Following the events of 'Avengers: Endgame', Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has become a best-selling author, reconnected with his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), and has a flourishing relationship with Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and her parents, Janet and Hank (Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Douglas). However, when Cassie opens up a connection to the quantum realm, all of them are shrunk down and sent there to face a new and dangerous threat - Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors)...
Like many in the Marvel pantheon, Ant-Man is a character that works best when he's paired with others rather than shouldering the story by himself. Paul Rudd is at his heart an improv player, relentlessly riffing off others and trying to pinch out the best in any given scene. You only need to look at the outtakes of 'Anchorman 2' - arguably the best part of that movie - to see what he can do with a free hand. That's why 'Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania' is disappointing for both fans of Paul Rudd's work and Marvel.
The movie is essentially a prelude to the next big bad of Marvel, Kang, played by Jonathan Majors. The pretext of exploring the quantum realm is wafer-thin when it looks more like AI-generated images of 'Star Wars' than anything else. Throw in a few side characters wearing capes and masks and you've got a bland episode of 'The Mandalorian'. Majors is the star of the movie, as you can see Rudd, Lilly, Douglas and Pfeiffer all seem pretty checked out of things and who can blame them when the script is this bare? All of the best scenes are given to Majors, and to be fair, he does some great work. Channelling James Earl Jones circa 'Conan the Barbarian', all haughty tones and blazing eyes, Majors brings a real screen presence in an otherwise rote and unremarkable movie.
It goes without saying that 'Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania' feels like the wrong movie to launch Kang with larger audiences. The weirdness of the character aside - he's actually multiple versions of the same person - the best part of Ant-Man generally was his light-hearted nature. 'Ant-Man and the Wasp', for all of its faults, understood this. It was a screwball comedy with a huge special effects budget. Evangeline Lilly and Paul Rudd were playing rom-com leads with super-suits. It's quite telling how at sea Marvel really is at the moment, given how 'Avengers: Endgame' felt like such a natural conclusion to the whole thing and how people are looking further out to 'X-Men' and 'Fantastic Four' than they are to characters like Kang, MODOK, and so on.
Rudd, in particular, feels like he's been neutered in this. Sure, he's given a few moments to make something funny - a Scott Lang variant that's an upbeat Baskin Robbins server, for example - but he's mostly just acting alongside CGI characters and staring off into the distance. Kathryn Newton is precocious and smart, sure, but there's barely enough of a character there to be interested in while Evangeline Lilly, Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Douglas are reduced down to the B-plot, Pfeiffer in particular as exposition and narrator. Bill Murray turns up for one scene and looks just totally out of place and not in a fun way. Corey Stoll does much better, as does David Dastmalchian voicing a gelatinous blob called Veb.
'Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania' isn't terrible. It's not actively awful in any kind of meaningful way, because it's not remarkable enough to be that. Instead, it's a filler episode in the TV-ification of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's fine if you miss it, because the next episode/movie will catch you up on it.