Josh Reviews Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
In Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Scott Lang (Ant Man) and his daughter Cassie, along with Hope van Dyne, Janet van Dyne, and Hank Pym, get sucked back into the Quantum Realm. Janet was trapped for decades in this subatomic realm, and it turns out it’s not nearly as deserted as she’d described it. Not only is it thriving with life and many different sorts of creatures and sentient beings, but it’s suffering under the brutal rule of Kang the Conquerer (Jonathan Majors), a villain from the future with powerful time-traveling technology. Kang has been trapped in the Quantum Realm, but it turns out that Janet and the Pym/van Dyne family hold the key to his escape…
Quantumania is not getting great reviews and, after a strong opening weekend, it hasn’t been doing so hot at the box office. I’m surprised by both, because I quite enjoyed this film! It’s not a top-tier Marvel movie for me, but it’s a very solidly entertaining middle-tier adventure, quite a lot more enjoyable than the reviews and box office might have you believe.
I love Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant Man, and it’s a delight to see him back in the spotlight as the lead of this third Ant Man film. (I can’t believe there’ve been THREE Ant Man films!! What a world we live in!) Mr. Rudd is a wonderful lead; he’s very funny, and he has such strong likability that it’s always a pleasure to follow him through these adventures.
Director Payton Reed (who has helmed all three Ant Man films) and writer Jeff Loveness have made the decision to adjust the tone of this Ant Man film. Whereas the first two were lighter, sillier tales, this is a more serious, epic adventure. I think it makes sense to go bigger in the third film of a trilogy, and I love the idea of Scott Lang being the one to carry us into the start of Marvel’s Phase Five and help set up Kang as a major villain for the next wave of films. (Even before the end credits promise us that “Kang will return”, attentive fans already knew that the next Avengers film will be called Avengers: Kang Dynasty.) Quantumania is still funny (as most Marvel movies are), but this is a far more cosmic story, with far higher stakes, than the first two Ant Man films.
For the most part, I think this decision works. I love that the majority of this film takes place in the weird and alien Quantum Realm, and I thought Kang was a great villain. (More on both in a moment.) I will comment that I missed the non-super-hero supporting cast-members of the first two Ant Man films (including Michael Peña as Luis; David Dastmalchian as Kurt; Tip “T.I.” Harris as Dave; Judy Greer as Maggie; and Bobby Cannavale as Jim). (I was also hoping to see more of Randall Park’s Jimmy Woo, who was in Ant Man and the Wasp and WandaVision, but who here is relegated to a one-second cameo.)
I think the biggest weakness of this film is that there wasn’t as deep an exploration of the characters as I’d hoped. On the one hand, I love that Scott and his family are happy and have strong relationships with one another. I’m glad they didn’t manufacture a fake-feeling schism between these characters. On the other hand, I feel like this film could have done a lot more to explore these characters. Let’s take Scott and Hope. They’re in a relationship, right? But we barely get to see or feel that in the film. (They don’t even get a kiss at the end!) Frankly, I think this film completely fails Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne. She’s in the title, but Hope has very little to do in this film. She gets to kick a little ass at the very end, but other than that, the film’s story wouldn’t change one whit if she was completely absent. That’s a big problem.
Or take Scott and Cassie. They brought in a new actress to play the 18-year-old version of Cassie (replacing Abby Ryder Fortson, who was terrific as the younger Cassie in the first two Ant Man films; and also replacing Emma Fuhrmann, who played the older Cassie in Avengers: Endgame). I think Kathryn Newton, who plays Cassie here, is terrific. She’s got a great on-screen presence, and I like this tough and brave Cassie who wants to be a super-hero like her father, but who also has very different ideas of what being a hero means. This is a solid character, and I can’t wait to see where she goes from here. I am very confident we’ll be getting a Young Avengers team in the not-too distant future, including characters such as Cassie, America Chavez (from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness), Riri Williams (from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), Kate Bishop (from Hawkeye), Eli Bradley (glimpsed briefly in Falcon and the Winter Soldier), etc. But in terms of this film, I wish there was more of a dramatic arc between Scott and Cassie. I wish we got a little more dramatic tension out of Scott’s mixed feelings about Cassie’s stepping into the dangerous world of super-heroing. In the film, we see Kang use Cassie as leverage to get Scott to do what he wants; I wish we’d seen Scott have more trouble figuring out how to balance doing what he knows is right vs. his inclination to do whatever is necessary to protect his daughter. I’d also thought, from the trailers, that Kang would use his time-travel abilities as a temptation for Scott to be able to rewrite his life so that he didn’t miss five years of Cassie’s life (between the end of Ant Man and the Wasp and Avengers: Endgame). Now, on the one hand, it’s not fair to fault a film because the trailers misrepresented it. But on the other hand, doesn’t that feel like a juicy way to use Kang’s time-traveling abilities? I’d have liked to have seen Scott be more tempted by Kang and what Kang’s technology can offer him; I wanted Scott to have to wrestle more between what he wants personally and what he knows is the right thing for the rest of the world/universe.
I adored Jonathan Majors when he appeared as “He Who Remains” in the final episode of Loki season one, and he is again a delight here, getting to take center-stage in full-villain mode as Kang (a “variant” of the version of his character who we met in Loki). Mr. Majors is a terrific actor, and I was continually impressed by how unexpected so many of his acting choices were here. For the most part, he plays Kang with a low-key, oily charm, and it’s a great choice. Kang is a terrific villain from the comics, and it is an enormous pleasure getting to see him brought into the MCU. He looks perfect; I love his costume; I love the blue glow and the lines/scars on his face, all of which combine to create a wonderfully faithful depiction of the comic-book character. I really liked the idea of linking Kang with Janet. I liked the implication that maybe they sort of had a thing together when they were stranded together, and I love how their shared past makes Kang a very personal threat for Scott and his family. I do wish Kang had been a little harder to defeat in the end. (And if all he needed was some Pym particles to shrink his power core, I don’t know why he didn’t swipe them right off of Scott or Cassie’s suits the minute after he captured them, as opposed to the whole rigamarole of his trying to talk Scott into helping him.)
