Scott Lang and Hope Van Dyne, along with Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, explore the Quantum Realm, where they interact with strange creatures and embark on an adventure that goes beyond the limits of what they thought was possible. (from IMDB)
Marvel continues moving forward with their cinematic universe, adding to it a third entry for Ant-Man, boldly titled Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. After two small-scale (no pun intended) films that kept things more intimate and centralized to San Franciso, the Ant-Man team enters into a much larger world on a grander scale, by venturing into the Quantum Realm. While this world is bigger and more grandiose for these characters to be exploring, it's ironically a tiny, microscopic world. The Quantum Realm has only been touched on briefly in the Marvel films, namely the first two Ant-Man movies and Avengers: Endgame. But to serve the growing vision of the MCU, the Quantum Realm has been "expanded" upon in Quantumania to have countless new characters and creatures, plantlife, and cities, complete with buildings and vehicles. This opens up a world of creativity for the MCU, offering some visuals that viewers surely have never seen before, but it betrays the DNA of the previous Ant-Man entries, forsaking everything that made those films unique and enjoyable to begin with.
To be fair, the Ant-Man movies have been rather polarizing for Marvel fans since the first entry in 2015, almost 8 years ago. I've found that there are fans of many of the Marvel movies that just end up nearly hating these movies. Sure, having comedic actor Paul Rudd cast as the titular hero can be off-putting to some, but his likeable everyday man personality is actually one of the main reasons I like these films. And one of the most fun aspects of these films is watching the characters grow and shrink and interacting with the world around us that we're familiar with (including growing and shrinking real world objects). By setting most of Quantumania within the fantastical Quantum Realm, the novelty of the Ant-Man universe is less evident. Also, setting the movie in a completely surreal sci-fi universe like the Quantum Realm has led the filmmakers to film the bulk of the movie against green screens. Sadly, even though it's 2023, it's painfully obvious that these actors are just acting in front of a green screen, which makes the Quantum Realm universe seem all that more synthetic and unbelievable. Honestly, while watching Quantumania, I kept getting Star Wars prequel flashbacks - particularly Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith - and that is not a good thing.
All of the actors seem like good sports given the dramatic change in feel and setting for the third entry, and sadly the main cast seem to get a bit short-changed by having to compete with SO much going on around them. So many new characters are introduced, with so many weird and bizarre things happening, that it kind of detracts from the story. One review I saw online commented on how Cassie's introduction as another suit-wearing character to join Wasp and Ant-Man is revealed with her already knowing how to do almost everything the others can do without any kind of training shown. There's only one moment where Rudd's Scott Lang tries to give her a tip on how to maximize her small-to-large punch impact, but other than that, she's pretty knowledgeable already. Sadly, while I loved little Cassie in the first two movies, the post-blip older Cassie, played by Kathryn Newton, is missing everything lovable about how Abby Ryder Fortson played the character. (I think I liked Emma Fuhrmann's performance as Cassie in Avengers: Endgame better, too. I'm not sure why the recast her again.) I get that a teenage version of the character has to be different, but I just didn't find Newton's portrayal likeable. Since Michelle Pfeiffer's character of Janet Van Dyne spent 30 years in the Quantum Realm, her character gets significantly more screentime in this one. I enjoyed her character, but the strange powers she displayed in the previous film never resurface, and the explanation for why Hope, Hank, and Scott never learned about the dangers and details of the Quantum Realm are explained away as Janet having never wanted to talk about it. While the movie makes countless references to all of the previous films Ant-Man has appeared in, it's almost as if those who made this movie had never actually seen those movies. Heck, if I didn't know Peyton Reed directed this movie after having done the first two, I'd swear this was assembled by an entirely different filmmaking team.
