Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Review: Marvel is asking too much of its audience

Michael Peña’s absence should have been a warning. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown so massively and all-encompassing that it’s not enough for an Ant-Man movie to be an Ant-Man movie. There must be a flood of new characters that are flimsy excuses for merchandise. There must be elaborate retcons to urge viewers to revisit the movies and shows that came before. Also required are celebrity cameos for cheap thrills and mind-bending world-building to lay the groundwork for the latest MCU phase. With all of this Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a chaotic, pathetically unfunny mess that has forgotten why its hero was so funny.

The thrill doesn’t just go away, it’s been buried under a bevy of plot fabrications and truly hideous CGI.

what is Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania around?

Photo credit: Marvel Studios

Avenger-turned master thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) lives in San Francisco, where he’s a local celebrity who gets high-fives and selfie requests in between book signings for his high-handed autobiography. He has reconnected with his teenage daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) and his romance with superheroine/philanthropist Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) continues. He’s even close with her parents, retired scientist/superheroes, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer). But many of them find themselves in danger when Cassie’s new invention sucks them into the quantum realm.


All Marvel Cinematic Universe films have been ranked from worst to best

Sure, Janet spent 30 years there. But in that time she’s made more enemies than friends. In particular, she has drawn the wrath of Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), who is determined to make his way out of this Tinyverse and into the wide world he wants to conquer. (Duh.) As you battle resident foes, reconnect with old foes, make new allies, and churn out plenty of Phase Five(Opens in a new tab) Exposition, this family will try to find their way back to San Fran without dooming the quantum empire of Kang’s continued tyranny.

Manage your expectations for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

A woman with a scarf stands in the dark.

Photo credit: Marvel Studios

ant man And Ant Man and the Wasp Director Peyton Reed returns to the helm for the third entry in this branch of the MCU. And he seems totally at a loss for the demands of the Marvel machine in this one. Scott has lost his funny friends. (Peña’s energy is sorely missed, and all the boring recap dialogue could have been fun with him in the driver’s seat(Opens in a new tab).) And as much in the movie Scott is rushing around to protect Cassie from the bad little world, he’s stressed out more often than he’s joking. In fact, the funniest line in the movie goes to one of his enemies! Paul Rudd’s timeless mug oscillates between a goofy grin and a frown.

Also wasted is Evangeline Lilly, whose Wasp was demoted from main character to plot device. She shows up to save the action moments that save the day. But it’s easy to imagine a movie where Hope was at a conference while her family went on this adventure without her. Turns out the wasp in the title Strictly speaking refers to the OG version of Pfeiffer.

Confused and fatherly, Scott is relegated to a sidekick in his own film, while Janet is an undeniably badass. She can slip into foreign languages, a telltale Star Wars cantina rip-off, and showdowns with the big bad with equal elegance and radiant sex appeal. if you love her Batman returns, (and you should) you’ll probably enjoy her return to the kick-butt dynamo. But this superhero sequel — which also brings its eponymous male hero to the sidelines of the story — isn’t nearly as weird or exciting as Tim Burton’s classic.

Part of the problem is that while Jeff Loveness’s screenplay introduces an intriguing band of new characters – most of them rebellious freedom fighters who defy Kang – he doesn’t give them any arcs and has practically nothing to do but be introduced . Her designs are varied and fascinating. Katy M. O’Brian shows promise as she storms onto the screen, a warrior princess who has no patience for Scott’s vacillation. There’s a goo guy who’s briefly amusing, a man with a fire in his face, and The good place‘s William Jackson Harper as a comically annoyed telepath. (“Everybody is disgusting!‘) But in a crowded field of curious creatures and characters of the Quantum Realm, these potentially compelling companions are little more than an added flare, twinkling briefly, then forgotten.

Amidst all this muddle, only Pfeiffer stands out, giving a performance that is grounded and moving. The rest of the cast – no matter how serious – feel lost amidst the onslaught of eyesore CGI.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is Marvel’s ugliest movie.

