Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania
Scott Lang and his family accidentally fall into the Quantum Realm and find themselves confronted with a dangerous warlord in Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania.
The previous Ant-Man movies were a lot of fun. In particular, the first movie played with superhero tropes in inventive and hilarious ways. The second was more forgettable but very watchable. Quantumania has the difficult task of opening phase 5 and much of the marketing has been geared around being the first proper introduction of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s next big bad. This puts a lot of weight on the shoulders of a character previously relegated to fun romps and taking on a supporting role in team-up movies.
Quanumania opens with a summary of what Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has been up to since Avengers: Endgame. He wrote a best-selling book and trades on the celebrity that comes with the part he played in saving the world. His relationship with Hope (Evangeline Lilly) is going well and he’s idolised in his community to the point that he no longer has to pay for things. Complications still exist because of his daughter Cassie’s (Kathryn Newton) frequent brushes with the law due to her belief in helping those in need regardless of what the law states. These opening scenes are where the film feels most familiar as an Ant-Man film and are the film’s strongest. The character beats are sharp, natural and entertaining with Kathryn Newton blending in so neatly that you’d be forgiven for assuming she had been there since the first film.
The story begins properly when Scott and his family are pulled into the Quantum Realm during a demonstration of tech designed to study it created by Cassie. From there they have to find a way to escape while navigating the various dangers and weirdness that come with the territory. The Quantum Realm is greatly expanded from how it was depicted previously. It’s now a fully-fledged world with a civilisation living there containing different factions at odds with one another rather than an empty prison or a means of transportation. There are also strange creatures and technology completely alien to our characters. Inspiration has clearly been drawn from things like Journey to the Centre of the Earth with a strong Star Wars fixation. It’s a natural enough expansion and the continued development of the Quantum Realm as an idea has been one of the more interesting things the MCU has offered over its many projects.
As a world to explore, the Quantum Realm has near-infinite potential and one of the early disappointments is that it becomes frustratingly evident that this film has no real interest in doing that though it’s unclear what it does have interest in doing. Some of the two-hour running time is devoted to the characters reacting to the strangeness that surrounds them but things quickly move on because plot needs to happen. It comes across as ticking items off a checklist rather than an organic exploration of a fantastical world. This translates to brief moments of wonder where the characters encounter bizarre creatures among other things before they’re whisked onto the next development.
Many of the characters in this film exist as exposition delivery machines so the majority of the experience is them moving from place to place either explaining things to each other or having things explained to them. It destroys the pacing and the dialogue might as well be the characters reading from a wiki with how stilted it is. Suffering most from this problem is Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet Van Dyne. As someone who was trapped in the Quantum Realm for three decades, she is ideally placed to explain the ins and outs to the others but the problem is that she is unnecessarily secretive about what she experienced so she delivers her updates in stages. This amounts to most of her scenes being exposition dumps which gives her almost nothing to work with. Flashbacks punctuate some of the information delivery but the end result is the cinematic equivalent of a PowerPoint presentation in a meeting you don’t really want to attend.
The people populating the Quantum Realm are similarly poorly served. They’re a visually eclectic bunch but no attempt is made to explain why that is. Are they native to the Quantum Realm or is it a collection of displaced people who have fallen into it just as Scott and the others did? It doesn’t necessarily matter in the context of the story being told but the beauty of having a fantastical realm is having fun building that world. Quantumania doesn’t do that and never expands the Quantum Realm beyond being a place filled with strange-looking people, independently floating platforms and a trippy skyline. It’s a waste of such clear potential.
Putting Scott and the others into the Quantum Realm makes sense considering those characters have been uniquely tied to it in one way or another since the first film but it’s to the detriment of the selling point of the Ant-Man movies. The previous films established scale by offering easy points of comparison to help the viewer along. Things like being relative to a train set in a child’s bedroom or standing next to planes when giant. Size changing is a fun visual gimmick to play with and the previous films exploited this nicely. In the Quantum Realm, there’s no sense of scale to draw on so it doesn’t matter what size people are at any given moment. It is clear when people shrink or grow but the backdrop doesn’t support that being impressive in any way. There’s a moment where two characters are supposed to be large but that’s only clear because they tell us rather than their surroundings making that clear. In that case, it’s a fundamental failure of storytelling as the reliance is on telling over showing, something the film constantly does as stated above.
