Review – Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

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Overview

Synopsis Ant-Man and his family find themselves sucked into a world beyond their imagination as they must survive and escape the quantum realm.

Length 2 hours, 5 minutes

Release Date February 17, 2023

 

Rating PG-13

Distribution Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directing Peyton Reed

Writing Jeff Loveness

Composition Christophe Beck

Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Kathryn Newton, David Dastmalchian, William Jackson Harper, Katy M. O'Brian, Bill Murray

The fifth phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has begun with the third film in the Ant-Man franchise. Setting a course for the next three years of MCU films, the newest entry follows comedic relief character, Scott Lang, as he’s drawn into his most dangerous story yet, and setting up the fate of the multiverse going forward.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: PG-13 action violence. Characters are vaporized without gore being depicted. A character dies and spits up saliva.
Language/Crude Humor: Some brief language and cursing throughout the film.
Sexual Content: Several characters made crude references to sexual activity and desire; nothing is visually depicted.
Drug/Alcohol Use: Characters drink a substance that allows them to communicate. Characters drink alcohol in a bar.
Spiritual Content: Limited to no spirituality or religious reflection.
Other Negative Themes: Limited to none. 
Positive Content: Themes of family, truth, and connection.

Review

It’s almost curious that a third Ant-Man movie would be the first major swing of Marvel Phase 5 and a significant storytelling step in the push for what Disney calls “The Multiverse Saga”. Following the recent direction of Loki, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Marvel’s newest film picks up the torch of the ongoing narrative arc and carries ideas being explored in those stories further by beginning to lay the groundwork for Avengers: The Kang Dynasty two years from now.

And that’s almost weird just because it seemed like the Ant-Man films were immune to that kind of continuity. The original film—the one-time brainchild of indie-darling Edgar Wright—came out just in the aftermath of Avengers: Age of Ultron. It became a massive worldwide success but also awkwardly stuck the landing on a highly anticipated sequel. It managed to draw audiences from goodwill though and promised a wonderful smaller-scale heist film to cool off from the epic bleakness of Joss Whedon’s team-up movie.

The same was true of Ant-Man and the Wasp, which was released between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, and actively benefitted from telling a smaller story where the main thrust of the tension was whether two people survive and how Scott Lang will avoid breaking house arrest.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, besides being an unnecessary mouthful of a title, leans a lot farther into the mush of soft Guardians of the Galaxystyle homages that many MCU films fall into, with expansive worlds, heavy CGI, and larger stakes. Charming elements like Michael Peña as a comedic support character are totally absent. Even Laurence Fishburne’s character setup in the last film is nowhere to be seen, let alone Judy Greer’s character.

All that said, the film picks up in the months after the events of Avengers: Endgame. Scott Lang has become a popular celebrity and is enjoying his new life as a best-selling author and father, although he’s finding it difficult to connect to and parent his rebellious older daughter, Cassie. When one of her experiments researching the Quantum realm works too well, Scott, Hank, Janet, Cassie, and Hope find themselves shrunk down forcibly and trapped in a part of the subatomic realm they’ve never experienced before, coming to realize that it is populated by sentient beings, some with ulterior motives.

It probably doesn’t need to be said that a third Ant-Man movie probably isn’t going to hit the better strides of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at this point, even with a premise marginally more ambitious than previous entries. There’s an effort here to cash in a lot of the storytelling ideas of the previous films, telling a bigger story with this character while also setting up the new multi-film villain for the next few movies.

And it is a lot of fun, to be sure. The MCU is very good at factory-producing fun and inoffensive films. That said, this film definitely falls into the slushy mid-level MCU films that don’t work on paper but mostly work in practice thanks to dedicated character actors, good humor, and some expensive CGI working together to sand-blast awkward corners from the final product. Even so, the film suffers all the common MCU mistakes. Its characters are often poorly motivated, character arcs are set up and never paid off, and deeper emotional questions are teased but rarely indulged, etc.

Jonathan Majors definitely delivers the best with his second time playing the character Kang the Conquerer, delivering a quietly menacing performance for a character with one of the most curious backstories and nebulous motivations to date. A lot of work clearly went into the design and writing for this character in particular, given that his role as the core villain of the MCU is meant to be the backbone of the next three years of films, and this outing totally sells him as the villain he needs to be.

This comes with the strange side effect though of seeing goofy Scott Lang as the film’s primary protagonist and hero, with even Hope somewhat marginalized to the edges of the story. The film is nominally an exploration of tense family relationships, and how people can hide their intentions and lives from one another to their detriment, but that theme feels tenuous and inconclusive by the end, and really has nothing to do with the villain’s story beyond how Janet learns of his motives.

There isn’t a lot about the movie and its various twists and turns that haven’t been leaked already or spoiled by the trailers, but I won’t overindulge. There are a lot of interesting inclusions in the film though that are fascinating and fun from a character perspective, and the designs as always look fine and engaging, but the movie just sits in the middle of the pack. However, many of its best scenes and visuals are direct lifts from recent Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy films.

I would have preferred a smaller third Ant-Man film that offers some respite from the rest of the MCU, and instead we got a film that feels too similar to the slurry of other somewhat underwhelming films coming out of this franchise. I liked it a lot more than some of their recent offerings but that isn’t saying much.

Positives

+ Fun visuals
+ Fun comedy
+ Great performance from Jonathan Majors

Negatives

- Weak overall story and themes
- Overabundant CGI

The Bottom Line

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is far from the best or worst Marvel Cinematic Universe film, but it has enough good humor and strong elements that fans of the franchise will enjoy the film, and enjoy considering where the overall story will go forward from here.

 

7.5

Tyler Hummel

Born into the unexplored residential backwater of Chicago, Tyler Hummel is a graduate of Tribeca Flashpoint College where he studied Sound Design for Film and Interactive Media. When he isn't hosting his public access talk show The Fox Valley Film Critics or collecting DragonBall Z figurines, he enjoys writing and directing short films. As with Rick from Casablanca, "he's a man like any other man, just more so!"

1 Comments

  1. Noah on February 16, 2023 at 5:51 pm

    Is God’s name paired with D*mn?

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