A family in superhero suits fights

Photo credit: Marvel Studios

The quantum realm is a place of endless possibilities. But what Reed has settled on appears to be a mashup of Star Wars, strange world, slime, and those magic eye posters that made us squint to understand them. That actually fits somehow. The CGI settings created for ant man 3 Here’s what a migraine might look like if it were a landscape of fleshy pink parts punctuated by either shiny mucus or crunchy yellow. But beyond that Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumanias action sequences are visually incoherent disasters.

Blur effects are added throughout, perhaps to suggest speed, or to cover up a heavy hit, or to mask some of the rough edges in the CGI. Whatever the reason, the result is the same: blurry sequences that undermine the tension of the plot. To make matters worse, the lighting scheme in Quantum Realm seems straight out of the Battle of Winterfell, giving audiences scenes so dark – even in IMAX – that it’s difficult to make out what’s happening beneath the charging orchestral score. But when the lights come on, you might wish it weren’t.

As Reed teased in pre-release interviews(Opens in a new tab) (and as is crystal clear on the film’s IMDb page) MODOK (aka Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing) has come to the MCU in live action. And what they did to bring the character close to his comic book portrayals is a real crime against Corey Stoll’s face. Stoll has to be credited for lending much-needed pep and humor to this overcrowded family drama and providing the biggest laughs – even with lousy dialogue. Reed’s biggest visual joke in the film, however, is MODOK’s design, which is a twisted mix of metal, shiny flesh, and goo. It Is funny, but it’s also distractingly repulsive.

Kang The Conqueror is a terribly disappointing Big Bad.

A man in a superhero suit sits on a golden chair.

Photo credit: Marvel Studios

It’s baffling how the MCU took one of its most talked-about rising stars (Jonathan Majors) and turned his screen debut into a role that’s stiflingly stiff. This Kang (in contrast to the in Loki) wears a ridiculous costume (I don’t care if it looked like it in the comics) and yet has no sense of humor or whimsy.

A stoic warlord who truly loves to conquer, this Kang will often tell you that while everyone else is telling you how invincible he is. The proof of this is that Kang’s powers (based on SUPER advanced tech) are basically anything that goes with the script. He shoots blue stuff that kills people or zaps superpowers or whatever else I couldn’t make out through the blur and darkness. While this might be intended to make him seem unbeatable, it’s actually more annoying because there’s no ground to hold on to when we’re plunged into another battle of Time Lord nonsense against the Ant family.

The other big problem with Kang is that it feels like you’re following his plot work. Despite the copious amount of summaries and exposure dumps Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Paprika throughout its plot, the film is frustrating to follow because it requires so much prior knowledge and prior buy-in for its characters. It’s not enough to see every Ant-Man movie or every Avengers movie. you watched better Loki to! Not only that, you better remember all the intricacies of this finale or Kang’s babble will fizzle out.

The MCU has become work that’s fun.

A man in an ironclad superhero suit kneels between flying spaceships.

Photo credit: Marvel Studios

The MCU movies used to be fun. Whether you knew the comics or not, they used to be thrilling adventures, crafted with humor, jaw-dropping action, and hard-hitting character moments. But with its 31st entry, it’s no longer blithely diving in for a good time. There will certainly be superficial summaries of plot points. But Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania has so little interest in his heroes, sidekicks, and villains that unless you’ve auditioned with the previous films – the better films – this one isn’t the sum of its parts. There’s no shame in being a popcorn movie. Too bad that Reed and Co. forgot that.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania has big stars, quirky cameos, action sequences, world building, and even – on rare occasions – punch lines. But it’s hardly a film that pulls strings together for a larger scheme of merchandising and cross-promotion via character-driven storytelling. In the end, with its clumsy collision of influences, star power, CGI that’s often gummy or downright ugly, and a convoluted storyline that should have a connection to Excedrin, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is like a child’s mixed media project made of paper mache, glitter and bits of rotten ground beef.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania opens in cinemas on February 17th.

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