The Marvel Cinematic Universe has evolved dramatically from being a fascinating franchise movement/experiment since Ant-Man's arrival in 2015 to a gigantic array of seemingly never-ending content.
The mini-franchise, which started as a series of palate cleansers that produced a unique and fun mix of heist pictures, comedy, and action, has now become a part of the Marvel project as a whole: creating mythos and arcs to get to the next stage and keep things moving.
This has proved to be the main weakness in many installments, sacrificing interesting concepts, dynamic writing, and daring visuals for the bigger picture at hand, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is no exception. Although it may be the strangest, most interesting, and perhaps most enjoyable film of the three, it still has a lot of the same problems that plague most Marvel blockbusters: an inability to produce solid standalone entertainment that truly shines.
Post-Endgame, we meet Scott Lang, who is content with selling his new book and taking care of his family rather than actively protecting San Francisco. His daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) is now a kid following in her father's rebellious footsteps.
Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) disappeared for over 30 years after going subatomic herself, and Scott and Janet are the only two who are concerned about this phenomenon. It's reasonable to assume that they've become more involved in the Quantum Realm.
Janet freaks out, and then the device malfunctions, sending everyone into the other dimension. They'll have to sort through Janet's past, make new friends and allies, and confront Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors, fantastic) – Marvel's latest major blow for Phase Five and beyond.
As our heroes return to the outside world, there's a lot of weird, wonderful stuff happening. Janet, Hank (Michael Douglas, a great guy by all accounts), and Hope (Evangeline Lilly) are also forced to talk through the last three decades as they try to find Scott and Cassie to return home. Along the way, they'll encounter sights that look like objects from a faraway galaxy.
Quantumania uses the Quantum Realm as an outlet for Kang, as well as establishing the next property in the line.
Focusing on Scott and Cassie's relationship over Scott and Hope's (three films and several forced flirty scenes later and the chemistry between Rudd and Lilly is still unknown), and by letting us in on Janet's story as a means of understanding her better as a character
Yet, even in the weirdest, finest moments of this, like when Scott must battle a "probability storm" to get to a multiversal engine core and then generates endless possibilities, there is still the lingering reminder that this is all a service of a larger story, and the film's uniqueness and creativity are continually harmed.
Every time a dramatic turn takes place, a strange set piece finishes, or a character has interesting motives or develops, it's squandered. By the end, we're forced to remember this is the first stepstone in Phase Five, then Six, then the conclusion of the Multiverse Saga, and so on and so forth.
Quantumania is a strange, enjoyable addition to the Ant-Man franchise, and it might be the finest of the three so far. However, it's frustrating to watch something so different and outrageous that it only serves as a distraction for what's next in the pipeline.