Despite good villain, “Ant-Man” underwhelming

Photo courtesy of Alberto Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

GREATER AKRON — “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” probably won’t be your favorite Ant-Man movie, let alone your favorite Marvel movie.
That’s not to say it’s an impossible slog to get through. It has a good villain in Kang (Jonathan Majors), and Paul Rudd, who plays Scott Lang a.k.a. Ant-Man, is always a winning presence. But the movie’s reliance on computer-generated characters and the standard-issue Marvel epic battle don’t do the cast any favors.
The character of Kang is making his big-screen debut and we learn some of his backstory. He was stranded in the Quantum Realm with Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), something that was not mentioned in either of the two previous “Ant-Man” movies. Janet also never spoke of Kang to her closest friends and family.
“She didn’t tell you about me?” Kang says to Ant-Man. “I guess it’s not a surprise.”
Far be it from me to contradict a wicked superbeing who can bend time to his whims and wipe planetary systems out of existence, but, yeah, it is a bit of a surprise. This guy is Thanos, with a bigger toolbox of evil, and you’d expect him to come up in conversation once or twice.
Janet does offer an explanation for this oversight, but I didn’t buy it. As for the movie, moviegoers bought tickets in droves over its first weekend — it’s a hit.
The movie is a box-office success despite it being light on the elements that made the first two “Ant-Man” films so enjoyable. Rudd’s Lang is best as an ordinary guy getting by on gumption and street smarts (and a shrinking suit). Here, he needs to be in full Liam Neeson give-me-back-my-daughter mode.
As we catch up with Lang at the beginning of the movie, he is coasting on fame, enjoying the fruits of being a world-saving Avenger. Meanwhile, Hope Van Dyne, a.k.a. The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), and Scott’s daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) are more committed to helping the downtrodden.
Cassie, a brilliant young scientist (you can barely have a Marvel movie without one) gets herself, her dad and Hope sucked into the Quantum Realm. Also involuntarily entering the Realm are Janet and Janet’s husband, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Pfeiffer brings the wealth of her talents to the role and Douglas seems to relish uttering the few lines he was given that do not contain the word “ant.”
The Realm has undergone changes since the last time we saw it. It now includes a “Star Wars”-like bar (maybe the Tatooine bar franchised itself out) and creatures ranging from cute to faceless warrior. Among the former is a transparent thumb-shaped creature obsessed with holes.
The thumb creature is the best of the many computer-generated imagery (CGI) creatures and images in the movie. (There’s also a grotesque human-CGI hybrid called MODOK, and the decision to include this Marvel character might fall under “seemed like a good idea at the time.”) The more these characters fill the screen, the less the cast gets to shine. In a “Thor” or “Guardians” movie, you might get away with it, but it’s best when Rudd and company play off humans, not pixels.
Kang is an imposing baddie who we’ll see more of in future Marvel projects. But maybe an “Ant-Man” movie wasn’t the best choice for his plans-for-universal-domination reveal party.


The film, currently in theaters, is rated PG-13 for violence/action and language.

Two Stars (out of four)