What is the current state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Since Avengers: Endgame the multi-film franchise has been struggling to capture the same magic that led up to the biggest film in the MCU. The latest Marvel film, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the first film in Phase 5, suggesting another epic story arc told across multiple films. Despite a great casting choice in Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conquerer, Quantumania is a messy, overstuffed film that loses much of the charm of the Ant-Man films.
Ant-Man has always felt like a lighter, more humor-centric entry into the MCU. A good deal of that rests on the charm of Paul Rudd as Scott Lang. Quantumania finds Scott living a comfortable post-Endgame life, having written a book and become a well-liked public figure. His daughter Cassie (Katherine Newton) thinks her dad is resting on his laurels and needs to get back to helping people. Evangeline Lilly returns as The Wasp as does Michael Douglas as Hank Pym. Michelle Pfeiffer plays Hank's wide Janet who was sucked into the Quantum Realm and has a complicated past with Kang the Conqueror.
Quantumania has the burden of kicking off a bigger story. The Ant-Man films have felt more heist-centric and warmly funny than this one does. That ambition or burden means that the film has forgotten the charm and tone of those previous films. It deliberately shirks the small-stakes charm of Ant-Man. As a result, the film feels tonally unclear and sloppy. Rudd is forced too often here to be serious and dour.
The visual style of Quantumania is impressively weird and psychedelic. The creature and world designs are often eye-popping and trippy. This also means that the film looks like it was shot entirely in front of a green screen. The over-reliance on CGI everything here gives the film an animated feel. It can feel jarring at times when a real actor appears on screen. The sheer amount of CGI needed to bring the Quantum realm to life means that the film has a removed quality about it. It is hard to care about the fate of this world when it appears so fake.
While some of the visuals pop, the script often does not. Much of the humor here falls flat. Even an appearance by Bill Murray does little to help inject any jokes into the film. There is plenty of talent on screen but the screenplay fails to use much of it. Majors stands out so much because his line-reading is so unique and said with so much conviction it makes every other performance here feel bland. Newcomer Newton fails to find chemistry with Rudd and their father/daughter dynamic isn't particularly moving.
While I almost want to recommend the film purely for Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror, I cannot. We will see more of him in future films and likely in Loki Season 2. He is creating a fascinating villain. However, even his stellar performance can eclipse how clunky and uninteresting Quantumania is.