It doesn’t help that this is an immensely ugly film. It’s well known that there is a VFX crisis going on in Hollywood where artists are being worked to the bone to meet unrealistic deadlines on films like this. Some of the design work is remarkable but the general aesthetic is unappealing to look at and the actors are almost exclusively shot against obvious green screen. It would be impossible to create the Quantum Realm practically but when compared to CGI worlds like Pandora in James Cameron’s Avatar series this falls far short and rarely provides anything interesting to look at. Scenes are dimly lit, washed-out and there isn’t a single memorable action sequence to be found.
As the marketing states, this is the full introduction of the MCU’s next big bad, Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). A version of him actually made his debut at the end of Loki but this is his cinematic introduction so therefore the proper one. Credit should be given to Jonathan Majors as he significantly elevates the terrible material that surrounds him. He does more for Kang in the way he performs one of his early scenes than the reams of exposition that makes up the majority of his contribution. His performance in that one scene says so much about how he thinks and feels about the role he has in the universe and it seems like the springboard to a fascinating character. Unfortunately, all of that is quickly lost and Kang becomes indistinguishable from any single appearance forgettable MCU villain that preceded him. Jonathan Majors is an excellent actor utterly wasted and it’s immensely frustrating to watch play out.
Jonathan Majors isn’t the only actor utterly wasted here. Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas only seem to be present out of contractual obligation and have nothing of substance to do. Nobody involved comes off especially well but they could be cut entirely with minor impact. Michaell Pfeiffer is similar but becomes essential because of all the exposition she has to deliver which definitely isn’t a good thing.
Some things do work. Paul Rudd is an engaging lead as always and exhibits real range throughout. He’s natural when delivering both comedy and drama with neither feeling out of place from a performance point of view though the script can’t seem to decide whether comedy or drama is its prevailing tone and it definitely doesn’t support Rudd’s ability. Scott seems adrift as a character despite an actual arc around him casting off his arrogance and belief in the hype that comes with his celebrity to rediscover his heroic side being established very early on. It gets buried under everything else thrown into the blender so Scott is largely relegated to being someone that things happen to. There are half-baked attempts at emotional resonance but Quantumania never follows through on them so they are left unresolved.
Kathryn Newton’s Cassie also intermittently works. She is one of the rare examples of activists in fiction that aren’t painfully obnoxious and her beliefs do connect with the oppression present in the Quantum Realm but, as with everything, there is a failure to follow through on what is set up. Cassie has clear potential and was being established along certain lines but the film never delivers. It’s possible that there was a script that was once about something cut to shreds by studio interference leaving us with this mess.
All told, there’s very little to recommend about Ant Man and The Wasp: Quantumania. Any suggestion that it’s a “must-see” entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is erroneous. It doesn’t set up the next big bad nor does anything happen that will flow meaningfully into any future projects. Viewers can skip this failure and miss absolutely nothing.
A very poor entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a sloppy script and ugly visuals that definitely doesn’t qualify as a “must-see” cinematic event. After a promising start, the film very quickly falls off a cliff when the characters are pulled into the Quantum Realm. As a world to explore, the Quantum Realm has near-infinite potential but the film has no real interest in doing so. Many of the characters exist as exposition delivery machines. Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet suffers most from this but none of the characters are particularly well served. Scott and Cassie come off best but their suggested arcs are lost in the mess. Jonathan Majors as Kang significantly elevates some very poor material and shines most in an early scene where his performance alone says so much about how he thinks and feels about the role he has in the universe. Unfortunately, all of that is quickly lost and Kang becomes indistinguishable from any single appearance forgettable MCU villain that preceded him. All told, there’s very little to recommend about Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania. Any suggestion that it’s a “must-see” entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is erroneous. It doesn’t set up the next big bad nor does anything happen that will flow meaningfully into any future projects. Viewers can skip this failure and miss absolutely nothing.
- Paul Rudd being an engaging lead
- Kathryn Newton’s Cassie intermittently working in the context of the film
- a strong opening
- Jonathan Majors delivering a strong performance, particularly in one scene
- pacing destroyed by constant exposition
- suggested character arcs being totally dropped
- poor exploration of the Quantum Realm
- basic storytelling failures
- dimly lit and washed-out visuals
- not a single memorable action sequence
- Kang being indistinguishable from any single appearance forgettable MCU villain that preceded him
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