Film Reviews

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania – Film Review

Ant-Man has always been one of the lighter confections offered by the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Usually it has been the palate cleanser after the main event, with the first film closing phase two, after The Avengers: Age of Ultron – very much the ‘A-picture’ of that era. The second film followed directly on from the epic Avengers: Infinity War. With the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the titular character finds himself in the new position of having to lead a phase, and set in motion some of the story arcs to come.

We pick up with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) in a good position in life. His relationship with Hope (Evangeline Lilly) is going well, he has made decent money from an autobiography, and he is treated like a celebrity everywhere he goes. He remains very close to his daughter Cassie (now played by Kathryn Newton, meant to be 18, but looking far older), who is proving to be something of a genius (as all young ladies of the MCU seem to be).

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She is working with her step-Grandfather Hank Pym (Michael Douglas, largely wasted here) to learn more about the Quantum Realm into which her step-grandmother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) had been cast for over thirty years. Having managed to open a portal to the realm, all four of them find themselves sucked in, and left to work out a way to escape, whilst encountering a variant of Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), an old acquaintance of Janet, whose actions may have led, inadvertantly, to his success as a dictator of that world. That is basically it for the plot.

Let us be blunt, whilst mileage with individual elements will vary from person to person, phase four of the MCU was, largely, terrible. Overstuffed at something like seventeen entries, there was no overall theme or sense of strategy, and whilst we got genuinely inventive work with the likes of Wandavision, entries such as What If…?, The Eternals, She-Hulk, and Thor: Love and Thunder, were at best divisive, and at worst genuinely awful. There was a sense of Kevin Feige, overseer of the whole continuity, being spread too thin, effects work weakening with the whole rush to get out more product, and with the introduction of the multiverse, a dilution of stakes, as we can always get a replacement for any lost characters from another timeline.


Some of these issues carry over into the start of this new phase. There is a sense of rushing out product here. We get very little set-up before we are into the story, with Judy Greer and Michael Pena missing in action (the latter’s humour sorely missed). Effects work is hugely variable, with the world looking very – for want of a better word – fake (and the 3D conversion is almost non-existent). We are introduced to the MODOK character and, whilst he looks somewhat similar to the comic book version, in this film he wears a mask that you will be begging by film’s end for him to keep on, as his face underneath looks utterly ridiculous – and we mean film-breakingly stupid.

The MCU has taken to using a facility called The Volume to shoot most of its scenes in a virtual environment, and it leaves everything feeling inauthentic. This film has been referred to in some previews as Marvel’s Star Wars, and it is true that there is something of the Cantina in the diversity of species, but the cantina was one sequence in which we were simply being shown the range of beings living there. There is little commitment to developing any of the side characters here, and so we have little investment in the struggles of any of the communities living in the realm.


Bluntly, to enjoy this requires not thinking too much, as the moment we do, nothing at all makes sense. For one example, Kang’s skillset and power varies from non-existent to unbeatable depending upon the needs of any given scene, and this really causes issues in act three, where he does nothing, until he does everything – until he does nothing again.

Marvel has stopped being able to properly plan out its action and its stakes. Lang is a passenger in his own film, and the constant change of actress playing Cassie harms our attachment to that character. In short, this film is a rushed mess, where the character does not suit the overarching needs of the universe it is serving. Peyton Reed, director of Down With Love, is very adept at that light confection, the palate cleanser, the lower stakes fun. Ant-Man, and its creative team, are simply not suited to the universe-level stakes epic.

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On the plus side, this does not sport the deadly dullness of The Eternals, and it is not the stakes-free Black Widow, where the film could exist in a complete vacuum. And thanks to a fantastic turn from Jonathan Majors, there is a sense of threat that elevates it beyond the fatally goofy tone of the last Thor film.

It is fun, in places. As such, it sits alongside a Shang-Chi as a film relatively average in its own right, but equally suggestive of story arcs that may just go somewhere (and Kang is very promising indeed, despite the issues a multiverse raises). If, however, Marvel wastes a second consecutive phase (as they did after Shang-Chi) with far too much product all going nowhere, then they will be in trouble. They have little wiggle-room left now, as the consistent excellence of phase three now feels a very long time ago. Mediocre, at best.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is out now at cinemas.

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