This review of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is SPOILER-FREE. Anything shown in trailers is fair game.
The MCU is hard to review. It’s hard to keep things strictly to this one movie when everything from the TV shows and the movies are interconnected. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania features plenty of connections to the outer MCU while still remaining a bit standalone. Obviously, you need to see Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp for this movie to make the most sense, but outside of those and Avengers: Endgame, this story makes sense without a bunch of previous experience.
Marvel has done a very good job of making it so these movies at least make sense without seeing everything they have to offer. Quantumania does that and then some with the first appearance of Kang The Conqueror as the villain of this film. Make no mistake though, this isn’t your normal Ant-Man film. The first two films, outside of a small stop in the Quantum Realm, stayed pretty grounded. That’s what made them fun in comparison to the other grandiose films of the MCU. For a science fiction-inspired film, this is a feast for the eyes and the Quantum Realm is one of the most vibrant and beautiful locales we’ve seen in the MCU.
The story in this movie does feel like it’s the start of a new era for Marvel, and that’s where it falls a bit flat. Instead of getting a standalone story that also works in the constraints of the MCU (like Guardians of the Galaxy), we get something that’s a bit shackled down by the future. It almost works as a standalone work, but the ending of this movie takes away from that. It’s still a wonderful, space opera ride through the Quantum Realm though.
How Are The Performances In Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania?
There are plenty of returning faces to Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania like Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, and technically Jonathan Majors (just as a variant of a character from Loki season one). In addition, we have the newcomers, Kathryn Newton (taking over as Cassie Lang), William Jackson Harper, Katy M. O’Brian, and a cameo from Bill Murray.
As for the performances, Paul Rudd as Scott Lang is just as charming and loveable as ever here. He’s more of a “hero” in the Marvel sense of the word. He’s on a book tour, he’s known around the world as the guy who helped save the world, and all that. However, that fame and fortune have taken a toll on him personally. He’s aimless, listless, and isn’t much of an actual hero anymore. That’s the crux of his relationship with his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton). Speaking of Newton, she steps into the role of Cassie perfectly. She’s bright, cheery, hopeful, and such a breath of fresh air into a series that gets darker and darker with each incarnation.
Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Douglas are both serviceable as Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne again. Pfeiffer gets more to work with as she’s the crux of the story involving Kang and the Quantum Realm. She also gets a lot more action in this film than ever before. Her scenes with Kang are tense and do a good job of building the next big-bad of the MCU to just more than a Thanos clone.
The supporting characters like William Harper Jackson’s Quaz and O’Brian’s Jentorra don’t get as much screen time, but in the short time they’re on screen, they really help build out the world of the Quantum Realm. Harper in particular is fantastic and it would be very disappointing not to see him again in the MCU.
Finally, Bill Murray does have a cameo in the film, and while it’s used for more exposition than anything, he’s fantastic in the role. It’s the same charm that we can expect from him, but with a touch of something else bubbling under the surface. There’s a bit of malice under his words that you don’t normally get from Murray these days. It’s a fascinating performance that’s only a couple of scenes long.
Jeff Loveness Crafts A Rick And Morty Live-Action-Feel With His Script
It makes sense that screenwriter Jeff Loveness brought a Rick and Morty feeling to his script for Quantumania. He comes from that writing tree on the animated series like Michael Waldron before him. The script and feel of the film end up feeling like a bit of a live-action version of Rick and Morty. Particularly how things work in the Quantum Realm. The creatures, monsters, locales, and everything are just accepted by the people and things that live there. Our outsiders gawk at things like sun monsters that try to eat them. The laughs largely come from the various creatures and things that appear in the Quantum Realm. The best laughs come at the expense of M.O.D.O.K. though.
I won’t get into the specifics of why M.O.D.O.K. shows up in this movie, but he looks fantastic, especially when he’s in action fighting or blowing things up. His backstory is a bit different than the comics, but that’s expected at this point in the MCU to differ from the comics a bit.
Overall, the script for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the best part of the film. It’s tight, packing in a lot of information without being overly scientific. Some things don’t need a lot of explanation in the Quantum Realm and it speaks for itself. Loveness also builds the relationship between Cassie and Scott really well with some of the choices in the script.
Send “The Volume” Into The Sun
The dodgy part of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania that rears its ugly head is the use of the technology known as The Volume. It’s the same tech used in The Mandalorian and other Marvel films like Thor: Love and Thunder. It feels like this fad in CGI backgrounds is just that, a fad. It makes some of the scenes jarringly fake-looking, particularly when other CG effects are stacked on top of it. The backgrounds of the Quantum Realm all look beautiful, but it’s when you combine them with human actors that the seams start showing. A return to regular green/blue screens would do wonders. At this point complaining about Marvel movies CG is folly because most of the complaints come from people watching the trailers and not the actual finished product.
Also like I said in the opening paragraphs, the film feels more like the first part of an overall story than a standalone film, particularly with the ending. That’s par for the course at this point with the MCU, though. If you did just make this a generic sci-fi story with different names, it would still work for the most part, though.
Kang Is The Headliner
Jonathan Majors might be the best actor working in Hollywood today. He can go from flying planes in the Korean War, to fighting Michael B. Jordan in Creed III, to headlining a big-budget sci-fi Marvel movie as the villain. As far as villains go in the MCU, he’s easily the best we’ve had. The details of why Kang is who he is are scarce in the film, but that just helps the audience imagine what drove this variant to become a genocidal monster. Not only is he powerful, but he’s sympathetic. Or at least he plays off sympathetic, especially to Janet Van Dyne.
Kang works so well because you can tell that there’s so much more to him under the surface; whether that’s power level or more to his character that we’ll have to learn. It’s an interesting route that Marvel has taken with him because he’s the big bad for the coming Phase of movies, but we’re getting him as a villain in this opening act as well.
Kang’s clinical villainy versus Scott Lang’s happy-go-lucky heroics is the story of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania if you boil it down to the smallest kernel. Jonathan Majors gives a performance here that’ll leave audiences wanting more from Kang and more from his destructive abilities.
An Excellent Kick-Off To Phase 5
Through all the small issues of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the film does an impeccable job for a third film for Scott Lang and his family. At the center of it all is the Lang-Pym family and how they all relate to one another. It has a third act that’s thrilling and leaves you with a fervor to see more from Phase 5 of the MCU. If Phase 4 was setting up for all of this, we know exactly where these movies are heading.
It’s the script and the performances that really carry Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania into special sci-fi territory though. Kathryn Newton is a revelation as Cassie Lang, and Paul Rudd proves why Ant-Man is the most relatable and human superhero that Marvel has. It’s a strange journey from small-time thief to saving the world and then saving the Quantum Realm for him, but it’s one that’s been well worth watching.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania releases in theaters on February 17th, 2023.
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