I’m not entirely sure where we’re suppose to be with with this whole Marvel Studios thing. On the one hand, in Kevin Feige we trust. He hasn’t really steered us wrong overall, and has changed the way we watch movies indefinitely. But on the other hand, while the Marvel machine has grown in quantity and ever expanding narrative, the end product continues to swim in mediocrity. “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania” suffers the same fate as many of the Phase 4 outings so far. It has moments, and keeps you engaged just long enough to give you the illusion that you had a good time at the movies. But it is still inextricably tied to the larger picture, delivering yet another film that simply can’t stand on its own. The connective tissue becomes the film itself, which in turn makes “Quantumania” unable to be anything other than a vehicle for whatever comes next.
Though fun at times and making good on its promise to be weird, “Quantumania” is ultimately derivative and wildly mediocre, offering nothing more than a CGI love fest with baffling editing and some truly cringe dialogue. Peyton Reed returns once again to helm the third installment from a screenplay by Jeff Loveness. Loveness is set to be the writer for “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty,” which given that one of my biggest issues here is the screenplay does not fill me with a lot of hope for the future. Paul Rudd returns as the titular character, along with Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne/Wasp, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, Michelle Pfiefer as Janet, and franchise newcomer Kathryn Newton as Scott Lang’s daughter, Cassie. “Quantumania” is rather straightforward in its premise: the family gets sucked into the Quantum Realm accidentally only to discover an entirely new universe deep within, populated with creatures, people, and dangers the likes of which none of them have ever encountered. It’s a race against time to get home, and hopefully survive the pursuit of a new threat in Kang the Conqueror (Johnathan Majors).
It’s hard to really articulate my issues with this one, mainly because the average movie goer probably won’t get hung up on the many things that stifled my own enjoyment. But as I continue to think on “Quantumania,” I get the sense that while the audience score will be higher than the current critic score, I think that divide is slowly starting to come closer and closer together. I don’t want to go as far as to say we’re experiencing the superhero fatigue or that the MCU is in danger. These films have redefined cinema for better or worse, and I don’t think we’re actually through with them yet. And the flop and danger discussion is only weighted against itself, as the MCU set its own bar for success and has quite literally redefined what it means to be a box office success or failure. So that discourse I’m not interested in, however all of the faults that people that derive from these arguments are becoming more and more true even if their basis is skewed.
All that to say, “Quantumania” is a mess, desperately trying to be so many things at once and somehow putting a competent, complete film as the last thing on its mind. Reed and Loveness seem tasked with establishing a whole new world rather quickly, a new villain that will carry through to the next phase, the next chapter in Lang’s story, and cramming it all into the run of the mill Marvel formula dead set on set up only. It all only works in pieces, and not all of those pieces feel necessary or even important. That goes for both the contained story and the larger universe, with the overabundance of characters and wild editing leave us without any character (including Ant-man himself) to care about in this giant CGI affair. “Quantumania” is a lot of ideas that seem to clash with its own creativity, and even worse, many of the ideas that do comprise the film are merely skins of other, better ones.
The film feels like an outright rip off of “Star Wars,” “Tron: Legacy,” and “Ready Player One,” failing to capture any of the strengths or magic that any of the aforementioned borrowed narratives possess. You would think with an entire world at their fingertips to create from scratch and go nuts, they would be able to at least do it originally. But Loveness’ script can’t escape his own love affair with his film muses, and Reed seems so concerned with what comes next that no one stopped to focus “Quantumania” and its story, tighten things up with a few more passes and declutter this hodgepodge mess of a film. It is baffling that a world like the Quantum Realm can be so bland and uninteresting, the bright laser lights and abstract painting backdrops adding nothing contextually and not nearly bright enough to overcome the film’s narrative shortcomings.
The main cast feel like they’d rather be anywhere else, even Rudd who generally seems excited to be a part of any project. Whatever charm and charisma he possesses feels wasted and even purposefully subdued, so much so that Ant-man himself doesn’t feel all that exciting to root for. I’m not ready throw Rudd out with the bath water, as the script doesn’t do any of them any favors. Newton’s Cassie suffers from the troubled teen archetype, and feels so far gone from any iteration we’ve seen before. She feels transported from the realm of After School Specials, and is often grating with her delivery and forced entry into the story. Again, I think Newton is a capable actress and I’ve enjoyed her in plenty of things, but whoever Reed has asked her to be simply doesn’t work here. “Quantumania” doesn’t have an identity of its own, which in turn causes everyone in it to spin their wheels and meander about while the film sets up whatever is suppose to come after.
Of course, Majors as Kang is as good as everyone says, and seems to be the only person actually trying to make “Quantumania” and its dialogue somewhat tolerable. Look, I love Majors as much as the next person, and he really is a great villain worthy of the Killmonger and Thanos mantle. But constantly asking a great actor to shoulder every single project and carry it to victory is a gross misuse of his talents and a poor excuse for bad filmmaking. Majors should not be the saving grace of “Quantumania,” and yet he is and is really the only thing worth remembering. And he’s not necessarily given favors script wise either, he’s just willing to elevate it all instead of phoning it in and letting the green screens do all the work. Beyond that though, there just isn’t a lot here to make this film worth watching or even remembering. It’s got the bones of an hour tops stretched to over two hours with nothing to say except “more Kang coming, stay tuned!”
That’s not a film, and many of the recent outings in the MCU have all suffered the same fate. “Quantumania” isn’t the first film of phase 4 to commit a lot of these quantity over quality, connection over storytelling mistakes in Marvel films, but it does do it so egregiously I’m starting to see what Scorsese is talking about. Trust me, I don’t ever want to be on the side of “old man yells at cloud,” but it left me so empty inside it’s hard to stay excited about anything in this world. I just don’t care, and I genuinely want to. I want to be a Marvel Studios stan and a superhero film apologist. But this recent run of phase 4 films (this one included) continues to make harder and harder to defend and stand by. I am just not convinced that we should settle for mediocrity, and this is about as mediocre as it gets.
There is some fun to be had here, Majors is dynamite of course, and it definitely continues the weirdness of the series. But “Ant-man and the Wasp: Quantumania” just feels like a lazy, a check the box entry without any originality or invention, and the continuity of the story after matters more than the story that is being told. It is deeply flawed and just not good.
I don’t need everything to be “Avengers: Infinity War” but I also don’t think we should be getting such a long string of direct to video leftovers. This is the made for TV version of a Marvel Studios movie (not one for their streaming service), one you mildly enjoy while it’s on but won’t remember a single thing about it after it concludes. You will probably never revisit this one without it being forced on you through FX movie cycles.
After slogging through “Quantumania,” I think it’s perfectly fine to let Kang hit the reset button on the whole damn thing. Either that, or just remake this movie but as a TikTok of Luis (Micheal Pena) recapping everything that happens.
That’s a better movie, honestly. And spoiler alert: he’s not in this one, and damn, is he sorely missed.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
“Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania” is now playing theaters. You can watch the trailer below.