Ant-Man: Quantumania Is Setting Up Guardians of the Galaxy 3 to Fail

You can only push the limits of an odd-ball hero like Scott Lang so far.

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It’s hard to believe today, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe began its life as the underdog. Just a few months after Iron Man kicked off the MCU, The Dark Knight dominated the box office and redefined the entire superhero genre. And while DC was playing with its most recognizable toys, Marvel was forced to rely on its B-team after selling away the rights to Spider-Man and the X-Men years earlier to avoid bankruptcy.

Even after The Avengers became a mega-hit and changed Hollywood forever, that same attitude persisted at Marvel Studios. Movies like Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy used that same formula to take odd-ball characters no one had ever heard of and turn them into billion-dollar franchises. But as Marvel fans are now learning, you can only push the limits of an odd-ball hero like Scott Lang so far.

Ant-Man gets serious (and kind of boring) in Quantumania.


In Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the comedic light-hearted tone of the first two movies is mostly ditched for lots of heavy dialogue and world-building. The comedic (and exciting) action scenes choreographed to make the most of Scott’s shrinking abilities are replaced with a blur of Star Wars prequels-era CGI. Worse, the snappy dialogue and humor that worked so well in the Ant-Man franchise are replaced with lots of hand-wringing about family and sacrifice. The funniest parts of the movie (like MODOK) still work, but they also feel weirdly out of place.

Part of the problem here applies to Marvel more generally: the studio pumps out movies and shows so quickly right now that even the best writers and VFX artists can’t keep up. But Quantumania also suffers from a more unique problem. As these odd-ball MCU franchises achieve trilogy status, there’s an obvious temptation to reach beyond comedy and tell darker, more dramatic stories. The only problem is, that clearly doesn’t work. This brings us to the Guardians of the Galaxy.

The MCU franchise helmed by writer/director James Gunn is in a very similar position. Guardians of the Galaxy introduced the world to a bunch of heroes we’d never heard of before, and we promptly fell in love with their goofball antics. The sequel, while not quite as entertaining as their debut, still mostly works as a cosmic sci-fi action-comedy. But by all accounts, the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is hoping to tell a more serious story as it puts a capstone on the franchise.

Will Guardians 3 succeed where Ant-Man 3 failed? It’s certainly possible, and if anyone can walk the line between comedy and drama while also delivering a compelling superhero action movie, it’s probably James Gunn, who’s currently building an entire new cinematic universe for DC even while he shepherds this movie to the finish line.

But if Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is any indication, then Guardians fans may be in for a rude awakening. Maybe the lesson here is that not every Marvel character deserves an entire trilogy — no matter how much the first or second movie might make at the box office.

Quantumania is now in theaters. Guardians of the Galaxy 3 releases on May 5, 2023.

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