I was disappointed that Michelle Pfeiffer didn’t have more to do in Ant Man and the Wasp, so I love how central she is to this sequel film. Ms. Pfeiffer is terrific. I love her character; I love how tough she is, and how she never wilts or apologizes for her actions in the Quantum Realm or the secrets she’s been keeping. I love her relationship with Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym, and I also love that, even though this is another mostly chaste Marvel film, the film allows her to be a sexual being who seems to have hooked up with both Bill Murray’s character and also possibly Kang, during her decades in the Quantum Realm. (And I love that Hank isn’t jealous of those flings.)
Michael Douglas is great as always, though as with Evangeline Lilly’s Hope, I didn’t feel his character had enough to do in the film.
I was thrilled to see Corey Stoll back (he played Darren Cross in the first Ant Man film), and while I was at first very surprised to see this character turned into M.O.D.O.K., in the end I loved the choice. I was overjoyed to see M.O.D.O.K. in an MCU film!!!! I love that they were able to take this absolutely ridiculous (but much-loved) character from the comics and find a way to make him work on screen. He’s laughable, but how could this character (with his ginormous head and tiny limbs) not be?? I thought they struck just the right tone with M.O.D.O.K. — he’s silly but still a cool character. I loved every moment he was on screen.
Overall, I quite enjoyed the bizarre look of the Quantum Realm and the different locations we explored in the film, as well as the different creatures and characters we met. I loved the gelatinous Veb and his cheerfully upbeat persona. (While I’d commented above that I missed David Dastmalchian’s Kurt in this movie, I loved that they used Mr. Dastmalchian to voice Veb!) I was thrilled to see The Good Place‘s William Jackson Harper as the psychic Quaz, and I loved how much ass Katy O’Brian kicked as the resistance leader Jentorra. I also really liked the dude with the laser-beam head. (As fun as all those characters were, I do wish the film had gotten even more epic and weird with the Quantum Realm stuff. What we saw here felt a little reminiscent of what we’d already seen in Guardians of the Galaxy, from almost a decade ago…) Kang’s fortress city of Chronopolis looked cool, and I liked the look of his blue-headed soldier goons. (Though I’d have loved a little more info on both. How was Kang able to construct that ginormous city?? Were his soldier people, or aliens, or robots, or what?)
I loved Bill Murray’s brief appearance in the film. He was a lot of fun as the slippery Lord Krylar.
I’ve been a little underwhelmed by some of Marvel’s recent post-credits scenes (and I’m still sore about sitting through the long end-credits of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, only do discover there was NO post-credits scene!!) but both scenes that we got here were great. SPOILERS in this paragraph, obviously!!! Still here? I LOVED seeing the Council of Kangs in the mid-credits scene. I’ve always loved that concept from the comics, and it made me so, so happy to see that brought to life on-screen. I was even more overjoyed to see all of Kang’s most famous alternate identities (from his long, twisted history in the comics), including Rama Tut, Immortus, and the Scarlet Centurion. That was so cool!!! (Jonathan Majors made me laugh with the raspy voice he put on for Immortus — he sounded to me a lot like Forest Whitaker in Rogue One!) I also loved the post-credits scene, which I suspect is a scene from Loki season two, featuring Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson! What a fun piece of connective tissue leading us back to Loki (where Jonathan Majors was first introduced). I can’t wait for Loki season two!!
- I loved the living houses in the Quantum Realm.
- I thought it was super-cool to discover, when the film’s title appeared on-screen at the end of the film, that the words Ant Man are in the title Quantumania. I can’t believe I didn’t realize that!! (I can’t believe the film’s promotional campaign didn’t make a bigger deal about that!!)
- I loved seeing a broccoli alien! That wasn’t just a joke in the film; the broccoli-looking aliens, actually called the D’Bari, really exist in the Marvel comics!! (They were introduced way back in Avengers #4, and then the Dark Phoenix annihilated their race in Uncanny X-Men #135.)
- I thought all the stuff with Hank Pym and the goo gloves was a lot of fun.
- Why did all the ants fall into a time warp, but our main heroes didn’t?
- Speaking of plot holes, just how do Scott and Hope get back home at the end of the movie? Cassie’s device is used to reopen the portal, but I didn’t think her device could actually be used on its own to transport people to/from the Quantum Realm — it was Kang’s tech that did that at the start of the film.
- As is so often the case for Marvel movies, I wish the score was better, with more memorable, distinct themes.
- I loved the way the characters drink Veb to understand one another. It’s a very funny bit, and a great way to easily explain how our heroes can communicate with all the weird characters they encounter. (It’s used just like the famous Babel Fish from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.)
- I loved hearing Kang talk about “incursions”. We saw the result of an incursion (when two alternate universes collide and annihilate one another) in the devastated universe of the evil Dr. Strange in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. This concept originated in Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers run which culminated in the Secret Wars mini-series. Marvel looks to be adapting Secret Wars for an upcoming Avengers film. My hope is they’ll combine elements of the original 1980’s Secret Wars mini-series with some of the multiverse stuff from Mr. Hickman’s modern Secret Wars. I can’t wait.
Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania might not have blown my mind, and it might not have been as clever or as original as some of the very best MCU films. But I thought it was a terrifically entertaining adventure, with great visuals and fun characters. I enjoyed it.
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