Is Ant-Man the problem, or is he simply a symptom of a larger issue? It would seem that of every Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) hero who has received multiple mainline movies, Ant-Man’s films are the least revered and remembered. That is certainly the case for “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” which has received one of the largest amounts of backlash of any film in the history of the MCU itself. What is wrong with Ant-Man’s newest film, however, is not the fault of the character or of the crew, but how it is representative of the disposable, empty spectacle archetype that Disney has been pushing Marvel films toward since “Avengers: Endgame.”

“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’’ simply cannot justify its existence as a story or as an independent film throughout its runtime, instead opting to serve as more of a filler in a pitiful attempt to turn Kang the Conqueror into a Thanos-level threat — without all of the years of build and suspense that set Thanos apart. This is due to the film’s largest issue — its lack of imagination and creativity. The “quantum realm,” despite the intrigue that has been building since its first MCU mentions, serves nothing more as set dressing for what really feels like “Loki 1.5.” Regardless of the built-in mystery of Janet’s past and the diverse background characters, the writers barely try to develop the world around the cast or answer any non-surface-level questions that fans may have. It does not help that the majority of these characters look more like “Guardians of the Galaxy” rejects than actual “Quantum” people.

Beyond the paper-thin world, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” also fails to adequately complete or even develop the Ant-Man trilogy, barely investing in the story of the characters in the title of the film. There was certainly a lot that could’ve been built on, as the movie teases Janet’s disconnect from her family and the growing divide between Scott and Cassie due to the latter’s age jump during the blip period. Yet the film never goes beyond having everyone fall in line with Janet instantaneously despite lingering doubts, or reverting Cassie into a bit of a brat who never bears any consequence for her actions. Meanwhile, Scott is reduced to a watered-down Deadpool, which also undermines several dramatic moments in the film. Additionally, Hope and Hank are relegated to afterthoughts unless they are convenient to the plot, despite being essential to the stories of the first two films.

Even if we were to strip all of these other flaws back and take it for the Kang the Conqueror lore builder that it clearly only serves to be, it is impossible to say that this film adequately builds Kang’s threat level. Rather than treating him as the villain that he is narratively positioned as, this iteration of Kang never feels like anything more than a regular villain. After feeling unstoppable for like 20 or so minutes, Kang is nerfed back to Ant-Man’s level just so the film can end on a stereotypical victory — even if it tries to pretend in its final moments that it didn’t do that.

While the cast is charming and many of the sequences certainly aren’t bad, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” never feels like it is trying to do anything other than fill the quarterly Marvel movie quota. If you just like a mindless and pointless waste of time, then you can enjoy this film. It is a good film for anyone not invested in the franchise or anyone who doesn’t know much of the overarching story outline. For MCU fans looking for something more, that experience can not be found here. Let’s just hope the new Guardians movie is more of a Black Panther than a Thor or Ant-Man.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars