Some stories focus on the wrong characters. Their main character feels more like a camera for the audience to get to know who actually matters. Unfortunately, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania falls squarely into this bracket.
While there’s legitimate enjoyment in this movie, and the MCU next big-bad gets a great, full introduction, that does not equate to objectively good film-making. Quantumania oozes with issues about plot execution, visual effects, and charm. We’ll dive deeper into these issues, but overall, Ant-Man and Wasp got robbed of an appropriate third movie.
Writer’s Note: Minor, vague, and general spoilers below for Quantumania.
Quantumania Has A Plot to Go Home
Quantumania takes place years after Avengers: Endgame. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is happily in love with Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lily). Hope’s parents, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) retired and gave Hope control of the Pym Particles business.
Scott’s prison days are behind him, but his daughter, Cassie’s (Kathryn Newton), has been getting into jail using the same tech that powers Ant-Man and Wasp’s suits. Cassie’s latest project, made with Hope and Hank’s help, goes awry and brings the Pym family to the Quantum Realm, where Janet was trapped for 30 years.
Now, they have to escape, but doing that means meeting and dealing with Kang the Conqueror (Johnathan Majors).
Kang is Quantumania’s True Show Owner…
Kang gives the audience both the best and the worst aspects of the movie. On one hand, Majors is phenomenal as Kang. Majors’ stoic yet menacing performance excels. Whenever he is on-screen, you are glued to your seat as he shows how dangerous Kang is. His outfit strikes an excellent balance of capturing the original comic villain’s appearance and Majors’ likeness. It is exactly what the MCU needs for its next big bad.
The bad news, however, is that Kang should have had his own movie instead of stealing Ant-Man’s. We learn a lot about Kang and his backstory, but it’s all told to us, not shown to us. The first rule of storytelling is “show, don’t tell” because it is easier to relate to and understand stories by seeing them instead of hearing them. For Kang, we only heard about why Kang was in the Quantum Realm, and barely see what he did to get there or what he did when he was there.
…Which Makes Quantumania Not Feel Like Ant-Man
These issues also removed what made other Ant-Man movies enjoyable. Scott’s old prison friends, like Luis, don’t show up at all. Fun shrinking and growing humor from those past movies rarely appear too. We hear about Cassie’s mom and stepdad but never see either.
Even most interactions between the title characters got left out. Scott and Cassie get separated early on from the Van Dyne’s and Hank and stay separated for most of the movie. The latter group don’t get starring roles, they only get major moments. When you have a major role, you play an important part in the story. When you have major moments, you get scenes where you are important. These two vary greatly in importance. Title characters need title importance, and Quantumania doesn’t give them that thanks to Kang.
Frankly, Kang’s usage feels like the MCU learning the wrong lessons from the right issue. Phase Four spent so much time setting up new superheroes that the overall phase felt directionless. Now, Phase Five starts by propping up their next big bad at the expense of their main character’s movies. Both title characters, namely the Wasp, feel tacked onto a movie with their name on it. It’s reminiscent of how Sony tried to handle Andrew Garfield’s second Spider-Man movie: lots of set-up for down the line which never came to fruition.
Obviously, this is all because most of the movie takes place in the Quantum Realm, but that doesn’t mean their absence isn’t missed. The longer the movie runs, the more those characters and aspects are deeply missed.
The Quantum Realm is Boring for the MCU
Something that made the MCU successful was its varied locations for its varied heroes. The Quantum Realm doesn’t have that variance, especially in relation to its space-set franchises.
This smaller-than-microscopic area feels like many of the planets the Guardians of the Galaxy visit. Even with some notably non-bipedal species, many inhabitants are humanoid-shaped. Outside of the living buildings, the vehicles used also look very similar to ones we’ve seen before.
That said, the non-humanoid beings are colorful, varied, and wild. There’s one in particular that we won’t spoil here, but it’s one fans of both the comics and MCU will recognize for various reasons. Whether or not that interpretation of that character works is up for debate, but it is hard to forget about them.
The Quantum Realm’s rules also feel inconsistent: if past movies detailed the dangers and rarities of going sub-atomic, then the Ant-Man technology should fail down there. Yet the shrinking and growing skills still happen repeatedly between Ant-Man and Wasp.
Worst of all, the Quantum Realm visually looks bland at best. So many scenes overly rely on green-screened backdrops and props. We, the audience, know that this is all supposed to be a fantasy, but the effects need to do something to make us buy into that fantasy.
Verdict: Wildly Disappointing
It’s very hard to think of Quantumania as an Ant-Man and the Wasp movie. The focus stays much more on Kang than it does its actual namesakes, and as such, the movie deeply falters. This focus takes away everything that made the Ant-Man movies distinguishable and enjoyable. Now, we have a boring character.