Green screen acting: Paul Rudd, Kathryn Newton and Evangeline Lilly, with an impressive digital background in ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’.
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA *** (124 minutes) M
Slipping straight into the middle tier of Marvel movies comes Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, a perfectly enjoyable, perfectly disposable post-content popcorn seller that proves how the ability to master inter-dimensional time travel provides no guarantee against a cameo from Bill Murray.
In what is essentially an animated film where the cast performed most of their roles in front of blank green screens (to be filled in later with the usual swirls of high-end visual effects), we spend most of our time throughout this light-hearted excursion in a place called the Quantum Realm.
Looking vaguely like a noir version of Avatar’s Pandora, the place is best described as a sub-atomic inner universe inhabited by all manner of organic life forms and civilizations all of which, despite living in such a bizarre alternate universe, still follow the laws of physics and the importance of good bar service.
It is here where our heroes Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton ) and Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), along with her dad Hank (a beautifully groomed Michael Douglas) and mum Janet (the timelessly pulchritudinous Michelle Pfeiffer) find themselves after a mishap in the lab sucked them, along with a colony of super-intelligent ants, into the netherworld.
It’s a major bummer for Janet, too, having already spent 30 years there, during which she made a lot of friends, including Krylar (Murray), the affable leader of an advanced society with whom she developed an uncomfortably close friendship. And when the man orders a drink he knows what he wants.
Though their excursion into the Quantum Realm is unplanned, the timing of their visit is remarkably fortuitous.
A super villain called Kang (Jonathan Majors) is up to all sorts of mischief with the multiverse. This includes plans for the destruction of worlds, the murder of trillions, the eradication of complete timelines and various other annoying pursuits.
Luckily, the combined abilities of our titular heroes, along with their relatives, are just the thing to stop Kang in his tracks, though the effort involves recruiting vast hordes of the realm’s inhabitants.
To the delight of lovers of classic sci-fi films, these include an army of giant ants that, for all their glittering, super-advanced design and vvid rendering, look remarkably like the giant stars of the 1954 film Them!. No way that’s a coincidence.
Oh, and Ant-Man is also preoccupied with finding Cassie, who is separated from him early on.
Presumably this is meant to invest the proceedings with some appreciable degree of father-daughter gravitas but, to be honest, it’s just another rudimentary element in a disposable, cartoony comic-book epic. It gives the narrative a decent spine, sure, but that’s chiefly to give the film’s impressive showcase of visual effects some context.
It also provides an emotional through-line normal people can follow amidst the scribble of plotlines and galactic story holes typical of post-content cinema, where story comes second – and often a distant second – to visual spectacle. That’s not necessarily a complaint, by the way.
Certainly, the film is a visual hoot, with some truly dazzling design work and several lovely VFX sequences, the best being a sequence in which Ant-Man is replicated thousands of times to form a human pyramid. Take that Agent Smith from Matrix Reloaded.
The green-screen acting is good, with Majors making a convincing Kang and Paul Rudd’s cheeky air in the opening real-world reel setting the tone nicely for what is a fun, inconsequential ride through the Quantum Realm.
Given the heaviness we got with Endgame and Infinity War – both terrific Marvel movies, to be sure – Quantumania is served up by director Peyton Reed with the same lightness of touch he gave the two previous Ant-Man films (2015 and 2018). It’s a good film to chew gum to.
But you wanna know what the really great thing is about Quantumania?
Not counting the lengthy end credits (with the screen-filling list of names of all the digital artists who toiled on the film) and the mandatory teaser clips about what is to come in the Ant-Man sub-franchise, the actual feature film itself runs a mere 112 minutes.
That’s pretty lean for a franchise that has been assailing us with epics that are still busy regaling us with explosions and incomprehensible story points at the two-hour mark.
And for this we must be grateful.