“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” follows a new and improved Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) who’s on top of the world and ready to dad. He’s riding his post-Thanos-defeat fame, in a great relationship with Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), and trying to spend as much time as with his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton). As it turns out, Cassie’s been working on a little Quantum Realm-mapping project along with Hope and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), one that sends a signal that then releases a black hole-like portal into the Quantum realm. The family gets separated, with Hank, Hope, and Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) having to uncover secrets from Janet’s past in the Quantum Realm, while Scott and Cassie encounter a group of rebels who face an existential threat from a time-exiled tyrant, Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). Kang found himself stranded in the Quantum Realm, first via the sabotage of his ship’s power source by his enemies and later by Janet van Dyne after her discovery of Kang’s past murderous misdeeds. The Ant-crew needs to reunite and find a way to exit the Quantum Realm without letting Kang escape his vast, tiny subatomic prison.
Paul Rudd is as charming as ever as Scott Lang, now occupied with few thoughts of heroics beyond catching up on missed years of fatherhood and riding the wave of his post-Thanos fame. He lands the earnestness of the fish-out-of-water hero, here at least nominally outmatched by a massive threat. Michael Douglas’s Pym is a rather laid-back source of humor that works (he just loves ants, y’all), while Pfeiffer ably showcases Janet’s trauma and complexity (though her extreme lack of communication gets a bit tired as a plot device). Janet van Dyne is wonderfully performed, but too much of her story is merely avoiding truths and interesting choices. Kathryn Newton may be the third performer to portray Scott Lang’s daughter Cassie, but she retains the joys and openness of her predecessors with a strong, if poorly planned, moral compass. It’s a little difficult to see what role she’ll play in a future team, given how here she’s bumbling beyond her scientific skill, but it’s a fun take on the character and her dynamic with Rudd’s Scott Lang really works.
The big show, of course, is the introduction of another variant of Jonathan Majors’ conqueror Kang, our first true introduction to the Big Bad of the MCU’s Multiverse Saga who truly does feel distinct from He Who Remains of “Loki” finale fame. Here, Kang has a measured gravitas that’s intelligent and menacing in equal measure, at best when he’s is losing control. Still, Kang is underdeveloped in catastrophic ways. Majors is great, but his character is introduced late and we get little insight into his motivations beyond reminders that Kangs seek to conquer the Multiverse because that’s what Kangs do. We don’t know or understand his character. Moreover, we’re told he can create timelines and rewrite existence, and that he boasts technology hundreds of years beyond anything we’ve seen, but mainly we see Kang have beams and light telekinesis, and boast armies with ships and blasters … all things we’ve seen, and he barely uses them in his brief shared runtime.