Movie Review – Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania (2023)

[NOTE: Review contains some minor spoilers]

After a ton of hype, and perhaps a healthy amount of trepidation, the MCU’s Phase 5 kicked off this past weekend with Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania, the third solo (or I guess duo) outing for Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang. The first two movies, which were also directed by Payton Reed, who returns here, adopted a slightly smaller approach (no pun intended) to the rest of the MCU, delivering character-heavy heist pieces that wisely never really tried to be too “epic”.

Well, so much for that, because for better or worse, Reed tries to up the stakes here in a major way, delivering an large-scale science-fiction saga packed with sprawling environments, colourful alien characters and huge (and I do mean huge) action set-pieces and battle scenes. Unfortunately, in the process he manages to strip away a lot of what gave the first two movies the bulk of their charm, and while the sections which booked the movie featuring Rudd narrating how weird his life is in his classic everyman style are pretty great, the bulk of the movie feels like an unearned attempt to recreate the epic feel of Avengers: Endgame.

Worryingly, the two leads are pretty much the least interesting characters in the film next to Kathryn Newton’s Cassie Lang, who seems to be there to do little more than use the word “dad” in almost every single line of dialogue she has. Unexpectedly, it’s actually Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet Van Dyne who does the bulk of the heavy lifting here as the film reveals just how she spent her 30 years trapped in the Quantum Realm, and who provides the vast majority of the narrative and dramatic focus for the movie. Odd but not entirely unwelcome, and Pfeiffer does a solid job in the spotlight here, unlike her on-screen husband Michael Douglas (Hank Pym) who just seems to be there, hanging around in the background.

For all the underwhelming aspects of this movie, one thing which absolutely hits the mark is Jonathan Majors’ performance as Kang the Conqueror. Commanding the screen with a real nuanced gravitas, he delivers the unquestioned highlight, and thankfully manages to steer clear of the movie’s recurring trend of trying to offset any attempt at emotional depth or narrative heft by lobbing in a poorly timed gag immediately afterwards (a long-standing problem with the MCU which, let’s be honest, doesn’t look to be going away anytime soon).

Also on the positive side of the score sheet are the visual effects, which look the absolute business, delivering some fantastic flourishes, characters and settings that really help to cement just how exotic and otherworldly the Quantum Realm is.  We get a few new characters introduced here who I’m not going to delve too deeply into (mostly because none of them are given much in the way of development or serve any real purpose to the story), and for all that he’s likely to divide opinion, I actually kinda dug what they did with M.O.D.O.K.  Ridiculous? Sure. Stupid looking? Absolutely. But c’mon… it’s M.O.D.O.K.

After a bit of a lull in the middle (which is saved somewhat by Majors’ aforementioned turn as Kang), we ramp up to an almost ludicrously over-the-top third act with huge battle scenes, explosions and trippy visual effects (including a heck of a lot of ants, men and Ant-Men). It’s fun enough from a visual perspective, but it all gets a little exhausting after a while, and some of the decisions made along the way – such as Cassie’s seemingly impregnable plot armour – really start to grate.  I mean, there’s absolutely no way Scott Lang should be going toe-to-toe and trading punches with Kang the Conqueror (hell, he shouldn’t even be doing it with an unpowered Jonathan Majors, let’s be honest).

Visually stunning, narratively disjointed and tonally inconsistent, Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania is a classic example of “all sizzle, no steak”, and while there are still some undeniably great moments along the way here, this definitely isn’t the storming start to Phase 5 of the MCU that a lot of us were hoping for.

Oh, and  in a mildly frustrating move, and without wanting to spoil things, the first of the two post credit scenes effectively renders everything that happens in the movie obsolete. So yeah, there’s that.

The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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