I went into Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania with mid to low expectations… and still came out disappointed. Find out why.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania takes place a few years after Endgame. The world is saved, the Pym/ Van Dyne family thrives, and Scott Lang is a successful novelist. Cassie Lang is now an idealistic teenager and part time jail bird, whose scientific curiosity propels the Ant-family into their latest misadventure: an unplanned trip to the quantum realm.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania irked me from its opening titles. Uneasiness washed over me as I realized that the classic Marvel intro featured more of the legacy characters than the originals with whom I grew up. That wouldn’t be an inherently bad thing, except that I don’t like most of the new replacements for my old favourites. The movie had barely started and already I asked myself, “Why am I here?”
And my opinion didn’t get much better from there. ‘Cause this movie was a mess. I still can’t even tell you what it’s about: some vague argument for the power of family? A commentary on power dynamics among the powerful (there’s always somebody more badass than you)? A reminder that there’s no such thing as good enough? Or, more likely, some kind of half-hearted showcase on the reverberations of choice.
Things began well enough. Quantumania features a slower, more character-driven first act which I mostly enjoyed! The status quo was Wandavision levels of forced happiness, but it was nice enough. There were enough cracks beneath the surface of the family dynamic that I hoped they’d pry apart within the run-time (spoiler alert: they didn’t). Quantumania offered a solid ordinary world which we’d wish to be restored once events eventually went to hell.
That said: I already missed the other Ant-Man support cast (like Luis, Maggie, and Paxton). Their absence created a hole large enough for me to tell that Ant-Man 3 was different than the others… and already worse. It’s for the same reason the Arrowverse pissed me off after too many years: all our main characters are heroes or geniuses now. The voice of the “average” person is effectively silenced this time around (and no, Scott Lang doesn’t count, even though he’s the closest).
Paul Rudd’s effortless charm can’t save his weak characterization. Scott is a doormat who gets dragged from plot-point to plot-point and easily bends to everyone else’s will (especially his teenage daughter’s). In fact, he’s frequently shut down and criticized for perfectly rational ideas. There’s only one scene in the film where he gets to make a true choice… and even THAT gets taken away from him.
A grown up Cassie had some potential. But I didn’t like how Quantumania handled her. She’s a know-it-all, smug, and idealistic to a fault (believing HER ideals are the only ones which matter). So she’s basically most teenagers. But the script treats these behaviours as if they’re objectively correct. And that’s where they lose me.
I also dislike the choice to have Cassie possess a genius-level intellect. I reiterate: the greater MCU lacks “average” characters– especially going into the next generation– and Cassie does nothing to set herself apart from the ever-increasing pack of brilliant minds. Phase 4 alone has told this same story multiple times. And Cassie is probably the least interesting character of the new bunch!
You’d think Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) would be important to this story, seeing as it the film’s called Ant-man and THE WASP and she’s… well, The Wasp. But you’d be wrong. She, like Scott, is dragged through the Quantum realm and passively reacts to that which happens around her (often illogically).
And that bugs me because Hope’s story had an obviously neglected framework. She was clearly and rightfully frustrated at Janet for most of Quantumania (for spoiler-ish reasons). Yet Ant-Man 3 painfully fails to address those frustrations beyond brief exchanges.
Evangeline Lilly’s performance makes this fact more annoying, ’cause she clearly cared more about Hope’s emotions and mindset than did the film-makers! What’s more insulting: her thin plot-line is dropped entirely by the third act.
Hank Pym’s scientific curiosity at least felt true to character. He was one of the only returning cast members I didn’t think changed for the worse. But he was mostly useless till the end. And even the one thing he did could have been done by anybody else.
The acting in Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania felt generally phoned-in. Nobody gave their best here. I don’t even blame the performers. I too would mentally check out if I played these characters for so many years and they deteriorated worse with each appearance.
That said: Michelle Pfeiffer and Jonathan Majors are the MVPs of this cast because they’re the only two who play actual characters. Everyone else were glorified quip-generators. Pfeiffer and Majors took their parts seriously and carried themselves with gravitas (imagine that in a Marvel film nowadays).
Majors especially makes the most of his thin material to create a genuinely imposing villain with Kang. Quantumania’s pains to hype up Kang ensured the final result would either meet or fall short of expectations. Mileage will vary, but my expectations were met. Majors successfully intrigues me as Marvel’s Thanos follow-up. He alone gives me hope that the MCU STILL has good stories ahead. He’s resolute, threatening, and commands the screen. I hung on his every word!
I just wish Kang’s motivation was more straight-forward. ‘Cause I couldn’t comprehend his goal. And I hope the writers make him more three-dimensional in future appearances, because right now he feels like a generic bad-guy. Once again: Majors is the draw here– not so much Kang’s character.
But Majors can’t save the ever-worsening staple of Marvel issues. Going back to a few points ago: most characters in this film try desperately hard to be funny… and they just aren’t. Not even Paul Rudd dragged many laughs from me. The humor is forced and cringey, and all the more glaring since it’s not even entertaining.
There’s also the fact that stakes no longer matter in this world. Every time you feel the least bit uneasy during a scene (which, to be clear, is usually a good thing), Quantumania immediately undercuts the tension as if to assure you: “Don’t worry! Nothing bad will actually happen.” It’s impossible to care about this supposedly dangerous adventure when you’re confident everyone will come out of it fine (physically or emotionally).
The above issue is exacerbated by the fact that our main characters handle every challenge with ease. I was outright aggravated by the third or fourth time someone got captured, only to instantly outsmart their guards. I also hated how the characters are stuck on a hostile alien world, yet learn to communicate with the locals almost immediately.
My one exception to the above is the final one-on-one fight between Ant-Man and Kang. That might be one of my favourite confrontations in superhero movies since Spider-Man vs the Green Goblin in 2002! But it’s one bright spot in a generally bleak viewing experience.
Quantumania is miserably paced. Its entire second act is a pointless slog, dedicated to exposition dumps and uninspired action (minus one mind-boggling silver-agey sequence which I enjoyed). This is a textbook example of why screenwriters are taught to show and not tell. But even what they chose to show was an insult to the audience, because they wasted precious time to explain the obvious.
Still it’s cool to see the Ant-family somewhere so foreign to them. The Quantum realm’s production design is incredible! Its somehow natural, technological, archaic, and futuristic at once. The Quantum Realm is a delightfully anachronistic world which treated my eyes to a variety of new creatures, aliens, and environs. Its warm color palette nicely contrasted with Kang’s cold authoritarian palace– effectively sending us a subliminal message that he does not belong.
Quantumania‘s action oscillates between generic and border-line cool. But those moments heavily rely on the pretty effects to distract from their poor choreography and filming. And even that CGI was a mixed bag. Most of it was above Marvel’s recent average. And some of it was embarrassingly rotten. I’ve seen better green-screening on YouTube than some of these shots…
I know there’s a great movie in here… somewhere. But what we received is a soul-less, boring, waste of time. It’s not even entertainingly bad; it’s just bad. And that breaks my heart because Ant-Man is a cool character and deserves better. I can say the same about most of the MCU’s recent superheroes.
Don’t Bother with Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania unless you’re a die-hard Marvel completionist.
Are you still excited for Phase 5? What did you think of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know.
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Till next time,