‘Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania’ (2023)
Directed by: Peyton Reed
Written by: Jeff Loveness (screenplay) & Jack Kirby (created by)
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors, William Jackson Harper, Katy M. O’Brian, Kathryn Newton, Michelle Pfeiffer & Michael Douglas.
Superhero fatigue keeps being brought up whenever anyone delves into a conversation about the current spate of comic book movies that have been hitting theaters lately. Everything from the average film critic asking “How much longer can this trend continue?” to the comments of renowned directors like Ridley Scott and Jane Campion saying “They’re f****** boring as s***.” and “I hate them.”, respectively. At this point, even a diehard comic book fan such as myself is beginning to feel a bit… overwhelmed by the amount of these CBMs, as we lovingly refer to them. When you also factor in the amount of shows that Marvel now pushes out to the medium on Disney+, it can be daunting. In fact, I cannot even imaging what it would be like to have not been in on the ground floor of these ever since ‘Iron Man’ first debuted in 2008 and having to now go back and watch ALL of it in order to keep up and try to understand it all. In fact, the newest installment in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe, for the uninitiated), is the 31st movie in the franchise! That’s right – ‘Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania‘ is not only the 3rd film in the ‘Ant-Man’ series, but it also kicks off Phase 5 of the MCU. Paul Rudd & Evangeline Lilly return as Scott Lang (aka: Ant-Man) and Hope Van Dyne (aka: The Wasp) along with Michael Douglas as Hank Pym and Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet Van Dyne. This time they will be facing off against the super villain Kang The Conqueror played by Jonathan Majors. MCU devotees will remember him from his first appearance in the Disney+ series ‘Loki’ as one of the many variants of Kang from across the multiverse.
I won’t get into trying to explain how this fits into the overarching story that is building up or which comic book appearances of Kang that you should read in order to get a better feel for this particular character. That train left the station about 20 movies ago. Instead I’ll focus on what this movie got right and where it fell short. In ranking this feature among the others in the franchise, it is very much in the middle of the pack for me. It lacks the charm and thrill of the “heist” type movie that we were treated to in the original ‘Ant-Man‘, but that’s to be expected, I suppose, after the universe changing events of the last two ‘Avengers‘ movies. Still… I’m on the fence regarding how to feel about the stakes of this one being quite a bit larger (no pun intended) than Ant-Man and The Wasp should have been able to handle.
The visuals were a feast for the eyes and the imagination. Our screening was in IMAX which helped greatly and I’m hoping to see this one in 3-D since I can only imagine that the 3-D format would bring things up to another level. A lot of imagination was used in giving us what things are like in this Quantum Realm from the plant life to creatures that could self-replicate to living buildings. However, I couldn’t help but notice what appeared to be some copy-and-paste moments from the large scenes of Kang’s troops gathering in front of impressive looking structures to begin boarding ships to prepare for invasion that seemed almost visually identical to Thanos’ armies in ‘Avengers: Endgame‘ and Wakandan soldiers in ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever‘. Maybe that’s just me beginning to suffer from a wee bit of superhero fatigue myself.
***MILD SPOILER COMING UP IN THE NEXT SECTION. SKIP IT IF YOU DON’T WANT ANY POTENTIAL SPOILERS!***
No Small Roles
While the acting was solid throughout, the performance by Jonathan Majors was a standout on par with Michael B. Jordan‘s performance in ‘Black Panther‘. Not in a “I can see the reasons why this villain feels the need to take these actions.” kind of way but more in a “Oh, no! This guy is going to be a legitimate threat that I don’t know how the good guys can beat.” kind of way. We got a sense of how good Majors would be in the aforementioned ‘Loki‘ series as He Who Remains (a variant of Kang), but nothing could prepare us for just what a powerhouse he would be both as a character and as an actor. The fact that he will be the new “big bad” for Marvel going forward delights me more than words can say and reinvigorates my slightly waning interest in the Marvel franchise! The other standout performance for me was Michelle Pfeiffer who, while always good in everything I can recall seeing her, proved her ability to steal the scenes at several times throughout the fast-paced 2 hour & 5 minute run time. From Selina Kyle to Janet Van Dyne, it doesn’t seem like she’s missed a step in the past 30 years since ‘Batman Returns‘ hit theaters! The plot was all fun with very little of anything that felt like filler. Michael Douglas was great and Kathryn Newton appears to be able to hold her own admirably as the newest addition to the Marvel family. Sadly, however, Bill Murray was completely wasted in this film. Ever since it was announced that he was going to be attached to this project, speculation was rampant about what character from Marvel Comics he might play and what he would be like in the MCU. Instead, he shows up for one scene as an obscure character from an issue of Incredible Hulk, never to be heard from again.
Of all the disappointments that Marvel Studios has given me, this one might be the biggest. Being part of a cinematic franchise that spans (currently) 31 movies, I get that some of the films have to be about servicing the overall story and not each movie can be about character development. That is certainly the case here. Ant-Man is definitely front and center, but this 3rd film didn’t develop his character in the meaningful ways that we saw Iron Man develop in his 3rd film, nor Thor in ‘Ragnarok’. And for sharing the title, The Wasp barely felt present at all except to be angry at Janet or to rescue Scott. Generally, this film was meant to set up Kang as the villain moving forward and, as a side plotline, to set up Cassie Lang as the heir to the this particular arm of the franchise going forward as Stinger or Stature or whichever one of the comic book monikers they give her in future films.
As a fan who is used to what goes on with Marvel Studios’ offerings to date, I enjoyed this movie, but was not bowled over by it as I was with ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ or ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ nor did I find it to have the charm of the original ‘Ant-Man’ or ‘The Guardians of The Galaxy‘. In my rankings, it would very much be a upper-middle of the pack, saved mostly by the stunning visuals and the standout performances of the cast. On a scale of 1 to 10, this one only manages to grow to a 7. That being said, given the special effects and visual elements, this is one I would definitely recommend seeing in theaters in IMAX or 3-D, if possible!!