(Photo courtesy of Entertainment Weekly) “Quantumania” makes great use of Jonathan Majors, while others’ roles are underwhelming.
When a franchise, especially one as notable for having a film-by-film formula as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, reaches its thirty-first installment, it is reasonable to expect that the flaws of this formula would be showing to an extreme degree. However, it is also reasonable to expect that the imperfections of this formula would be ironed out, and that the franchise would at least be in a position of consistency. However, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” disappoints all expectations and serves as a new low for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Frankly, there is hardly a single redeeming quality in “Quantumania.” The dialogue is corny, on-the-nose and often jarring. Plot lines get picked up and abandoned at the whims of the writers. Quality directing is replaced for a full-fledged assault on the eyes and ears of as much “mania” can fit on the screen. The movie can get so ridiculous that it makes last year’s borderline parody film “Thor: Love & Thunder” occasionally look like a serious drama.
However, beyond all the basic competencies expected of a film that likely cost over 200 million dollars to make, the core issue is its complete lack of emotional engagement. Every emotional scene rings hollow. Chemistry between Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and his daughter Cassie (Katheryn Newton) is borderline non-existent despite their relationship being at the center of the film, thanks to the poor writing.
Knowing the sole purpose of watching this film is to set up something better later removes any amount of potential fun that can be extracted from this. In phases one through three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, films and character franchises told their own internal storylines that would vaguely hint at greater on-goings in the post-credits scenes. However, the ongoings of the universe are the entirety of “Quantumania.”
Any plotline or characterization that could have been continued from prior “Ant-Man” films are nearly entirely abandoned, beyond the return of its characters. It serves as much more of an “Endgame” sequel instead, which hurts more than it helps. The earlier small stakes of these movies have been replaced for a “Star Wars” style and tone to its great detriment.
The central intention of “Quantumania” is to set up the new big bad of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Kang the Conqueror. He is the main villain of this film as well, an odd decision for a previously small-stakes franchise. Kang is portrayed by an excellent Jonathan Majors, whose performance serves as the one bright side in this dismal mess of a movie.
However, Kang as a villain does not look promising for the future. The ending brings into question how The Conqueror will serve as a powerful enough villain for the entirety of the current slate of superheroes, and his character motivations are often poorly explained and underdeveloped throughout the film.
The strength of Thanos was in the clarity of his vision: remove half the global population to prevent crises of overpopulation. His goal was genocidal, but the audience was brought to understand why he wanted to do this. No such justification is given for Kang: all we know is that he wants to destroy other versions of himself who are trying to take over the multiverse so that he can take over the multiverse. It is muddled, confusing and unengaging.
In a rush to explore Kang as a future villain as much as possible, past “Ant-Man” characters are often underutilized. Despite being in the name of the film, the Wasp is once again underutilized outside of fight scenes where she is necessitated. Hank Pym was also massively sidelined beyond the necessary connections to his wife, Janet, who spent the prior 30 years navigating the Quantum Realm.
Most befuddling of all was the ending. While this review will not delve into spoilers, the ending paints this movie as a bit unnecessary as a set-up chapter. If one were to skip this film and jump right into the next project that Kang will be in, there would likely be little that was missed out on. If this is unnecessary as an “Ant-Man” sequel and as Kang set-up, then what was the point of this at all? Nothing.
Whether “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” was intended to be an “Ant-Man 3” or a “Kang Dynasty 0.5” does not ultimately matter, as it entirely fails at being either one of these movies. It barrages the audience’s senses so much as to numb any viewer trying to become genuinely engaged and jumps between ideas at complete whim. The poor direction and writing lay the entire talented cast to waste besides the excellent Jonathan Majors. If Phase 4 was the Marvel Cinematic Universe on shaky ground, then “Quantumania” sees them at the bottom of the opened earthquake.
Overall Grade: D-