Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Philip Shippy — Staff writer

“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is the 31st and latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Directed by Peyton Reed, who is also responsible for the previous two Ant-Man films, the movie follows Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), his girlfriend Hope van Dyne/The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), as well as Hope’s parents Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne (the original Ant-Man and Wasp duo, played by Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer respectively) as they are sucked into the Quantum Realm (a microscopic world from the previous Ant-Man films). There, they discover a hidden universe that the villainous Kang (Jonathan Majors) rules over and try to find their way back home. The film is a mixed bag, with plenty of baffling plot decisions, a mediocre script, and lifeless cinematography and editing that overshadow fantastic visuals, a few inspired plot points, and some good acting.

First, the positives. In terms of the plot and script, there are some moments in the film that stand out. There is one scene involving Scott, Cassie, and Kang that was engaging, with Rudd and Majors giving some amazing performances that cemented Kang as an intimidating threat. These two actors hold the film together, with Rudd giving a convincing performance as a loving father alongside his signature comedic timing, and Majors bringing a quiet menace to his role as the villain.

The scenery, sound design, and costuming are also top tier. Whenever the film gives the viewer a wide shot of the Quantum Realm, the CGI landscapes are gorgeous. The sets provide enough contrast to fascinate the viewer, while also maintaining the feeling that it all exists in the same world. The sound design helps ground viewers in this alien world and includes some amazing effects that help show the viewer what’s happening on screen without telling them outright. And the costuming, especially for the characters without super suits, succeeds in helping the characters look good while also fitting in with the new universe, both for the plot and for the overall aesthetic of the film.

Unfortunately, this is where the positives end. The plot is nothing more than the standard MCU fare. While there are a few smart choices, including how the movie handles its opening exposition, the plot falls apart with even a little bit of thought.

Every character has only one or two traits that define who they are: Scott is a loving father, Cassie is an activist, Hank is a curious scientist, and so on. This is especially true of the characters who live in the Quantum Realm. Due to having five main characters as well as one-and-a-half major villains, the film has no time to spend on these side characters. Most have their personalities established with a few lines of dialogue or a stereotypical costume for what role they play, and that’s their whole identity.

The film also fails to have a cohesive theme. Two phrases are repeated throughout the movie: “Look out for the little guy” and “There’s always room to grow.” These repeated statements seem to be trying to tell the viewer something, but all the heroes understand these things at the start and never have to learn them. So, these two statements fail to act as a theme, and nothing replaces it.

“Quantumania” had the chance to play with some interesting themes, but it chose not to. If Reed wanted to press the “look out for the little guy” angle, he could have started the film with Cassie being a selfish person who then learns empathy throughout the story.

In terms of the mechanics of film making, only the sound design shines. There are a few moments of interesting cinematography, editing, and lighting, but for much of the film they are simply functional, without anything meaningful to add. The story and themes are told only through the plot points and dialogue without any input from the film’s mechanics.

Ultimately, the whole point of this movie seems to be the introduction of a new major villain for the MCU, and frankly, it does this well. It establishes Kang as the next franchise-wide big bad guy, and also begins to pull some of the lingering threads from previous movies and TV shows together. While it does what it set out to do, this does not change the fact that the movie itself is mid-tier: not horrible, but also not good. It feels like every other MCU film, but this genericness, as well as the problems mentioned above, make it worse than the earlier movies.

If you are keeping up with everything in the MCU universe or are fine spending two hours to turn your brain off and let the action and beautiful visions wash over you, then go ahead and watch it. If you want to know what’s going on in the MCU but don’t know yet if you want to watch it, a plot summary would be enough to stay up to date. For everyone else, “Quantumania” is not worth your time.

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