Following the events of Endgame, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is navigating a quiet life in San Francisco with his family. In a quick voiceover sequence, we learn Lang has written a memoir (Look Out for the Little Guy, movie tie-in book to be published in real life in September) and is struggling to connect with his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) post Thanos blip. All hell breaks loose when Scott learns Cassie, with the assistance of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily), has been working on a device to collect data from the Quantum Realm. Said device sucks the surrogate family (including Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet Van Dyne, who holds her own secrets from the Quantum Realm) down the subatomic rabbit hole.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania takes place almost entirely within the Quantum Realm and it’s unfortunately to the film’s detriment. The fun, street-level heist adventures of the previous installments are replaced with an aggressive CGI world courtesy of ILM’s “the Volume” stagecraft tech that, like in the forgettable Thor: Love and Thunder, fluctuates between looking just “okay” at best and distractingly godawful at its all too frequent worst. In some instances, it’s downright baffling that Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige actually signed off on some of the dreadfully bad green screen work in Quantumania.
Visuals aside, there is an inherent magic lost by plunging Ant-Man and his family into the Quantum Realm. Taking away most of the aforementioned street-level antics (no pun intended) of Lang and company leaves a vacuum in Quantumania that is never really filled. Michael Peña’s lovable Luis is nowhere to be found in this installment, nor are Scott’s other X-Con Security Consultant cohorts. Instead we get Kang’s lacky MODOK to provide some comic relief and bring things down to (an albeit bizarre) ground level. To be fair, MODOK (an acronym for Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing) is one of Quantumania‘s high points, no matter how anachronistic he feels compared to the tone of the rest of the film. Still, there’s a lot left to be desired in the levity department here.
Clocking in at around two hours, Quantumania is a relatively short MCU entry. And though the film divides its time nearly evenly between exploring the Quantum Realm in the first half and Kang the Conquerer’s reign in the second half, the film never really feels as brisk as its runtime would lead one to believe. In fact, the first half is a haphazard slog through quick flashes of scenes to establish some characters and deliver some vital exposition. Once the Langs and the Pym/Van Dynes are separated in the Quantum Realm, each group guides the audience through a crash course in Quantum Realm refugees (and, strangely enough, nightlife). It’s sensory and information overload that boils down to one obvious and inescapable comparison…
Quantumania‘s Quantum Realm is merely Marvel Studios cosplaying as Star Wars.
And that is the biggest and most egregious fault of the film overall. It plays as though Marvel just shrugged and figured with Guardians of the Galaxy concluding with Volume 3 and James Gunn moving on to head up the DCU, why not just make Ant-Man into the MCU’s newest Star Wars riff? It’s distracting and a bit pandering with nothing really substantial below the surface (again, no pun intended). Dressing up the Quantum Realm like some copy and paste world from Star Wars and populating it with quirky, strange characters isn’t nearly enough to hold interest for the first hour of Quantumania. Fortunately, Kang’s presence livens things up a bit.
Quanumania‘s biggest selling point is the arrival of Kang the Conqueror into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Kang, who will serve as the Thanos-level big bad of the Multiverse Saga, is a conqueror of timelines who sees all and destroys all. He has a purpose behind his destructive tendencies but it’s brushed aside pretty quickly. Essentially, he was banished to the Quantum Realm and wants to break free from it and it’s up to Ant-Man and his team to stop him.
Jonathan Majors gives the film its stand out performance and shows a ton of promise in the role of Kang. There’s no doubt that Marvel has made a wise investment in casting him for the Multiverse Saga and Quantumania demonstrates that this is a different and more complex character than Thanos. This was immediately apparent in his brief appearance as He Who Remains in Loki season 1 but Kang is different in Quantumania, of course. Majors’ take on Kang stands out as that of a man with the knowledge of countless variants and the brutality of all timelines weighing on his mind. Such is the way of multiverse storylines. It will be great to see Kang in a better MCU movie down the line.
As the action ramps up in the film’s final act, Quantumania definitely starts to find its footing. Given the dearth of character development among the Ant-Man family, and the all too quick exposition of the groups living under the thumb of Kang in the Quantum Realm, the large scale set pieces at the end of the film feel a bit too hollow and lack a lot of impact. With the exception of a visually interesting sequence involving a “probability storm” and a brutal fight sequence that comes later, the cacophony of choreography and stunts doesn’t leave all too deep an impression.
Even though Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania leaves us with a lot of promise for what’s to come with Kang the Conqueror’s future tussles with the Avengers through Phases 5 and 6, it lacks the scale needed for the entrance of a main multi-entry villain. Jonathan Majors does a fantastic job in a movie that is marred by lackluster characters, unfulfilling arcs, and an underlying feeling of disinterest at its core. Quantumania feels more like Star Wars cosplay in the MCU than an actual entry in the Ant-Man sub-franchise and would it not have been for Kang’s presence, it would be a much lesser experience.
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