It’s a rule of superhero movies that they must culminate in an overlong action sequence, with bodies and weapons crashing around everywhere. Now imagine if that sequence were the whole movie, but with unsuspenseful, drab-looking action. There you have Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the latest and possibly lamest instalment in the usually reliable Marvel Cinematic Universe. The heart of Ant-Man (2015) and Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) was Paul Rudd as everyman Scott Lang, who puts on his special suit and shrinks into the minuscule Ant-Man – or as I like to think of him, The Littlest Avenger. This third film throws all that away. The character is no more than a prop in a plot that sets up the next big Marvel villain, and does it without a jolt of energy.
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Scott is now in a relationship with Hope van Dyne, his partner in world-saving as The Wasp. Evangeline Lilly once more makes Hope surprisingly bland. You’d think a woman who can shrink and fly would have a little more charisma. Scott and his daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton), have become part of Hope’s family, which includes her genius parents, Hank Pym, (Michael Douglas) and Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), who at the end of Ant-Man and The Wasp was rescued after 30 years in the Quantum Realm, the subatomic place where the rules of time and space don’t apply.
Cassie, who was eight in the last Ant-Man film five years ago (when she was played by Abby Ryder Fortson), is now 18, so she is obviously ageing in movie-sequel years, which like the Quantum Realm itself treats time as something optional. She is a budding scientist, inspired by the man she calls Grandpa Hank, but when an invention goes wrong, they all end up in the Quantum Realm for the duration of the film. It is a place that borrows from Star Wars with a splash of Dune. There is sandy, rocky terrain. There are sections that look underwater, and plants that resemble translucent mushrooms. There are blobby creatures without faces. But the palette is a murky brown and blue, and the effect is like watching an entire film shot in a dark tunnel. Marvel has created the vibrant, majestic worlds of Thor’s Asgard and Black Panther’s Wakanda. It’s hard to imagine what went so wrong here.
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