Movie Review – Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania

Principal Cast : Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lily, Jonathan Majors, Kathryn Newton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Katy O’Brian, William Jackson Harper, Bill Murray, Corey Stoll.
Synopsis: Scott Lang and Hope Van Dyne are dragged into the Quantum Realm, along with Hope’s parents and Scott’s daughter Cassie. Together they must find a way to escape, but what secrets is Hope’s mother hiding? And who is the mysterious Kang?


It’s a special kind of film where Michael Douglas gets to spend the majority of his screen time with his arms inside a spaceship’s cloaca. Payton Reed’s third time in the director’s chair for his Ant-Man series within the MCU is a largely thunderous mess, and relies almost exclusively on green-screen studio filmmaking, but Quantumania, in which we’re introduced fully to the next franchise Big Bad in Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror, is still a lot of fun if you don’t look too deeply. Relationships and carefully built character arcs go out the window in this Jeff Loveness-scribed threequel event film, showcasing the work of countless visual affects artists and an abundance of design work that makes your mind truly boggle, only without the soul of either Scott Lang’s previous two solo outings nor his fringe dwelling roles in the larger MCU. Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania is a raucous, enthusiastic superhero epic shouldered by a smouldering Majors, a quippy Paul Rudd, a wasted Evangeline Lily, and a frankly silly MacGuffin that threatens to undo all of Peyton Reed’s visually stunning – yet thematically empty – feature film.

Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, former thief turned Avenger Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is basking in his popularity with the general public. Unbeknownst to him, girlfriend Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lily), her father Hank (Michael Douglas) and Scott’s rebellious daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton, replacing former actresses Abby Ryder Fortson and Emma Fuhrmann in the role) have been tinkering with a way to map the Quantum Realm, something both Scott and a worried Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) are terrified of; during a routine display of the device to map the Quantum Realm, they are all suddenly pulled into the infinite void by a mysterious force, whereupon they encounter an entire new universe of life living within, ruled by the cruel Kang (Majors), a humanoid with designs on shattering not only all life in the Realm, but everyone in the Multiverse.

Built upon something filmmakers love to deliver called “spectacle”, Quantumania is by and large one of the more expansive and visually creative films in the MCU’s long history of giving us strange new worlds. The Quantum Realm, hitherto only really glimpsed in previous films as an incredibly dangerous place to be trapped in, is expanded exponentially in this film, as our lead cast all become trapped there and forced to involve themselves with all manner of alien and bizarre creatures. This is the kind of film in which imagination has run amok, where no design of fantastical species is too wild, and everything is thrown at the screen; it’s a George Lucas mental orgasm writ large, and delivered with largely jaw-dropping visual effects despite Marvel’s renowned cheapness behind the computer screen. It feels like a “no expense spared” blowout kind of film, the sort of thing most franchises would have to conclude a trilogy or series and yet Quantumania feels almost offhanded with just how large in scope it turns out to be. The various inhabitants of the Quantum Realm, led by the defacto leader in Jentorra (a criminally underused Katy O’Brian – The Mandalorian, Black Lightning) and aided by a blob (David Dastmalchian) and a psychic (William Jackson Harper), while circling the periphery is original Ant-Man co-star Corey Stoll reprising his role in the newly formed M.O.D.O.C.K., and Bill Murray as a former associate of Janet’s from the Realm’s surging resistance faction.

I reiterate: this is a film in which character development and established emotional arcs for Scott, Hope and Cassie all play second fiddle to the film’s primary mission – introducing Kang – and of all the potential (and actual) problems Quantumania contains this is perhaps the most egregious. To his credit, Jonathan Majors almost single-handedly saves the film, producing a stalwart, menacing and all-too-terrifying personification of one of Marvel Comic’s most iconic antagonists, and whenever he’s on the screen Quantumania positively vibrates with menace. There’s a quiet implacableness about Kang and Majors’ performance of the role that, while perhaps not quite establishing him as a Thanos-level threat quite yet, gave me chills thinking about the future of Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and what may transpire there. However, it’s disheartening to see the film’s title characters reduced to somewhat secondary roles in their own films, Evangeline Lily given the least to do in a terribly underwritten role this time around. Paul Rudd’s effortless humour isn’t up to shouldering a film this gargantuan, when the stakes are so massive and the width of the plot so repercussive, although the actor is more than capable of continuing the knockabout charm he’s personified through his time in the MCU.

What I found most surprising, and equally as disappointing in its execution, was the additional layer of storytelling granted to Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet van Dyne, a woman who spent thirty years trapped in the Quantum Realm before being rescued, and whose time there is explored in expanded detail in this film; there’s some tinges of darkness to what the character did in the Realm for so long and I wish Quantumania had explored the guilt and internalised struggle Janet faced with more dexterity, but as with everything about Quantumania the superficial overrides any depth of character. The script hints at it, teases the audience with a darker side to Janet and the Realm, but when you’re engaged in cartoonish nonsense the tone leans heavily away from asking anything from the audience. Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym is merely along for the ride here, spending most of the film cracking wise, looking confused, and providing almost no discernible emotional weight to the plot other than being simply there, which was also a problem for me; exactly how you waste Michael Douglas on screen I will never understand, but this film does just that. Incoming actress Kathryn Newton plays an all-grown-up Cassie Lang and does a solid job, and despite never quite feeling fully fleshed out as a human character the actress is watchable enough in this (again) wasted role.

Despite going for absolute broke over the course of its two hour runtime, Quanutmania lacks the time to sit with its crucial emotional beats long enough, or with enough conviction, to solidify the audience’s expectations. The action sequences, visual effects and climactic finale battle showdowns are all well enough conceived and certainly deliver widescreen comic book movie action aplenty, but there’s a distinct soulnessness, an apparent meaninglessness to it all, that settles in from the get. Ant-Man films aren’t known for their approximation to a David Lean film but if David Lean was still alive he’d have absolutely shat himself watching just how epic Quantumania looks and feels, at least from a visual standpoint; what’s lacking is the emotional hook. The relationships between Scott, Hope, Cassie, Hank and Janet never gel in the franchises’ familial way, and we’re left watching an empty spectacle movie salvaged only by Jonathan Majors. In spite of this, I really did enjoy the fanciful and fun world of the Quantum Realm and all the denizens thereof, the whacky world of unlimited CG and balls-out character design torn from the comic pages, and Peyton Reed’s sense of action and scale is really the saving grace here. He peppers his action with humour and wit, a little bit of dread, and a load of show-stopping setpieces that would sit as the finale in any other franchise property, only he has about eight of them all to himself here. Still, even with non-stop action and the power of Marvel’s visual effects demands in high gear, watching a film shot almost exclusively on a green screen does become a little wearying, and by about the half-way mark I was exhausted from the overload of visual stimulation on offer.

Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania is a film almost completely lacking “the Wasp” aspect, jettisons carefully built emotional bonds between the core characters for the sake of universe-building demands, and turns what could have been an awesome Voyage To The Center of The Earth homage into a CG-festival slog at times. I had quite a fun time watching it, and certainly want to go back and explore some of the vistas and world-building Reed and his team of filmmakers have crafted, but it’s arguably an easy fit into Marvel’s middle-tier films and that’s not strong enough to start a new Phase in this property. With Phase Four being roundly mediocre across the board, Marvel needed a solid kick-start to the lead-up to Avengers 5 but this, sadly, ain’t it. Despite my enthusiasm for the film’s at-times discombobulating action and unhinged sense of humour (Corey Stoll, you mad, mad bastard!) Quantumania continues to prove that perhaps the MCU has overextended itself, with the deadlines to meet a release date coming at the expense of character and story.


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