Ant-man and the Wasp: Quantumania is showing in cinemas nationwide from Friday, 17th February.
After the thematically consistent but meandering quality of Phase 4, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania opens the fifth phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A mega-franchise that is drawing as much fatigue as enthusiasm nowadays, this third entry into the Ant-Man series is a similarly mixed bag. While it has the inherently entertaining qualities of the Marvel formula that has taken contemporary pop culture by storm, it also lacks the inventiveness or daring that have distinguished the best of the MCU’s entries.
Set some time after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is basking in greater fame than ever as Ant-Man. Yet he also wants a comfortable life with his now teenage daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton). Cassie has become deeply interested in the science that Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his family have dedicated themselves to, so much so that she designs an experimental device to potentially explore the quantum realm.
But the device backfires and ends up sucking Scott, Cassie and the entire Pym family – Hank, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Hope, aka Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) – into the quantum realm. Here they find the realm inhabited by bizarre creatures, refugees, and a ruthless dictator known as Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). Eager to escape the quantum realm, the group are pushed to their limits as they pit themselves against Kang, who is also seeking escape.
Jeff Loveness, who has previously written some of the best Rick and Morty episodes, pens the script, and his touch undoubtedly adds a welcome dose of oddity to Quantumania and its various strange, zany and creative inhabitants. One especially notable sequence occurs when Lang attempts to retrieve the film’s macguffin, resulting in a trippy sequence where thousands of Langs appear simultaneously. There is plenty of imagination on display, even if the choice to consistently film the characters in centre frame brings attention to the fact that we’re looking at a green screen underneath all the impressive technicals. Equally, the film melds well with the MCU’s signature trait of blending a jovial, if overly quippy, sense of humour with spectacle.
The film also boasts impressive performances. The father-daughter dynamic between Scott and Cassie has always been the strongest part of the Ant-Man films. Even the reunion between the two in Avengers: Endgame was one of the best scenes. Not only is Scott’s primary characteristic of a devout father carried over splendidly, informing his central character arc, but the chemistry between Rudd and MCU newcomer Kathryn Newton is palpable. Newton is a very versatile actor – look no further than Freaky – and her performance as Cassie brims with giddy charisma, wonderfully complimenting Rudd’s always charming turn as the smallest of the Avengers. Their scenes together serve as the film’s emotional core, adding a sense of urgency to the narrative.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Majors steals the show as Kang, who is clearly looking to be the next Thanos in the MCU. The role of Kang himself may not be especially deep, but he is decently threatening. Majors imbues the part with a commanding sense of foreboding and strength that makes this next MCU villain endlessly intimidating. The result is one of the MCU’s better antagonists.
(L-R): Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man and Kathryn Newton as Cassandra “Cassie” Lang in Marvel Studios’ ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.
However, there is, unfortunately, a messiness to all of Quantumania’s spectacle that is difficult to shake off. The flatness of the otherwise colourful CGI certainly doesn’t help, but it also suffers from a feeling of being overstuffed. While Scott and Cassie get plenty to do, the Pym family feels relegated to the background, despite Hope sharing the title with Lang. We get hit-and-miss comedic moments and tidbits regarding Janet’s backstory, but these feel sidelined despite Lang’s insistence on togetherness. As a result, the ensemble have very little to do, and the juggling of plot points, from the Langs to the Pyms to Kang, makes for a disorientating feel in a movie that weirdly feels uninterested in its star players.
The action also feels lacking. There is one very impressive one on one between Lang and Kang, accomplished through Major’s dedication to the role. But otherwise, the action uses the movie’s special effects as a crutch. Here we find a lot of aesthetically pleasing imagery but an absence of dramatic weight. For example, the emotional engagement could be more consistent, especially when Scott and Cassie are not on screen. There is a welcome arc regarding allyship and helping those in need, but it could be bolder and more adventurous. In the end, Quantumania is just another standard MCU fare, it isn’t bad per se, but it feels undercooked. By trying to do too much in one outing, it ultimately ends up doing little at all. The performances are great, and its ideas have an admirable sense of inventiveness. But it doesn’t do anything that other MCU films haven’t done better. It sticks so closely to the Marvel formula that it will undoubtedly entertain. Yet films as mechanically put together as this only work to prove Martin Scorsese’s points on the matter.
BLACK PANTHER – WAKANDA FOREVER
United States | 2hr 5min | 2023
In the end, Quantumania is just another standard MCU fare, it isn’t bad per se, but it feels undercooked. By trying to do too much in one outing, it ultimately ends up doing little at all. The performances are great, and its ideas have an admirable sense of inventiveness. But it doesn’t do anything that other MCU films haven’t done better.