Director Peyton Reed
Screenplay Jeff Loveness
Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lily, Jonathan Majors, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Kathryn Newton, David Dastmalchian, William Jackson Harper, Bill Murray, Katy O’Brian, Corey Stoll

The third entry in the Ant-Man series begins with it’s greatest strength: Paul Rudd’s navigating disrespect to find happiness in the moment. He is living his bliss with Hope (Lily), who is now running her parent’s company. We discover that his daughter, Cassie (now played by Kathryn Newton) is the ever annoying activist, going in and out of jail. While visiting Hope’s parents (Douglas and Pfeiffer) we find Cassie has been working on a secret project, contacting the Quantum Realm. Something there gets the message, then pulls them all into its special effects hell.

Of course the group is split up. Hope and her parents go one direction, Scott and Cassie go in another. The ant farm Hank keeps goes to somewhere else entirely. The effort to get back together brings Pfeiffer’s Janet into contact with several entities that she contacted in her 30 years while she had been marooned there. One of those entities, Kang (Majors) is especially keen on reuniting with her, or anyone else in the family that has a Pym particle.

The addition of Majors adds much of the danger to a film series that heretofore had been light on the characteristic. What menace it did have in the first film has been muted by now. With Majors we get another variation of the Kang character from Loki, season one, and he never stops providing depth and menace. They could not have picked a better actor on which to build Phase 5.

Unfortunately, they surround his antagonist with a collision of endless special effects that render any demonstration of powers to be not worth watching. Compare any battle in this film with the airport scene from Captain America Civil War and you’ll know what this means.

It’s not like the series has a choice. We know they had to delve back into the Quantum Realm they hinted at for two films. Reed and Loveness do the best they can to inject some personality into the myriad oddball characters the heroes come across. The problem lies in the fact that almost everything we see is blue screen. There is no depth to anything, including every character outside of Majors, Rudd, Douglas and Pfeiffer.

This means The Wasp is relegated to a few rescues here and there. It is a bummer for my daughter, who loves Lily’s character, and her new hairdo. It also belies the title of the film for a second time. Ant-Man gets to be big, The Wasp is small as usual.

Complicating matters further, the cramming of Newton as Cassie into the already crowded field of do-gooders. The original Cassie (Abby Ryder-Fortson, 12 at time of filming) and the Endgame version (Emma Fuhrmann, 19 at the time) somehow didn’t work as an 18 year old. Newton (28 now) has been good in several films, including Freaky and Paranormal Activity 4. Here she feels like a ringer and never quite breaks the mold of pesky teen who needs redemption. When Rudd calls her Peanut, the viewer’s eyes begin searching for someone else.

The last act is a mixed bag. There’s a revolution that feels a lot like Rise Of Skywalker, but it is somewhat redeemed with the return of some characters most would take for granted. Building Kang up to have him foiled so easily seems like a copout, but when we see the mid and end-credit scenes, it goes a ways towards interesting once more.

Ant-Man is fun, but it’s definitely the lesser of the series by a longshot. If they’d learned to integrate the character of Hope like they promised in the first film instead of side-stepping for the Scrappy Doo of Cassie, then they might have overcome some of the incessant punching, shooting of lasers and ever changing dimensions. They’re concentrating on the future Avengers at the expense of the present.

(*** out of *****)

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