“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” (2023)
Running Time: 124 minutes
Written by: Jeff Loveness
Directed by: Peyton Reed
Featuring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Kathryn Newton, David Dastmalchian, William Jackson Harper, Katy O’Brian and Bill Murray
Scott Lang: “Who are you?”
Kang The Conqueror: “I’m the man who can give you the one thing you want.”
Scott Lang: “What’s that?”
Kang The Conqueror: “Time.”
Released in cinemas this week is the first MCU movie of the year in “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” (2023), which represents the third movie of the Ant-Man movies, as well as the thirty-first entry in the MCU itself. After all these movies and storylines you might expect some real daring in both the storytelling, the narrative or even the special effects but it seems to me after some disappointments in the form of “Eternals” (2021) and “Thor: Love and Thunder” (2022) it seems that attempting to play it safe is the order of the day. However in terms of the result it is a little pedestrian as well as a letdown as the first entry into the fifth phase of the storytelling model. Don’t get me wrong there is much to like here, the performances are great but maybe taking a gamble may have paid off to make this more enjoyable and memorable.
The plot of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” this time involves Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne, along with Hope’s parents, Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne, and Lang’s daughter, Cassie, who all go on a new adventure exploring the Quantum Realm that pushes their limits and pits them against Kang the Conqueror.
Directed by Peyton Reed who was also at the helm of the previous two instalments here knows exactly what he is doing with this franchise, this has always been the smallest part of the MCU, so Reed seemed to be able to add his own style to the proceedings. However now in this movie it is a major kicking off point for what is promised to be something huge with a main villain that will rival the great Thanos. For me it’s not really the direction that is an issue, although I have a feeling that this entry is more paint by numbers than the previous two. Unfortunately it’s the script, written by newcomer Jeff Loveness, that is far too full of plot as well as endless explanations that would be much better in a longer more in-depth movie, maybe that’s indicative of a studio that just didn’t believe in the movie from the start. Its unfortunate then that Loveness is also writing a new Avengers movie to be released in the next few years.
When addressing as well as viewing a movie with a name like “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” you would expect this movie to be a little more crazier than the previous ones ala the Doctor Strange movies, although they had a much higher budget than the Ant-man instalments. Although with a budget north of US$200 million far more than the two previous movies the spectacle should be off the charts, alas it is kind of dull in its own way. However what I felt was an overabundance of digital effects and green screen with a plot that felt all setup and not much payoff. There is nothing wrong with a movie that sets up the future that was something the MCU did so well, but this as a standalone movie seems a little off and a little lost.
Of course with a movie that has Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly as its leads and the stellar Jonathan Majors, Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Douglas in supporting roles there are very good performances across the board although it is Majors who seems to know what movie he is actually appearing in. In his other outings as the titular character Rudd was always charming but he always felt like the second lead in his own movies because of the addition of actual superstars that he had to play off against. I don’t think it is any coincidence that almost everyone is better in a scene when Douglas and Pfeiffer are in it as well, everyone raises their game around true legends. I think that all the actors are let down by a listless script that becomes more apparent by the end of proceedings. Majors as Kang the Conqueror makes for an excellent villain, who brings nuance and subtlety to his character.
In terms of the science of the movie that we witnessed in the first two instalments this new one does not hold back we get smart ants, crazy ships that are apparently run by slime worms, and plenty of size-changing antics. We even get the return of Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross, who now plays M.O.D.O.K., with a giant head that never stops being unnervingly creepy. Most of the Ant-Man powers are still relegated to Scott, Hope, and now Cassie shrinking down small, punching someone, then getting big again, but at least this world finally sees the prospects this world has.
The real weakness as mentioned is that the primary function of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is introducing the next big bad guy for the next few phases of the MCU’s master plan. Even though this story gets started with the cool tech and family dynamics being handled in a way that is more impactful than in any previous films, the film quickly becomes the Kang show. And that’s not entirely a bad thing, since Majors is absolutely the best part of this film, but it feels like a major character’s introduction glomming onto the first Scott Lang story that actually knows what it should be doing.
Which is a shame, because all the pieces are there for a solid Scott Lang/Hope van Dyne/Pym family adventure, and with these actors doing some of their best work in the MCU, but that story gets overtaken. But it’s easy to forget that this wasn’t his story, that this was supposed to be about Scott, his family, and his loved ones. There’s a fascinating world to explore here, and Ant-Man finally gets close to the full realization of the potential of his character and this concept, but it all, unfortunately, gets overtaken by Kang, it seems like a missed opportunity to either streamline the story or make it a true epic.