"Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" Review
So, whose idea was it to make Ant-Man less fun? This is a franchise that was initially going to begin with Edgar Wright in the director’s chair (who still got credit for the screenplay, along with Adam McKay and star Paul Rudd) and had its sights set on delivering size-shifting hijinks within a low-stakes environment. This strategy worked pretty well thanks to the positioning of the first and second entries immediately after the cataclysmic events in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War, respectively. Now with Quantumania, those humorously tinged roots have been upended and mangled into one of the most overly serious and ugliest films within the entire 31-film catalog of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Turn on your listening ears kids because it’s time to learn about the Quantum Realm and the multiverse for the umpteenth time. After being a small man within a large world, Scott Lang becomes a big man in a super small world as he and his Ant-Man family are transported down into the Quantum Realm. Inside this realm is a collection of creatures, some that look exactly human (so that they can be played by famous actors, such as Bill Murray in a brief so-so cameo) and some that possess physical form beyond simple anatomy. At the top of the food chain is Kang the Conqueror, who has a complicated past with Janet Van Dyne during her long years of being stranded.
Filled with such classic lines as “There’s something I need to tell you,” “You haven’t told them?,” “What else have you been lying about?,” and “I was trying to protect you,” the script by Rick and Morty alum Jeff Loveness capitalizes on every opportunity it can to deliver the most cliché lines about characters not being able to communicate properly. It’s a frustratingly weak way to build suspense for the exposition-dumped reveals and contradicts the genius-level intellect many of these characters are supposed to have.
Much of the humor is absent since the first two outings. This is in “service” to raise the stakes of this lightweight hero and have him introduce us to the new Thanos-level threat in Kang. Jonathan Majors, already having a stellar 2023 with physically imposing roles in the Sundance title Magazine Dreams and Creed III, plays the conqueror with a menacing calmness. The character himself may not have won me over yet, but Majors in the role has intrigued me about the future.
Fairing much worse than the writing is the cinematography by the usually-dependable Bill Pope, last seen producing decent work in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (remember when that was also supposed to be a part of this universe?). With backdrops that make George Lucas’ Star Wars prequel trilogy look photorealistic and drabby brown shadings, Quantumania easily takes the cake as one of the worst-looking blockbuster films of the past few years. Actors are obviously running within fully green-screened sets, and the fully-digital creatures are weightless. And don’t even get me started on one actor’s horrendously superimposed face (you’ll definitely know what I’m talking about when you see it), which incited the most laughs from the audience, although that might not have been intended.
Rudd does the good work that is expected from him, and Evangeline Lilly gets next to nothing to do despite her character being in the title. Kathryn Newton is a welcome addition to the slowly-building Young Avengers.
The Ant-Man franchise has mostly been unnecessary but provided fun escapism. Quantumania is the inverse of that by being both required reading material and not fun, which essentially makes it homework. This has been the antithesis of Marvel during Phases 4 and 5, where the effort needed to keep up is not being properly compensated, both on the small-scale levels of individual films and the large-scale shared narrative. I’ve been on this train since day one, and have a completionist mindset (at least when it comes to the movies), so I’m kind of stuck in my seat. Although now I’m really starting to have serious doubts about all the picturesque promises the conductors have been making about the destination.