ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA review by Mark Walters – an ambitiously messy Marvel franchise entry

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA review by Mark Walters – an ambitiously messy Marvel franchise entry

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I’ve been saying for a while now, with all the successful Marvel movies we’ve been treated to, they’re definitely due to have a few misses at this point. BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER met with mixed reviews, and some found it to be a bit lacking. ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA sadly doesn’t improve things much, which is particularly upsetting considering it’s meant to kick off the new “Phase” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Picking up after the events of AVENGERS: ENDGAME, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is enjoying his newfound fame as an Avenger, and one who is credited as helping save the world. As he walks down the street, he’s met with smiles, handshakes and requests for photos… a far cry from his former life as a thief and absent father from the life of his daughter Cassie. Scott even wrote a book about his exploits as Ant-Man. He and his girlfriend Hope Van Dyne aka The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) are enjoying life, along with Hope’s reunited parents Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), the original Ant-Man and Wasp. Because of “The Snap” by Thanos and the five-year gap in which Scott was trapped in the Quantum Realm (an event that happened in the last ANT-MAN movie), he’s now trying to make up for lost time with Cassie (Kathryn Newton), who he last remembered knowing as a young girl. Cassie, now a teenager, has taken an interest in Quantum technology, and has developed a sort of beacon to the Quantum Realm, but her tech backfires and sucks all five of them into it, so now the Pyms and Langs must experience this mysterious world between worlds invisible to the naked eye. Janet knows it well, as she was once trapped there for many years, and was also closely connected to a man called Kang (Jonathan Majors), a time traveler who found his way to her some time ago by accident. When Janet escaped, Kang remained, and the realm is now a much different place from what she remembers. As Scott and Cassie try to find a way out, they soon realize Kang has other plans that may permanently prevent their escape.

QUANTUMANIA is visually a stunning and incredibly ambitious film, reminiscent of STAR WARS or perhaps AVATAR in some ways, introducing dream-like landscapes and eclectic characters that inhabit this unique universe. But those wild visuals don’t quite compensate for the sometimes over-packed plot and awkward characterization. The first two ANT-MAN movies were filled with fun and adventure, but fairly grounded in their storytelling. This new outing is missing a lot of that charm, and the characters seem woefully underwritten, or just don’t quite click together. Both Michelle Pfeiffer and Jonathan Majors give strong and intense performances, but seem almost misplaced here, as if the film wasn’t taking them as seriously as it should. Both Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly seem underwritten and underused in this dense story, and there’s just enough father/daughter chemistry between Paul Rudd and Kathryn Newton to give the movie much weight. In fact save for one amusing scene where Scott attempts to teach Cassie how to shrink down and size up with a punch just right so as to knock out bad guys, these two almost play like strangers who don’t belong together… considering they’ve spent so much time apart and need to find a way to emotionally reconnect, I was surprised how uneven their relationship came across here.

Some of the supporting characters fare a bit better, such as the believably tough warrior woman Jentorra (Katy M. O’Brian), some fun CGI characters including one particularly amusing gelatinous fellow voiced by David Dastmalchian, and a brief appearance by Bill Murray who is clearly having a good time. The presence of comic book favorite M.O.D.O.K. starts off as a very cool idea, but turns awkwardly silly as it goes on, and ends up being one of the most uncomfortable visuals in the movie. The many faces on display can’t make up for what feels like a messy script and disjointed narrative. While there are some interesting moments peppered throughout the production, the end result feels pretty by the numbers and predictable, with a forced ending that wraps up in a very lazy way. In fact there’s oddly nothing about QUANTUMANIA that elevates it above any other Marvel movie, and I feel like it won’t warrant a re-watch. Even Kang, which some might call the best part of the movie, is more of a set up for what’s to come than a legitimately memorable villain.

I really liked the first ANT-MAN, and I rather enjoyed the sequel, but this third installment just doesn’t quite measure up and is definitely missing the charm of the first two. Director Peyton Reed tried to make this a bigger film in scope, but at the end of the day it just comes across as too complex for its own good. The respectable two hour and five minute run time is appreciated, but things are so heavily and rapidly edited together that one wonders if a longer movie would have given the story more room to breathe, or at least the characters more room to gel with one another. There’s never even a moment where our heroes stop to marvel at the incredible world they’re walking through, which feels like a missed opportunity. I’m definitely not giving up on these folks, but I sincerely hope their next outing returns to a more simple and fun dynamic. As you might expect, there’s not one but two credit stingers here, including one that really sets up what’s to come in the next few years.

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA opens February 17, 2023

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.