Ant-Man and the Wasp Quantumania: Review
Microscopic heroes Ant-Man and the Wasp take on their most daunting foe yet with the arrival of Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. The 32nd film and first chapter of Phase Five in the Marvel Cinematic Universe keeps the Disney money train chugging along. The studio continues fostering an unprecedented multi-billion dollar success story - a novel franchise that interconnects several lionized Marvel heroes in a serialized epic earnestly rooted in comic book lore.
Filmgoers are either entrenched in the MCU or not at this point. As someone who grew up enamored by the high-flying theatrics of superheroes, I've been charmed by several of the franchise's best entries (The Avengers and Black Panther come to mind). Still, the inner film critic in me can't deny an unavoidable truth.
The MCU brand is wholly imperfect. The franchise embraces a factory-assembled filmmaking approach that favors efficiency over creativity. As a result, most directors cannot imprint their distinct perspectives on material, while teams of visual effects artists remain underpaid and overworked as Disney enforces stringent deadlines upon them.
Unfortunately, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania reinforces the brand's most cynical qualities. The latest MCU endeavor is a tepid and aggressively apathetic odyssey that only exists to forward the brand's grander narrative ambitions.
Quantumania's mediocrity caught me off guard because the Ant-Man films are usually a bright spot in the MCU. 2015's Ant-Man and 2018's Ant-Man and the Wasp toned down the self-serious grandiosity of most superhero features in favor of crafting breezy comedic capers. Both deliver refreshing levity thanks to the talents of their ageless star, Paul Rudd, and a talented ensemble cast.
Those strengths are noticeably absent as Ant-Man, Wasp and their family are suddenly swept into the quantum realm. Quantumania bares little resemblance to its predecessors' low-steak appeals. Instead, the creative team tries (and fails) to create a sci-fi epic with world-altering implications.
One can see how the quantum realm intends to spotlight a vast landscape bursting with sci-fi wonderment. There are an endless array of unique alien creatures and exotic space backdrops, but none of these elements are drawn with any imagination. Director Payton Reed finds himself in over his head trying to switch sensibilities after his success with the prior Ant-Man features. His skillset shepherding loose comedies does not benefit a film made exclusively with lifeless CGI slug.
For a $200 million movie, it's almost shocking how bad Quatumamia looks. The rushed visual effects and tired collage of creations borrowed from superior sci-fi films create a drab haze of familiarity. It's part Star Wars, part Spy Kids, yet completely lacking the artistic verve that personified both of those colorful features. Additionally, the action scenes are a complete afterthought. There's no tension or spark infused into these lifeless blips that end up feeling like mandatory breaks in the story.
The screenplay is also a mess. Screenwriter Jeff Loveness is tasked with expanding the MCU storyline in his first feature-length writing credit. His efforts are stuck throttling between Ant-Man and MCU lore without growing either in the process. The titular characters are weirdly an afterthought in their own film, often taking a backseat to the world-building Quantumania vies to establish. This fact leaves the established cast, including Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Kathryn Newton, Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Douglas, bored with virtually little to do. Other fan favorites, such as the endlessly charismatic Michael Peña, are written out of the story in favor of other bland inclusions. Standing in place of series staples is a routine, emotionally vacant narrative that jostles between ideas and concepts without forming a cohesive path (Marvel reshot the ending just a month before the film's release).
What Marvel fans will most remember Quantumania for is the introduction of its new villain, Kang the Conqueror. Like the role Thanos previously played in haunting Marvel heroes, Kang will be a daunting foe for several future MCU features. Casting an actor of Jonathan Majors's pedigree certainly helps develop a great adversary. The Devotion and Magazine Dream star displays quiet menace and instant gravitas throughout his debut cinematic (he debuted on the small screen in Disney+'s Loki). Still, not even the actor's skills could foster genuine engagement with his character. I can see where Kang could develop into a menacing figure in the future, although his presence in Quantumania fails to imbue much interest.
My mind wandered throughout Quantumania. I thought about undone chores and what I would order at dinner that night. I considered new potential destinations for vacations I would like to take. I pondered my future. I reflected on my past. I thought about anything that would take me away from that present moment of watching a movie so artless and crass.
I've seen worse MCU projects, but I can't think of a more uninspiring and aggressively vanilla entry than Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. The MCU continues to be a bit of a roller coaster ride since the pivotal event that was 2019's Avengers: Endgame. Here's to hoping the brand delivers more fruitful ventures with the rest of Phase Five.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is now playing in theaters.