Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania has the sizeable task of being not just the third movie in a trilogy, but also kicking off another new phase of Marvel movies. The movie is certainly a strong instalment in the Ant-Man series, but when it comes to bringing another Avengers-sized movie to the screens, it can’t quite live up to the hype.
That’s not to say the movie isn’t big enough. It’s bigger in every way. Quantumania gives Marvel’s tiniest hero a larger world to explore, a more formidable villain to fight and higher stakes than ever before. But sometimes bigger isn’t always better.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania begins with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) riding high on his success as an Avenger. His partner Hope (Evangeline Lilly) is making strides as the head of Pym Technologies and Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) is back home after spending thirty years lost in the Quantum Realm. All in all things are pretty good in the Ant-Family.
Scott is keen to make up for lost time with his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), who has been inspired to change the world like her dad. Cassie has good intentions when she and Hank (Michael Douglas) develop a high tech beacon to learn more about the Quantum Realm. But the invention warrants a dire warning from Janet, whose secretive past unravels when the device pulls the family down into the depths of the strange new universe. What they discover down there is something that should have been left alone.
Director, Peyton Reed, clearly learned a thing or two during his time working on The Mandalorian, because Quantumania feels more like Star Wars than anything we’ve seen in the MCU so far.
A bizarre assortment of creatures, rebellious freedom fighters and oddly coloured drinks make the Quantum Realm feel like its been ripped straight out of a galaxy far far away. The worldbuilding is more fantastical and much more ambitious than any prior Ant-Man film and it makes for a fun world to escape into.
Quantumania also isn’t afraid to go big with its storytelling. While many of the plot concepts in the movie are simple, like reuniting the family or retrieving a dangerous object, they are surrounded by complicated mythology that often leaves characters providing detailed explanations – just so we can get a handle on it. As such, the stakes of the film are so removed from reality that it’s actually difficult to form any sort of emotional connection with them.
This isn’t helped by the fact that a lot of the new characters we meet in the Quantum Realm fail to make much of an impact beyond a few quips.
That is with the exception of the villains.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is receiving a lot of attention due to the fact it introduces Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror – a legendary Marvel villain and the major antagonist of the Multiverse Saga.
Kang does not disappoint. Majors brings Kang to life with a gravitas that is full of both menace and charisma. He is a formidable presence on screen. It’s hard to root for the heroes when the villain is this enjoyable to watch.
On the other hand, we also have MODOK, an equally iconic Marvel villain who makes his debut here. MODOK represents the extreme length of weird that Quantumania is daring to go. He’s a ridiculous villain in the comics and remains so in live-action, but actually ends up bringing a lot of humour and heart to the film.
The villains are just one instance of where Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania feels tonally muddled. It sets out to tell an unmissable MCU story by introducing Kang the Conqueror, but his impact is diminished by the cheesiness that the Ant-Man films like to lean into. It feels like a case of the right villain in the wrong movie. Perhaps if MODOK had been the main antagonist here things would feel more balanced.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania just never goes as dark as you want it to, particularly when you’re dealing with a story of this scale. Its family-friendly MCU wrapping simply won’t allow it to go there.
However, it’s exactly that family story that is Quantumania’s redemption.
Ant-Man films have always been exceptional at building a joyful and wholesome family story, and that continues here. Scott and Cassie’s father-daughter relationship is the heart of the film. Newton and Rudd manage to ground the film with their relatable dynamic and also provide genuine comedic moments.
The Ant Family as a whole are a delight to watch on screen and performances across the board are hard to fault, although Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas aren’t given much to do. Kathryn Newton and Michelle Pfeiffer emerge as the scene stealers and Paul Rudd remains consistently charming as Ant-Man.
But the MVP is, of course, Majors, who is simply electric. If nothing else, Quantumania establishes that Kang will be a force to be reckoned with over the next couple of Marvel phases.
Indulge me in one last size metaphor, if you will.
Like Ant-Man himself, Quantumania is a film that isn’t afraid to go big. It really swings for the fences in terms of its stakes and world-building, and that makes for a fun ride of a movie. But when you expand so much it’s easy to lose focus, and that’s where the movie feels uneven and a little disconnected from its emotionality.
When Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania hones in on the little things, it truly shines. It’s when the movie grows too big that it loses power.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania review: The verdict
Pros: Incredible introduction to Kang, continues the relatable family dynamic, and great performances from the cast.
Cons: Leans too far into the fun and weird, diminishes its emotional impact with otherworldly stakes.
Watch it if you liked: Other Ant-Man films, Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy,
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania releases in Australian cinemas on February 16.
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