Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania serves as a critical shifting point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movie simultaneously introduces Kang the Conqueror and tries to steer the inconsistent MCU back on track. It may not entirely succeed, but Paul Rudd’s latest movie has a few glimmering pieces.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is at a crisis point. Avengers: Endgame cemented a decade-long grasp on the movie theater industry and landed the plane with one of the most emotionally charged mega-blockbusters the medium has ever seen. Since then, the dominating force has been reeling. The global pandemic sent theaters into a tailspin, and a lack of revolving pieces within the MCU meant a series of fractured stories. But Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is aiming to be that glue that eventually seals the universe back together.
I’m going to try to give a quick synopsis of Quantumania that simultaneously leaves a viewer blind going in but still tries to make sense. Here’s that synopsis (?). Fresh off the events of Avengers: Endgame, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is reunited and finally able to relax and spend time with his evolving family – and maybe even write his own memoir. But when his teenage daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) tinkers with technology that communicates with a subatomic universe known as the Quantum Realm, they get sucked into an unknown space and time that also houses one of life’s biggest threats: a Conqueror traveling timelines and destroying multiverses.
Many reviews will note how close Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania resembles Star Wars or other intergalactic franchise material, but many will also disregard how for Quantumania strains to establish that same feel. Endless worldbuilding ultimately struggles to make you understand anything within this Ant-Man story. It postures for much too long in the first hour, building a moody atmosphere for a villain we’ve known for too long was coming.
And yet for all the exposition that Quantumania spews at you from the time they enter the Quantum Realm, the only thing that sticks is that every space traveler in this micro-universe refuses to even mention Kang the Conqueror by name, even if it’s for obvious dramatic effect when it’s eventually uttered by Michelle Pfeiffer in a flashback sequence. The entire film works to serve these few climactic moments, but their tension is cut when they’ve been teased in trailer after trailer and marketing campaign after marketing campaign.
The story isn’t much to write home about. After all, the plot works as a movie-ified version of the Loki limited series that managed to stretch its big reveals into actually resonating moments. That show also managed to keep some reveals a secret until they showed up on screen; something I wished Quantumania even attempted to achieve. I’ll try to put it in broadest terms to prevent spoilers – much like Loki, Scott Lang and crew must choose to either spare the villainous Kang or exterminate him and risk potential doom with more variants in the future. Feel a bit like the movie is rehashing old plot bits? Exactly.
At least the highlight of the movie is just how dangerously menacing Kang the Conqueror truly is. I can’t say he really shows off much of his own powers, but he’s frightening when he does. The movie spends much of the time explaining just how tough Kang is without showing much of how he was able to build up the empire that he now rules over. It’s a lot of talk and not a lot of show, unfortunately.
Jonathan Majors is the obvious standout in Quantumania as he seems like the only actor interacting with the world and characters around him. The VFX aren’t great, but it becomes a glaring weakness when actors clearly look like they’re on an empty soundstage. Maybe it’s because Jonathan Majors takes on a cosmic costume with CGI’d blue skin tone, but I thought he was one of the few actors in sync with the world around him.
He also manages to show the emotional volatility within a character like Kang. He’s outwardly expressive at points, and shockingly empathic in others – specifically in his early introductions to characters. There really isn’t a weak moment in his performance, which is about as hearty of a recommendation and grade that I can give.
The other cast of characters is back. Paul Rudd does his usual thing as Scott Lang, although I worry if Rudd is developing the same consistent pattern that has plagued Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool character. Maybe show a bit of dynamic? Just one time even? His daughter, Cassie, is now being played by Kathryn Newton after Emma Fuhrmann was recast after her brief stint as the character in Avengers: Endgame. Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer return to their roles and thankfully their easier to stomach in Quantumania than either of the first two Ant-Man movies.
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The last is Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne, a.k.a. the Wasp. She’s terrific as normal, but I’m beginning to think she’s never going to get much characterization besides being Scott Lang’s love interest. The Ant-Man crew generally lives off in a world by themselves so the only time we get to see them is when they’re in their own standalone films. There’s not much time to develop deep-rooted connections that way when each movie seems rather formulaic and similar to the last.
Speaking of the Ant-Man crew, Corey Stoll is back! I was a bit harsh on his character back in the original Ant-Man because I thought he was one of the more generic MCU villains. This time around, much to the surprise of myself when I sat down to watch Quantumania in theaters, he’s the Mechanized Organism Designed Only (for) Killing, or MODOK. MODOK made a brief appearance in an animated Hulu cartoon, and I was morbidly curious to see how they’d integrate him into a live action universe.
To my bewilderment, I thought he was a pretty seamless entry into the franchise. MODOK may be used heavily for comic relief, but I mostly dug what he brought to the table in Quantumania. He brought some energy and played off of Kang well in their scenes together. Some jokes may have strained too far in the script, but I’m willing to overlook that just because they were actually able to pull off this character.
Besides that, a pretty middling outing by the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In my estimation, a bit better than some of the real inconsistent recent products by the MCU, namely Thor: Love and Thunder and Eternals. At the same time, it’s just not as good as Shang-Chi, Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, or Wakanda Forever. It just felt way too uneven to hit home in a meaningful way.
Where to watch Ant-Man: Quantumania: Disney+, VOD
Film Cast and Credits
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne/The Wasp
Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror
Kathryn Newton as Cassie Lang
Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet van Dyne
Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym
Corey Stoll as MODOK
Bill Murray as Lord Krylar
William Jackson as Quaz
David Dastmalchian as Veb
Director: Peyton Reed
Writer: Jeff Loveness
Cinematography: Bill Pope
Composer: Christophe Beck
Ant-Man: Quantumania movie on Letterboxd
Ant-Man: Quantumania movie on IMDb