‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ – Review

Despite a nice family dynamic between the Langs and Pyms, the lack of clarity around new villain Kang and the subpar visual effects make the film a lackluster addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

*This review contains minor spoilers for the film.*

Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe proved itself to be controversial in many ways. From a general superhero fatigue to the decentering of the traditional Marvel formula, there was much that fans criticized. However, I relished this new age of Marvel – Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness aside – as the increase in diverse storytelling that it brought felt like a breath of fresh air in the tired franchise. From Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings to Black Widow, we finally had a plethora of films that were made by and about people who weren’t white men.

So it’s perhaps not surprising that I wasn’t too excited for the third installation in the Ant-Man trilogy, directed by Peyton Reed and written by Jeff Loveness, which serves as the introduction to Phase 5 of the MCU. It’s a sequel to Ant-Man (2015) and Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), but picks up with Scott Lang’s life following Avengers: Endgame. Scott is perhaps one of the blandest Avengers, whose character is only made interesting through Paul Rudd’s charming portrayal. He’s an “every man” who is continually shocked and awed to be considered one of the Avengers, alongside superheroes like Captain America.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania opens with Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) in the Quantum Realm, during her thirty years there. She meets a mysterious stranger that viewers who have seen the Loki TV show know is Kang the Conquerer (Jonathan Majors). The caginess with which the film treats Kang in this opening scene will persist throughout the entire film, as his power is much more discussed than actually seen.

Then, we’re taken back to Earth where Scott is doing a reading from his new autobiography. A cute montage makes lots of nods to the previous films with Scott receiving an award from his old workplace, Baskin Robbins, and getting dinner with Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park). He hammers home the idea of his strange and unpredictable his life has been as he went from a convict to an Avenger, stating, “None of this should have happened, but it did.”

Now that he’s back from saving the world, Scott just wants to spend time with his family, including his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), girlfriend Hope Pym (Evangeline Lily), and her parents Janet and Hank (Michael Douglas). While Cassie is getting into some trouble with the law, it’s for a good cause – a subtle reminder of the unrest in the world caused by the return of half the population from the Blip, which was best explored in the Falcon and the Winter Soldier TV show. She’s bonded with her step-grandparents and has her own Pym suit.

Janet is relishing her return to the normal world and refuses to discuss her time in the Quantum Realm. So she’s dismayed when Hank, Hope, and Cassie finally share that Cassie has been studying the Quantum Realm and has found a way to communicate with it. However, before Janet can explain why it’s so dangerous, the entire family is sucked through a device into the Quantum Realm.

The two sides of the family are separated upon their arrival in the strange world that is a “secret universe beneath ours,” according to Janet. Scott and Cassie try to find their way back to their family but come across a band of Freedom Fighters, while Janet, Hope, and Hank find some of Janet’s old associates, who they hope can help them return to the world above. There’s plenty to test the limits of all five members of the family as they try to reunite and as they explore the risk that Kang poses not just to the Quantum Realm, but to the whole universe.

Unfortunately, the Quantum Realm represents some of Marvel’s worst visual effects work, as everything has a fake sheen to it, and there are seemingly continual reminders that it was mostly filmed with a green screen. The creature design of the plethora of beings there is a reminder of the Star Wars prequels, but Lucas Film improved their creature design in the sequel films. It makes the film seem somehow dated despite coming out in 2023.

The film is at its best when it focuses on the family drama between the Langs and the Pyms. There are parallels between Scott and Janet, who both want to focus on their families, but are reluctantly pulled into helping other people by their children. One of the themes of the movie is, “Just because it’s not happening to you doesn’t mean it’s not happening” and it’s a commendable idea.

However, the film gets bogged down by introducing too many characters. Bill Murray’s Lord Krylar only has one scene, which mostly serves to tell us that Janet had an affair during her time in the Quantum Realm, and Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) returns as a strange mutated creature called M.O.D.O.K. This creature is indicative of another of the film’s issues: its inability to pick a tone. It jumps between comedy (though not as funny as the MCU’s other comedic offerings) and seriousness and the absurd. It’s difficult to buy into the fear and threat of Kang that the film spends over a half hour setting up when it’s constantly bouncing back to make dumb jokes.

Majors is definitely capable of being a formidable antagonist, as we saw in Loki, and he gives a good performance in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. However, the film seems unsure of how we should view him. He’s too bad to be the hot morally grey villain that Marvel loves to set up, but we’ve yet to see him do anything truly malicious enough to warrant him being a big bad like Thanos. The film tries to function as an origin series of sorts for him, but by the end, we still don’t know that much about him or have any concept of his powers.

Hopefully, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania isn’t indicative of where the MCU is headed in its fifth phase. With fight scenes so chaotic that they’re sometimes hard to follow, an uneven tone, and lackluster comedy, the film feels representative of the identity crisis that the main branch of Marvel seems to be undergoing. While the franchise is still strong when it is more self-contained, in outings like Shang-Chi or Moon Knight, it’s definitely still unclear if it can carry off another large-scale plot like the Infinity Saga.

Grade: C

Oscar Prospects:
Likely: Best Visual Effects
Should be Considered: None

Release Date: February 17, 2023
Where to Watch: In Theaters

Nicole Ackman
she/her @nicoleackman16
Living out her childhood dreams of being a writer, just like Jo March
Favorite Directors: Kenneth Branagh and Greta Gerwig
Sign: Virgo

15 responses to “‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ – Review”

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