FILM REVIEW: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
Marvel has been in something of a nosedive with their most recent set of films. Hits like No Way Home, Multiverse of Madness and Shang-Chi aside, MCU Phase Four was plagued by mundane storytelling (Moon Knight), lame jokes (Love and Thunder), woke messaging (She-Hulk), and well-intentioned but unsatisfying send-offs (Wakanda Forever). But Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is kicking off Phase Five of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which could mean a fresh start for this stage of the franchise.
With life seemingly back to normal following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Scott Lang and his makeshift family have been tampering with the mysterious Quantum Realm, sending signals down in an effort to learn more about this place. Just before Janet van Dyne, who was trapped there for thirty years, can warn them of the dangers of this experiment, a signal is sent back and the Ant-Family are transported to the Quantum Realm, where they come up against new lifeforms, strange civilisations, and the dreaded Kang the Conqueror.
Paul Rudd is effortlessly charming and funny as Scott Lang, once again playing very much the layman of the MCU and making the most of his newfound fame, which makes for some good humour. With his daughter Cassie along for the adventure this time, now played by Kathryn Newton, who has always been Scott’s main motivation, it is more transparent than ever what he is fighting to protect in this outing, even if the most intriguing conflict advertised in the trailer - that of Scott maybe being given the opportunity to get back the five years he missed with Cassie - is nowhere to be seen in the movie.
Quantumania wastes no time in getting its characters to the Quantum Realm, which turns out to be a CGI canvas with either too much imagination or none at all. Consisting of colourful backgrounds resembling computer screensavers and Quantum-citizens that are either strange CGI blobs or actors dressed in standard post-apocalyptic garb, this world is by no means unique but is blandly entertaining. Much more terrestrial than the barren dimension existing outside of space and time that Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym described in previous films, the special effects are never completely convincing, often feeling like these actors are performing in front of a green screen, which might explain Douglas’ apparent boredom.
In that, the third Ant-Man film loses an enjoyable element from its predecessors. Known for their humorous tone and appropriately small scale, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania ups the stakes exponentially, despite going quantum. Gone are characters like Michael Peña’s comic relief Luis, the domestic setting of Lang’s ex-wife and her police officer husband, and the San Francisco setting, and in exchange for any semblance of levity Quantumania settles for simply throwing CGI splodges at the screen and seeing what sticks. The silly, irreverent MCU humour is divertingly entertaining, mostly thanks to Rudd’s comic timing, especially a scene involving multiple Scott Langs, but its heightened stakes loses the smaller scope that made Ant-Man so enjoyably different within the Marvel machine.
Upping the stakes as mentioned, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania features the new big bad of the MCU, Kang the Conqueror, played by Jonathan Majors, the reason to see this film if there is one. While he’s no Thanos yet, he is a brutal, unrelenting villain, untarnished by the quips that affect the rest of the MCU, who is not to be trifled with. His multiversal backstory is somewhat confused and has been since his introduction in the series finale of Loki, but there is absolutely a version of it that could be really cool if Marvel clarify and streamline it in future outings.
So Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania doesn’t quite bring Marvel out of its current funk, delivering the same CGI mayhem audiences expect from this franchise and even discarding enjoyable elements from previous Ant-Man films. But perhaps low expectations worked in this film’s favour, its CGI madness and disposably fun action making this a more fun time at the cinema than, say, Love and Thunder or Wakanda Forever. It’s another Marvel film that won’t leave a lasting impact, but Majors’ sinister villain shows promise for what Phase Five has in store, as long as expectations are kept modest.