Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Review: Another Messy Marvel Movie
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a mess of a film that fails to capture the things that made the first two films great.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a mess of a film that fails to capture the things that made the first two films great and chooses instead to spend its entire two-hour runtime setting up for later payoffs. [THIS REVIEW WILL BE SPOILER FREE]
Director: Peyton Reed
Summary: Scott Lang and Hope Van Dyne, along with Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, explore the Quantum Realm, where they interact with strange creatures and embark on an adventure that goes beyond the limits of what they thought was possible.
The thing that has made the Marvel Cinematic Universe a lasting presence heading into its second decade is the diversity of genre and the diversity of tone. That and focusing on the characters while leaving the worldbuilding to the margins has kept this engine going. Still, after Avengers: Endgame, it has become more and more apparent that the studio doesn't quite know how to make the magic happen again. The common thing that nearly all of phase four has had is that nearly all of the films and several of the shows are varying levels of a mess. Sometimes that mess doesn't get in the way that much, and sometimes it kneecaps an entire production, but nearly all of them are floundering. While that can be seen in all the films, it has never been more apparent than Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania because the only moments where this feels like an Ant-Man film are when Scott is walking through San Francisco narrating his life.
While the film, which lacks any semblance of a structure of any kind, let alone a three-act installation, it doesn't take long to get the ball rolling. As a result, nearly all the runtime is spent in the Quantum Realm. While aspects of it are wonderfully realized, all too much of this world looks like any other alien civilization that we have seen before. And unfortunately, the film blows by the moments that hint at something more without much lingering on them. It feels like a faint photocopy of a world where the shining moments of far-future Marvel movies stagnate beneath the bewildering plot, weird script, and general mess that doesn't come together. This movie is Stagnant above all.
A lot is going on in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and to get into various plot points would be varying levels of spoilers. But the Ant-Man movies have always been focused on the family dynamics of the characters, and that just isn't here. There is a plot point that the trailers and the marketing have talked about that isn't touched on in the movie at all, and it is a massive missed opportunity for this series. These films were different from the other Marvel films because all of these people, Scott, Hope, Cassie, are just people. No one has any superpowers or Tony Stark-level wealthand everything that they are comes from within. However, that human element is drowning in the VFX and the story that is struggling to figure out what is important and what isn't.
The bright spots all come from the actors. This is the most we've seen from Michelle Pfieffer, and while she doesn't get nearly enough badass scenes, they also don't waste her either. They are involved in nearly everything that happens on screen and seeing the two of them interact is great to watch. Michael Douglas is still not nearly enough of an asshole to be a believable Hank Pym, but that isn't where these movies are going, so it's fine. If anyone gets the shaft this time around, it's Evangeline Lilly as Hope. This movie might be called Ant-Man and the Wasp, but the Wasp feels remarkably lacking compared to the previous film.
The heart of these films has always been and will always be Scott and Cassie, and it's nice to see Cassie out there doing her own thing. Kathryn Newton gets saddled with the role of "bumbling kid who has no idea what she's doing" when it comes to her suit and the powers, but once she figures it out, she has great potential to be a Young Avengers if and when Marvel decides to go in that direction. Paul Rudd is great as Scott, and Jonathan Majors is a ton of fun as Kang. If anyone was worried this would be a repeat of his performance in Loki, no need to be concerned. The Kang of Ant-Man and the Wasp is very different.
However, those moments with the characters don't come together to form anything. Along with the diversity of tone and genre, Marvel has done a good job of making sure that all of the movies feel like their own wholly complete story. Ant-Man and the Wasp feels like the first chapter of something or perhaps a detailed prologue, because lot of the information dumped in this movie, no matter how they might dress it up, is stuff you already know if you're watching Disney+. This isn't a terrible film, it's not even a bad one. It's just a mediocre one, but when you set the standard high, it's obvious when you miss it.
Fifteen years into the game is not the time for Marvel to start getting lazy and letting all of these movies blend together. However, that is what's starting to happen. The distinguishing factor is getting lost in each film that can't seem to come together into a cohesive whole. Thus far, the only one that hasn't completely fallen apart is the one built like a phase one film, and there's a reason for that. The shows are doing a better job of keeping that diversity of tone and genre, but the plates are wobbling, and when it comes tumbling down? It's unclear who will be standing.