movie reviews

‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ review: Ant-Man goes big, possibly too big

Carljoe Javier
‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ review: Ant-Man goes big, possibly too big
'Given a blank canvas and all the visual effects technology available, it just felt a little too normal or expected'

I suppose before we go any further, a warning is in order. If you have, at some point in the last six months, felt fatigued by: superhero movies, CG spectacles, multiverse narratives, or the unnecessary need for a truly hyper-connected inter-weaving cross-title cross-media continuity, then you would do well to avoid this latest offering, billed as the “kick-off of Marvel Phase 5.” 

I’ll be honest, as the movie ticked off each of those boxes, I had to remind myself that were are still lots of viewers who are happy to see something like this. And on the other end of that, I am more than happy to see a character like Ant-Man put at the center of a huge story. I’ll always prefer the small-scale, smaller stakes stories that were told in the first two Ant-Man films, but for this whole cinematic universe to progress, all these characters need to get bigger, and Paul Rudd has played Scott Lang so likably (it’s almost as if he can’t help but make his characters likable) that you wind up rooting for the goofball. 

Once I was able to separate myself from all the stuff surrounding my feelings about yet another superhero movie, then Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania became a mostly enjoyable, if very flawed, movie-going experience. It delivers on loads of fun. Coherence, sometimes. Great character work? For sure. Oh, and yeah, for the fanboys focused on continuity, all the set-up your hearts desire. 

We have more of a family affair in this movie. The Pym family, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) are all back post-Blip. Cassie plays a bigger role, and has been recast, played by Kathryn Newton. The set-up is relatively simple. We’ve been talking about the Quantum Realm since the first Ant-Man movie, and now we are finally going in there. 

Except, as we should have expected, there’s bad stuff down there. 

The conceit of the story concepts revolving around the Quantum realm is that it is an incredibly small place. But once you “shrink” down to that level it is essentially its own fully lived-in, functioning, and evolving universe. As for its rules…don’t worry about it too much. Time works differently, physics works differently; basically, it’ll work to whatever the story needs. So yeah, don’t worry about it, don’t ask too many questions because it’ll all start falling apart if you do. 

Not that it’s exceptionally well-constructed. Sad to say that, at least for the first act of the film where we are introduced to the realm and its inhabitants, it feels very squarely in the same kind of imagined spaces as say, Guardians of the Galaxy, the space adventures of the Thor movies, and, well, just riffs on Mos Eisley. There’s a little more silliness thrown in, which I like. But given a blank canvas and all the visual effects technology available, it just felt a little too “normal” or expected. The quirky inhabitants and the times when the script just goes for jokes helps make it entertaining, though. 

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Inevitably, we are introduced to the Big Bad. No spoilers here, as he’s shown up elsewhere (and in more promos than I care to count, just in case we weren’t aware that Jonathan Majors is the new multiverse-threatening baddie). We are given an introduction to Kang the Conqueror and the immense power he wields in the Quantum Realm. And his designs to jump into our world. Saving the world action and adventuring ensue. 

Couple things here. 

One is that there’s a sequence that explores Scott Lang’s psyche, which I absolutely loved. That’s the kind of thing that you can do in movies of this budget and scale, and it’s brilliant. 

The other is, as anyone who has seen Majors previously, especially in a big role like his lead in Lovecraft Country, you know that he is a force. His previous appearance that introduced him to the MCU didn’t exactly do his range of skills justice. Here, though, he is unleashed. And whether it’s in moments of vulnerability, or in delivering gut punches both literal and metaphorical, he is really something to watch. 

Perhaps that’s where I struggle to form my opinions with this movie. I enjoyed it and had fun. But it really feels like a movie that’s more in the service of Kang and the broader MCU rather than an Ant-Man movie. 

Previous Ant-Man movies were charming and almost effortlessly funny, whereas here you get the sense that they are going for a lot of jokes, some land, some don’t, and some keep going until they just aren’t that funny. What’s most conspicuously missing is that the previous films were, at their heart, heist flicks. And with heists, you got a fun crew to do silly things with. That crew, led by the unforgettable Luis (Michael Peña), is something I really missed. I know their presence doesn’t serve the overall MCU in the way the rest of the pieces here does. 

So did I enjoy Quantumania? Sure did. Jonathan Majors going full bad guy (and more) is well worth the time. Seeing the Pym family, particularly Michelle Pfeiffer, in action here, also great. And there’s some fun ideas, good laughs. But would I have preferred something that was smaller in scale, something less “saving the world” and more a caper that Luis could narrate with all the side-notes and quirkiness? Absolutely. –

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