Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania is certainly… a movie.
As the third installment of the Ant-Man series of movies, it brings both expected and unexpected positives – good performances, enjoyable humor and size-changing action. As the 31st installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it carries a lot of very expected downfalls, with visuals that range from unappealing to downright bad, messy writing and a focus on selling a future MCU installment rather than itself.
Paul Rudd is back for his fifth (!) movie playing Scott Lang, and he is as likable as ever. Rudd delights not just at playing Lang as we’ve known him, but adding another dynamic to the character as he tries to parent his now-teenage daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton). In previous Ant-Man movies, Lang has always been the fun dad working against all odds just to see his child, but he gets to be a lot more involved in Cassie’s life and growth in this flick. It’s heartwarming to watch him parent her, albeit while they are stuck in a different dimension.
For as good as Rudd is, he doesn’t give the standout performance of the movie. That belongs entirely to Jonathan Majors, who plays Kang the Conqueror. Majors is downright incredible in this role, being able to turn from charming to sinister on a dime. As the next “big bad” of the MCU, this movie acts as an appetizer for what’s to come with Kang, and in that regard it works well enough.
Ant Man and Kang can’t obscure the film’s other problems. For being a titular character, The Wasp/Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) is woefully underused. Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) gets a few good scenes, but would have benefitted from more time to flesh out her character. Kathryn Newton is okay as Cassie, but something about her performance felt awkward most of the time, and missed some much needed chemistry with Rudd.
The rest of the cast is hardly worth mentioning. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is definitely present. He gets a funny line or two and a nice moment, but that’s about it. Bill Murray is in this movie for a grand total of one scene, so everyone in the audience can point and go, “Look it's Bill Murray!” There’s a group of Quantum Realm-dwellers that the main characters meet along the way, and while they’re not bad, they get no time for the audience to really learn who they are (I don’t even remember their names).
Finally, classic Marvel Comics villain M.O.D.O.K. is one of the antagonists of Quantumania. He’s used primarily as the butt of jokes, right up until the very end. There’s nothing wrong with making an antagonist also be comedic, but in this movie it only undermined his character and robbed the movie of tension.
The cast provided a reason to not pay attention to the visuals of the movie, which was the best part. Quantumania is downright not easy to look at. Marvel movies have never been known for excellent cinematography or a certain visual style, but Quantumania just might be the worst one yet. The entire movie takes place in a fantasy world (with CGI background), which isn’t a problem itself but most of the time it’s either not lit well enough or colored in a way that renders it bland. On top of this, there are a few moments where the characters look like they’re plastered on top of the background.
The characters and the visuals are both problems that can be traced back to Quantumania’s biggest flaw: It’s not really an Ant-Man movie. The movie loses the small-scale charm and San Francisco setting of the previous two films, as it’s replaced by an unappealing Quantum Realm and a mundane "we have to stop the bad guy or the world will end" plot. I am so tired of every single MCU project having the end of the world, or universe, or multiverse or whatever be at stake. It’s lost all of its weight at this point and I audibly sigh just about every time I encounter it, which is during every Marvel project at this point including the shows! You’re telling me Moon Knight’s crazy ass can stop a global threat? And why is a 15-year-old Ms. Marvel thwarting a plot that could destroy the universe? I literally just watched her stress over a Bio test!
Already established side characters like Luis (Michael Peña), the X-Con guys and Cassie’s mother (Judy Greer) are also missing from the movie, robbing it of both a sense of familiarity and established dynamics for the main characters to bounce off of. Perhaps worst of all, this movie continues the increasing MCU trend of a movie working to set up future movies. Quantumania is not-so-secretly as much about Kang as it is about Ant-Man (and don’t even think it’s about The Wasp.) While Majors’ performance justifies the focus on him, it simultaneously takes away from the other characters and the overall feel of the movie.
Despite everything that Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania does wrong, it’s not (in my opinion) Marvel’s worst product. The humor, if on-and-off at times, still works. There’s some creative character design and the Quantum Realm does feel removed from regular Earth life. Plus, watching Paul Rudd and Jonathan Majors on screen made the entire experience worth it. Quantumania is another bland outing, continuing a concerning trend for MCU movies, but there’s just enough for fans to have an alright time.
Thumbnail image courtesy of Marvel Studios.