Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

The kind of movie that Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is can be summed up by its unwieldy title: epic yet kooky, family-centric yet overstuffed, as if Robert Rodriguez had been given $200 million to make one of his Spy Kids sequels. It is by no means a detestable film. But it very much feels like a "programmer": just another effects-laden entry in the ever-inflating, ever-deflating Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Part of the fun of the previous Ant-Man movies was getting to take a break from the save-the-world sweep of the larger Avengers saga and watch the likable Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) fight throwaway villains in San Francisco, with a heist subplot involving his buddies, especially the hilarious chatterbox Michael Peña. But here in what I'll just call Ant-Man 3 there is no Michael Peña, there are no buddies, and we barely even spend any time on this earth. You see, Scott Lang's genius (of course) teenage daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) has just opened up a communication portal with the Quantum Realm, a subatomic universe where Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), the lover of Scott's mentor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and mother of Scott's girlfriend Hope (Evangeline Lilly), had been trapped for some thirty years. But before you can say "Honey, I shrunk the kids", something goes wrong and our makeshift family gets sucked in to the Quantum Realm, where they are soon separated.

The Quantum Realm is basically an alien planet, except that the wide variety of creatures and monsters are informed in their design by microscopic things like paramecia and such. Oh, and for some reason there are also humanoids down here – including, briefly, Bill Murray. The Realm is ruled over by Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), an exile from another planet who came here in some convoluted manner that I've already forgotten. Yet thanks to his vast power, he managed to create an evil empire and subjugate the entire population of the Realm – and now he wants to get out into "our" world. So of course our heroes must stop him while trying to figure out how to get back themselves.

Here, in a nutshell, is what's wrong with Ant-Man 3: the whole thing is so saturated with CG scenery, characters, and effects that it's like watching a claustrophobic video game. And it tries too hard to be family-friendly, forgetting what made the previous Ant-Man movies – and indeed, all the better MCU installments – work.

Finally, I think Marvel and its head honcho Kevin Feige are backing the wrong horse with their new "Multiverse" storyline, which they're unrolling across their movies and television series. Honestly, I'm already tired of the Multiverse. It was enough of a problem that the superheroes in this franchise have become nigh invincible, with indefatigable strength, power, armor, and weaponry. Remember how suspenseful it used to be when a movie's good guy ran out of bullets? Well, these good guys never run out of bullets. And now with the Multiverse, in which infinite versions of everything and everybody exist, we're never going to run out of anything – anyone who dies can come back from the dead, any actor who's left a franchise can return, and so forth. It's so much that it's boring. And if Feige et al are setting up Kang the Conqueror to be the Big Bad across the various Marvel films and TV shows, I for one may not stick around to the end. The character isn't that interesting and Jonathan Majors doesn't do much with him.