. As far as making an introduction for the next batch of Avengers movies, it does its job well, with Majors giving a brilliant performance. And, yet, the film tries to put the foreboding to bed, as the main character has to remind himself what type of film he occupies. And it’s the one that can have comical cameos by Gregg Turkington and Ruben Rabasa.

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