Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023): Huge in Scope, Tiny in Believability, But Serviceable in Enjoyment
“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is directed by Peyton Reed, who also directed the prior two “Ant-Man” films. This film stars Paul Rudd (Dinner for Schmucks, Ghostbusters: Afterlife), Evangeline Lilly (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Lost), Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country, Devotion), Kathryn Newton (Blockers, Freaky), Bill Murray (Caddyshack, Groundhog Day), Michelle Pfeiffer (Hairspray, Batman Returns), and Michael Douglas (Fatal Attraction, Wall Street). This is the third installment to the “Ant-Man” franchise, in addition to being the 31st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In this latest adventure, Scott, Hope, Cassie, Hank, and Janet are taken into the Quantum Realm via a signal device. When they find themselves in this larger than life environment, they must familiarize themselves with its surroundings and survive. One such obstacle is Kang the Conqueror (Majors), who claims he can allow Scott to make up for lost time with his daughter.
“Ant-Man” is not my favorite franchise within the MCU, although I have always found it to be one that has been continuously distinct. For one thing, these films have always come out a couple months after “Avengers” titles. Specifically “Age of Ultron” and “Infinity War.” I have a feeling these films were placed around these release schedules on purpose. Not just for how it fits in the main story, but because of the vibe these movies try to shoot for. In these stories, Ant-Man is not only small in size, but so are the stakes. It is not say there are not any stakes at all, but compared to “Avengers” titles, where practically the whole world is in peril, the main objective is to save a neighborhood, save a community. After “Avengers: Infinity War,” it felt nice to have a more happy go lucky adventure with these characters in “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” I cannot say the movie was great, but there were glimmers of joy to be had. Overall, these movies are not packed with as much doom and gloom as other adventures the MCU has to offer. This time around, it is a little different.
This film, in addition to starting phase 5 and setting the stage what is to come, prominently features Kang the Conqueror, played by Jonathan Majors. This is not Majors’ first outing in the MCU, as he played the “He Who Remains” variant of this character in the Disney+ series “Loki.” Majors did not have a ton to do in the series, as he was only around for the season finale, but he had a particular, non-glorious purpose in the series as he does in this movie. While I cannot say He Who Remains was the major highlight for me in “Loki,” one compliment I can give to Jonathan Majors in “Ant-Man in the Wasp: Quantumania” is that he steals every scene he is in. There was a lot of hype going in regarding his character and I can confirm it is real. Is it the best MCU villain since Thanos? That depends. I will be real with you, the franchise has actually had some decent villains since his appearance, and I may be cheating a bit since it is a progression of a character that was done in another fashion, but I believe “Spider-Man: No Way Home’s” take on Green Goblin was incredible. Possibly the best use of the character on screen. I would say for me, Kang comes close to that level.
Speaking of the film’s stars, let’s talk about Paul Rudd. Paul Rudd has always maintained a certain down to earth feel within his Scott Lang character with each appearance despite going around in tights. I have always liked that. This time around, while still emitting a similar vibe to his previous appearances, Lang starts off this film a bit differently than before. For one thing, the character has evolved with each go, becoming more and more well known. He is a hero, an Avenger, an icon on the streets. In fact, he starts the movie by promoting his new book, “Look Out for the Little Guy.” I like this concept. I think if there is one thing recent Marvel movies have been doing on a consistent basis that fits into the timeline, it is referencing the progression of the universal canon and its characters. It makes sense that Scott Lang, who has probably burnt himself out a little from being a hero, would resort to writing a book about himself and selling it to an audience. It would make for a page turning story and a chance to continue his fame. If there is one thing that is noticeable about the Scott Lang character, and the movie in general, is that it feels like a tale of two stories, or vibes. One vibe is the consistent “so small it feels big” nature of the previous two installments. The other is this “Avengers-level” feel that kicks in somewhere around the Quantum Realm. There is a point in this movie, and Scott Lang as a character is evident of this, where the lighthearted nature I was previously used to seeing kind of takes a backseat. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
This time around, there is a new performer in the shoes of Cassie Lang, specifically Kathryn Newton. This makes sense. In the MCU timeline, there was a time jump for five years, therefore it makes it a tad harder to believe that Abby Ryder Fortson, who played Cassie in the prior “Ant-Man” installments, is the age this movie suggests she is. I was excited to hear Kathryn Newton, an actress who I adored since “Blockers,” would be playing Cassie this time around. She does a fine job here. She is not the standout of the movie, but I thought she brought her own sense of joy to this role even though this is a more mature version of this character. I adored Fortson’s performance as Cassie in the previous works because she matched the happy go lucky nature of the film. Newton, while definitely another animal, maintains some of those consistencies. This is not the first time a teen Cassie has been in the MCU, Emma Fuhrmann made an appearance as the character in “Avengers: Endgame.” But I nevertheless think Newton did a swell job with this film in particular.
My biggest problem with “Ant-Man and the Wasp” has been a consistent problem in the MCU lately. The effects. Now let me be fair, there are various aspects of the Quantum Realm, which is pretty much all CGI, that look breathtaking There are a lot of visuals in this film that pop. If anything, I would put “Ant-Man and the Wasp” in the same boat as “Thor: Love and Thunder,” which has plenty of visuals to enjoy, but there are also some noticeable duds. Despite what I said about the Quantum Realm looking nice, there are also particular shots where I thought I was looking at a green screen or a StageCraft setup. Despite how I did not end up loving “Avatar: The Way of Water,” my problems with the film never concerned its looks. What made that film so awe-inspiring is how real everything looked despite being almost entirely done through computers, motion capture, or digital effects. Even though I disagree with Martin Scorcese’s opinion that Marvel movies are nothing more than theme parks, I will say that “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is almost one of the more theme park-esque adventures in the MCU because it is mostly about spectacle, but it almost utilizes its gimmick too much to the point where nothing feels authentic.
