Peyton Reed’s new film “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” — MCU film number 31 — takes place largely in a microscopic fantasy world called the Quantum Realm, and it may as well take place inside “Star Wars” or Middle-Earth for all its sense of weight, reality, and relatability. Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), and their family (Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Kathryn Newton) are sucked into the Quantum Realm where they meet bizarre, paramecium-like fantasy creatures, speak with several weird humanoids, and have to face off against a teeny tiny tyrant named Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). Oh yes, and M.O.D.O.K. is there.
While it might be fun to occasionally flee the real world and explore a bizarre dimension of fantasy creatures, it seems that’s all the MCU knows how to do now. Ant-Man and the Wasp are in their element here, able to use their shrinking/growing powers to fight evil interdimensional monsters. The days of the characters driving around in vans, chasing petty crime lords are clearly at an end. Exploring the streets of San Francisco is no longer of interest to this series. It’s all green screen effects, CGI killers, and gooey spacecraft. Indeed, Ant-Man is scolded early in the film for his desire to stay home, to protect his teen daughter, and to not go galavanting about with quantum hooey. This film series berates the characters who long for normalcy.
Of course, “Quantumania” was hardly the turning point. Indeed, the first “Avengers” team-up film in 2012 had already sort of broken the seal. That film featured an invading alien force attacking New York and the Avengers doing the job that would have been ordinarily handled by helicopters and harrier jets.