‘Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania’ Review
by Erik Amaya
Despite what you may have seen on Twitter this week, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is not some abomination of filmmaking or proof the Marvel Studios method is broken. It is, perhaps, an indication that Marvel may be overextended as the movie does one key job well at the expense of certain key things in an Ant-Man and the Wasp film.
(Mild Spoilers Follow)
Picking up sometime after Avengers: Endgame, Quantumania sees Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) enjoying a level of notoriety for his part in the defense of the Earth. And, indeed, he seems a little more grown up for the experience despite funneling his story into a memoir he endlessly promotes. But Scott’s threading the needle between hero and gloryhound isn’t really the film’s concern as he, daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), girlfriend Hope (Evangeline Lilly) and Hope’s parents, Hank (Michael Douglas) and Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), are quickly shrunk down into the Quantum Realm; the same microverse the team rescued Janet from in the previous Ant-Man film.
This time, though, Janet is in great haste to flee less “he” finds them. The masculine pronoun causing so much anxiety belongs to Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), a variant of He Who Remains (also Majors) from Loki with an absolute need to escape the Quanum Realm and establish a new dominion somewhere in the Multiverse.
For those who keep score with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the plot is full of signs and portents to the overall Multiverse Saga of the current three film and television phases, but it will leave more casual viewers baffled as Kang occasionally suggests he is making all of his plan to prevent himself from doing something worse. Then again, Majors’ Kang is one the most successful aspects of the movie. Steelier than the version seen on Loki, Kang is also quick to anger when challenged. It makes him one of the more potent foes Scott has faced so far as his penchant for flippant remarks and doofy charm does little to disarm Kang.
It’s a nice change of pace, as is a greater focus on Scott’s relationship with Cassie. As detailed in Endgame, he lost five years with her, growing up from the first two Ant-Man films’ Abby Ryder Fortson to Endgame‘s Emma Fuhrmann in seeming moments. Newton, replacing Fuhrmann, further ages the character up a couple of years and gives her a chance to share more equal footing with her father. She ends up in jail a lot, just like Scott, but the reasons for getting arrested are very different. Scott, for his part, still sees her as a little girl and though the film never delves too deeply into this idea, the actors bring a lot to his dawning acceptance of her as a young woman.
The idea is potent enough — as is the actors’ chemistry — that we wish it was more developed across Quantumania‘s two-hour run time. Unfortunately, much of the film is underdeveloped for the sake of promoting Kang as the current meta-arc’s main villain. Yes, the movie definitely succeeds in that aspect, but it happens at the expense of giving subplots like Scott’s new understanding of his daughter more time in the spotlight. See also a subplot concerning Hank and Janet coming to terms with their 30 years apart, a rebellion against Kang by some great Kirby-esque Quantum Realm denizens, and, well, the complete lack of anything for Hope to accomplish besides the occasional cool-looking assist.
Granted, Hope’s development as a character was resolved in Ant-Man and the Wasp, rendering her surprisingly tertiary here. Perhaps leaving her behind and covering for Scott and Cassie’s disappearance may have been a better use of Lilly’s time, but as the film series is now Ant-man and the Wasp, there was no way to leave her out of the adventure. Sadly, scriptwriter Jeff Loveness and director Peyton Reed never worked her into the proceedings in a way approaching organic.
Despite these issues, Quantumania is not a bad movie. It still has the Ant-Man humor, if tempered by the increased severity of stakes. It also features one of the strangest, boldest worlds seen in a Marvel movie so far. Reed captures a certain fearlessness from Jack Kirby in terms of the Quantum Realm’s liquid skies and odd creatures. That fearlessness may mean some things will not work for an individual viewer, but we think the often unexplained weirdness of it is a good thing.
One explained bit of weirdness is the film’s take on M.O.D.O.K. We won’t spoil it here, but we think it’s successful overall. Even some of the wonky visual effects used to plant and stretch the actor’s head onto the M.O.D.O.K. body makes sense since the character is supposed to look uncanny.
As we said up top, there are definitely things in the film that suggest Marvel is overextended and quality control may not be as tight as it once was (others might say it was never that great to begin with). Nevertheless, there is still a lot to like here. Rudd continues to be charming, Douglas’s cranky old man take on Hank Pym never fails to delight, Pfeiffer steals most of her featured scenes, and Majors’ introduction as the new principle antagonist across the universe is worth the price of admission alone. Like most recent Marvel films, it is emphatically not Endgame, but it is an entertaining “middle” effort.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is in theaters now.