Entering its fifth phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Peyton Reed returns to the director’s chair for Ant-Man’s latest entry, Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania.
Interestingly, Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania felt like it was transfixed in a dreamlike state from when we first catch up with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), who has become a successful author, living with his girlfriend, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and his activist daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton).
For reasons that make sense, a portal is opened to the Quantum Realm drawing in the trio along with Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Hank van Dyne (Michael Douglas). Once within the Quantum Realm, the group attracts the attention of Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), who proceeds to exact revenge. The story holds back certain clues about individual characters’ influence on these events and ends up posing more questions than providing answers, giving a feeling of being excluded.
Reed’s film is the 31st entry in the series, excluding the hours of televised MCU entries available on Disney+. Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania is the first MCU entry that, for me, needed more fleshing out within the film itself, and that weighs heavily on what I took away from it. It is safe to say that while I am its intended audience, at the same time, I’m not, leading to the feeling of being excluded. And this is the first MCU movie that has actively made me feel this.
The essential context of a revenge story by Jeff Loveness felt heavily recycled from much earlier efforts such as Flash Gordon serials or Moby Dick. There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach – it is an exciting way to tell a story with the characters that populate it, especially Jonathan Majors’ Kang, an equivalent of Ming the Merciless, only dourer. His actions make sense, given the cinematic version of the character and where, within the MCU, he comes from. The challenge is that the stakes are less critical than those earlier works for our heroes. Too much emphasis is put on events that influenced the situations but felt utterly meaningless within the context of Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, again for the uninitiated.
Now, someone who might be better versed than I on the intricacies of the characters in Ant-Man’s realm might very well be able to take away joy from this film, and I don’t begrudge them that opportunity. Yet, if I sat down and watched any of the earlier Marvel entries or even DCEU entries, I’d have no issues figuring out how the implications of this story affect the rest of this universe. Quantumania simply relies too heavily on what’s come before it for someone to jump in without background, and it is the first MCU film where that’s problematic.
Rudd does less of a ham routine, which I missed; I suppose that’s part of being a parent. Lilly is probably the strongest of the main characters, while Pfeiffer does have a lot of material to work with; however, her character’s connection to Kang is seemingly intended to be explored in further MCU entries, while Douglas carries some of the film’s more heroic efforts.
Jonathan Majors sells the immediacy of Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania through quiet, dramatic prose, drawing interest into Kang, even from a casual observer of the film. I guess I’ll have to go back to season one of Loki to see his origins. Suffice it to say, Kang is the one major highlight of an otherwise unremarkable entry into the MCU.
Adding to the recycled feel of the story is that Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania evoked a Star Wars feeling in the way certain characters like M.O.D.O.K. and Veb were handled. Jentorra (Katy O’Brian) certainly stood out as someone of relevance to future MCU entries. Their interactions, set pieces, and other surprises added to Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania’s unremarkable feeling.
Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania
Directed by Peyton Reed
Screenplay by Jeff Loveness, based on Marvel Comics
Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors, Kathryn Newton, David Dastmalchian, Michelle Pfeiffer, Corey Stoll, Michael Douglas
PG-13, 125 minutes, Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios