“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is more trailer than film

Reading Time: 2 minutes “Quantumania” neglects its own story in favor of one more broad and external. That’s a problem.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In the wake of Marvel’s groundbreaking success with its “Infinity Saga,” which culminated with “Avengers: Endgame,” the studio has been feverishly seeking to establish an overarching villain with gravitas akin to Josh Brolin’s Thanos. While “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” does well in introducing such a villain, the film suffers due to the MCU’s rigid fixation with interconnectedness. The movie is a subpar cinematic product at best; is mediocre cinema the price we pay for eventual payoff?

Director Peyton Reed helms the ship, as Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and their companions delve into the Quantum Realm, a subatomic universe where Kang (Jonathan Majors) has conquered the local population and seeks to escape his quantum prison.

“Quantumania” is at its best when Majors is front and center, which is great for Marvel, considering Kang’s coronation as the studio’s figurehead moving forward. Unfortunately, the film is paced poorly, and Kang’s true introduction comes so late in the movie that his subsequent characterization feels rushed. “Quantumania” lacks the cohesion that a movie introducing Kang deserves. The first act is meandering, and the third is overwhelming, and while each story thread technically connects in the conclusion, the plot is mired by its variety.

What’s most frustrating about the film are the flashes of brilliance throughout. The world, almost entirely CGI, is captivating and visually striking. Majors as Kang is imposingly brutal yet charismatic too; the ending and post-credit stingers leave the audience wanting answers and expansions. But that’s just it: Marvel’s more recent additions to its cinematic universe serve to advertise future additions. Self-contained stories are increasingly neglected.

Interconnectedness isn’t inherently negative. On the contrary, many of Marvel’s earliest fans became enthralled because of the connective tissue between films and comics. Yet earlier installations, such as “Iron Man” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” managed to tell compelling stories that felt satisfying, while still sending ripples through the broader cinematic universe. “Quantumania’s” story feels incomplete, like a measly appetizer to a rumbling stomach.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe can be good. It has been excellent in the past. What’s necessary for excellent media in the future is a shift in the studio’s trajectory, or at least an altered focus — movies are for stories, not just breadcrumbs.