The biggest thing Quantumania does, actually, is further introduce the next MCU big bad, Kang the Conqueror. He did get his official introduction in the Disney Plus series, Loki in season one, but this is the first time Kang has graced the big screen. Ever since Spider-Man: No Way Home, the MCU has been leaning hard into the whole multiverse concept. Last year's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was kind of a mess, with admittedly some fun moments mixed in (Captain Carter! Mr. Fantastic! The return of Patrick Stewart as Professor X!), but as an MCU entry, it didn't really deliver. Ever since The Flash TV series introduced the multiverse into the DC TV universe, the idea of introducing multiple versions of characters felt cheap and like lazy writing. (It's way worse than using time travel to resurrect a fallen hero.) In Loki, it proved to just be totally bonkers. And sadly, that craziness spills into this film as well. The fact that the Quantum Realm and Multiverse allow there to be ever-changing rules that can be tailored to whatever any writer wants to do on a whim cheapens this cinematic universe. The events of Quantumania do look to have repercussions on the grand scheme of the MCU, but the whole multiverse madness (which is a perfect way to describe it) kind of undermines the main villain. At least with Thanos, we had just one Thanos to deal with. Even if he was temporarily resurrected due to time travel, it was still technically the same guy. But with Loki introducing a sort of infinite possible number of Kang characters, it just feels like the MCU are not only biting off more than they can proverbially chew, but they're losing their grip on the story. (Losing the plot, if you will.) If there are infinite versions of characters and possibilities, how can we really get a handle on what the stakes are? It's becoming increasingly evident that Marvel's strength died with the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame (or at least with the conclusion of Spider-Man: No Way Home). So with that said, Jonathan Majors turns in an impressive performance as Kang. He definitely has a commanding presence. However, his true origin is left rather ambiguous, and introducing multiple versions of the character seems to nullify any kind of origin for him. I really want to know why he's so dang powerful. At least with Thanos, we knew he was a Titan who was strong and had a penchant for balance and dominating worlds.
While Ant-Man: Quantumania is ultimately another disappointing MCU entry, it's still enjoyable. Even Thor: Love and Thunder had its merits. Both films are complete messes, but I have to admit they're still both entertaining. (And I'm definitely curious as to how repeat viewings of Quantumania will affect its enjoyability.) I do love Paul Rudd's character and he does keep Scott Lang fun to watch. I've been a fan of Evangeline Lilly since Lost, and while I feel like she actually has less to do in this movie than the other two, I still enjoy seeing her in this universe. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Bill Murray's delightful performance as Lord Krylar. You probably already know the original Ghostbusters is my favorite film, and Murray's Peter Venkman is one of my all-time favorite characters in cinema, so it's super fun to see him join the MCU, even if just in a small role. You can tell he had fun in the part, and he's just the perfect mix of charm and smarm as Krylar.
I do have to make another complaint, though. There's a popular comic character that is introduced in this film (of which I've only heard of, so I have no personally invested interest in the character), and explained in a way that merges an existing character with a completely different one. You would think Marvel would have learned not to do that after the flack they got for what they did in Iron Man 3 with The Mandarin, or Taskmaster in Black Widow. And not only is it a bizarre, and kind of stupid, idea for the character, but the CGI for the character is so bad, I don't know how it was signed off on. You'd think that with how poor the character looks, they would have decided to hide it as much as they could, but instead they just kept showing it. It still blows my mind.
So the content for the Ant-Man: Quantumania is mostly on par with the two previous movies, but this one was considerably darker in tone than either of them. Even Christophe Beck's usual peppy score for an Ant-Man movie is decidedly darker and more ominous. There is some blood shown in the movie, but only as marks on people's faces due to fighting. Ant-Man graduates to the big leagues here in getting a fist-fight that is surprisingly brutal for his character. (It's even got some Captain America: Civil War or Spider-Man vibes with how intense it gets.) Another intense sequence shows blasts of energy being used to vaporize people/creatures. It's not particularly graphic or gross, but it could be frightening to some younger viewers. There is no sexual content, although there is some brief suggestive content when Hank and Janet discuss past romances they had with other people. Profanity is infrequent, but there are a few uses of the "S" word (almost all from Hank, Cassie or the aforementioned comic book character), a couple uses of blasphemy (especially one emphasized, and unnecessary, "g*dd*mn" from Hank in a line that's meant to be humorous), and a sequence where multiple copies of a person repeat "What the h-ll" over and over, often overlapping with each other.
Sadly, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania represents a current consistency with Marvel -- and not a good one. It's the latest over-the-top Marvel entry that seems to ignore what made the characters so great and likeable before, trading it for spectacle and fluff instead. While certainly not the worst movie in the MCU, and definitely not the worst movie you'll see this year, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a disappointment that continues Marvel's current downward trajectory. (As far as end credit scenes, there's a mid-credits scene that is rather important to the MCU. The post-credits scene is relevant to a Disney+ TV series.)
UPDATE: I just got back from taking my family to see it - their first time, my second - on IMAX, and I liked it a lot more the second time. A lot of the same problems still stick out, but I felt I was able to just try and enjoy it the second time. My 12-year-old son, who also happens to love ants, loved the movie.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 2/17/23, 2/19/23)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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