There’s something about actor Paul Rudd that is impossible not to love. For 30 years he’s been in a wide variety of films and TV shows, he’s had a solid and quiet family life, is a philanthropist and advocate for several important causes and I don’t think he’s ever had a bit of bad publicity.
If ever there was a saving grace, a breath of fresh air and a beacon of hope for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its onslaught of superhero fare that’s all beginning to feel like the same tired thing, it’s Rudd.
His casting as Ant-Man in the 2015 film of the same name was so perfect, and yet no one really talks about it compared to Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans as Iron Man and Captain America, respectively. And yet, his unassuming and all-around likable demeanor both on and off the big screen fit what was supposed to be a smaller, more-personal family film, and it did.
That is, until this month when Ant-Man and his extended family returned in “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” the official start of Phase 5 of the MCU and further dive into the multiverse saga and look at upcoming big bad for the entire franchise, Kang.
There is plenty to like and plenty to dislike about this latest installment, but the slump Marvel has been going through since “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019 is still hanging around with only a couple of bright spots amid a sea of mediocrity. While this is definitely more on the positive side, it’s hard to say if it’ll be enough to pull the series up to where it used to be.
Your average, everyday guy Scott Lang (played by Rudd) is living his best life as superhero Ant-Man, the most loved man in San Francisco. After the battle with Thanos and the Blip, Scott is doing his best to balance life as a celebrity and being a husband to Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), Ant-Man’s crime-fighting partner the Wasp, and his daughter, Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton).
But when a family gets together with Hope’s parents Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man and the Wasp, goes awry, the entire family finds themselves transformed down to subatomic size and transported into the Quantum Realm.
Split into two parties, Scott and Cassie in one area and Hope, Janet and Hank in another, the heroes interact with strange new creatures who are all suffering under the oppressive regime of a being from the normal universe — Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors).
Disney and Marvel have their agendas to follow and bullet points to make, but as fun and enjoyable as Rudd and Ant-Man are, throwing them into a type of movie better fitted for Thor or the Guardians of the Galaxy just feels off. This version of Ant-Man is a thief who did small-time hits around San Francisco, and anytime he worked with the Avengers he was the fish out of water and the audience’s proxy as a regular guy who stumbled into superhero work.
As for the Quantum Realm itself, this would have been an impressive and exciting new location for superhero movies had it come out 10 years ago. But after several similar worlds and environments, both in Marvel films and the likes of Star Wars, among other lesser movies, nothing about the majority of this story’s setting is noteworthy or even pleasant to look at. There’s lots of random and wacky stuff, but it’s hard to see and not anything we haven’t seen before.
Thankfully, what keeps this adventure afloat is its cast — both its heroes and villains. The entire Ant-Man family is great to have, but none of them truly get the depth or character development a third installment should have. Still, you can’t beat Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer doing what they’ve done their entire careers.
Despite being a mixed bag and not the kind of Ant-Man adventure most fans wanted or expected, you could do a lot worse than a trip into the Quantum Realm. At times it is nothing but advertising for future installments, but there are glimpses of what this series is best at — a family that’s had its troubles but still comes together to beat the bad guy.