In reality, as immersed as I felt at times into the whole Quantum Realm universe, which was definitely aided by the IMAX experience, the problem with the Quantum Realm that it occasionally felt like a universe that was created for a screen and not one that felt like I could go into it. The best comparison I could use in this case would be to say that the Quantum Realm universe is similar to the environment explored in “Strange World.” It tries to be bonkers, but it gets caught up in its bonkers nature that nothing feels real. “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” despite being an indescribably weird movie that travels to many different universes, feels more real than “Quantumania” and “Strange World.”
Speaking of things that do not feel real, I want to talk about M.O.D.O.K.. Not for long though because there were certain things about the character I did not know going into this film. One thing I will say about M.O.D.O.K. is the same thing I will say about the CGI. At times it works, at other times, it is taken to such an extreme that it felt out of place. There is a certain reveal in this movie that kind of makes sense, but it also spawned a problem that constantly came up. The character’s design. There is a certain “design” if you will, to this character that is so off-putting that it makes Power Rangers costumes look more realistic. I will not say more. This is all I have to give on the character. It adds to the plate of this film’s occasionally lackluster visual outlook.
But at the same time, this is honestly disappointing to say because the MCU, which has continued to set a competitive bar for its visuals year after year despite having multiple movies come out, is starting to worsen its craft. Part of it is because this universe is focusing way more on quantity than it used to. With so many shows on Disney+ in addition to the movies coming out months apart, the MCU is starting to feel like school instead of a fun franchise. The movies are part of the core classroom curriculum, the television shows are homework, and the shorter form specials like “The Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special” are extra credit. But when it was just a bunch of movies, it felt simple and easy to understand. Now having watched “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” for instance, one of the questions I have had before, during, and after watching said movie regards how many people needed to watch “WandaVision” to fully appreciate or understand everything that was going on. As much as I enjoyed certain shows like “WandaVision” and “Ms. Marvel,” if there were a way to get back to a time where the Marvel Cinematic Universe were only CINEMA specific, I would like to find out about it. The quality has suffered while the quantity has grown. If I had to give one solid mark to phase 4, it is that while no movie is perfect, I liked all of them. I am just waiting for the day when I can love each movie I see, or not quickly forget about one as much. I loved “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” I loved “Shang-Chi.” But I would rather forget about a vast majority of the MCU shows. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is a sign that the MCU still has its wheels on the wagon, but if they continue to pump out as much content as they are making right now, they might need to realign those wheels a bit.
In fact, one of my bigger problems with this film and how it connects to the whole “see this to understand that” thing is one of the post-credits scenes. Which by the way, if you are planning to stay after the movie, there are two. For the record, the post-credit scenes are not awful. In fact, I liked both of them. But the second movie harkens back to my worry with the MCU feeling like school. Because one of the scenes were specific to an upcoming television program. My apprehension, which could go away, I reserve the right to change my mind, is that this teased television event might not be understood as well unless you saw “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” I am not saying this has happened with every recent Marvel project, and I am not saying it will. That said, this movie reinstates my fear that it will.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” seems to bridge the gap between where the previous saga, the Infinity Saga, culminates, and sets a stage as to where the Multiverse Saga could be going. This does not start the new saga. We are just starting phase 5 and the Multiverse Saga already kicked off in phase 4. Although one of the most poignant notions about “Avengers: Endgame” is the realization of how much people have missed for five years. When Thanos snapped in “Avengers: Infinity War,” he basically initiated a five-year, luck-based, societal imprisonment. Meanwhile, Lang spent a ton of that time stuck in the Quantum Realm. But the film manages to bridge a gap between lost time and the breaking of the multiverse. It is essentially saying we are moving on from one thing to the next. Unfortunately, it also means that a seemingly investing idea about recovering lost time occasionally takes a back seat in the film for more bonkers, seemingly brooding CGI mayhem. I could tell Peyton Reed was intentionally making a film that separates itself from its two predecessors. I am not saying “Ant-Man” is not allowed to be serious. But I am saying that “Ant-Man” works better when it is lighthearted, but still action-packed.
In the end, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” ranks down the middle for me in terms of the “Ant-Man” trilogy. While this is not as good as the first movie, there are more redeeming elements for me in this third movie than the second. It honestly may come down to pure personal tastes. At its core, this is a film that is full of inconsistencies. In one moment, the story is lighthearted. In another, it is dark. In one moment, the effects are stunning. In another, they are crap. In one moment, there is tons of comedy. In another, the humor takes a backseat. The film is not abysmal, but to call it a masterpiece would be generous. If anything, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” reminds me of “Thor: Love and Thunder.” Both films are wildly inconsistent, despite there being a series of moments that land on their feet with ease. In fact, another way both films are similar is their score, because I am going to give “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” a 6/10.
I was going to give “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” a 7/10 because I had a great time with it in the theater, but the more I thought about it. A lot of my negatives, in addition to the inconsistencies, stood out, and that muddied the waters a bit. It also seems to work more as setup for what is to come as opposed to a self-contained story. This is not to say the story is uninteresting, but its promises seem to stand out more than what is happening right now. Not a bad movie, but not a great movie either. Nevertheless, it might be a good time at the theater, so I would still, by a slight edge, recommend it.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, why not check out some of my other ones? I have reviewed a ton of superhero fare over the past year including “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Black Adam,” “DC League of Super-Pets,” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Check those reviews out at your convenience!
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