‘Quantumania’ is a word that invokes many feelings. Zany, wacky, chaotic, strange, different. It’s a bold one too, a word that promises something that aptly describes itself: originality. That’s why it’s such a shock that ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ doesn’t live up to those feelings. It instead leaves you with a sense of familiarity, something the writers surely weren’t aiming for.
The Ant-Man series has always been known for its low-stakes, humourous take on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure, there are bad guys and fights and danger, but there’s always an undertone of silliness and the sense that everything will turn out alright. ‘Quantumania’ strives to present a different kind of Ant-Man film, a film that features a truly ominous villain and promises major impacts on the entire Marvel universe.
The film opens with the Lang family, all happy and together for the first time in a while. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has written an autobiography and is hoping to spend more time with his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) who he missed significant time with due to the events of ‘Avengers: Infinity War’. However, Cassie is too busy trying to be a superhero herself and mess around with Pym particles, along with the support of her step-grandpa and step-mother Hank and Hope (Michael Douglas and Evangelline Lilly respectively). The three unveil a device that can communicate with the Quantum Realm, a mysterious sub-atomic universe within our own. However, Hank’s wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) had spent 30 years in the Quantum Realm, a time she seems wary to bring up, and quickly tries to shut the device down. This backfires, of course, and our family of five get transported into the Quantum Realm, stuck until they find a way out.
The Quantum Realm is where we spend the vast majority of the time, and its visuals are unfortunately hit or miss. Some sequences, including one with thousands of variants of Ant-Man, are gorgeous and creative, but often the visuals are just messes of colours. Bad green screen work is plentiful in many shots, and it often feels like the characters don’t interact with the environment, rather watching. Director Peyton Reed utilizes what’s known as the Volume, the new 360-degree wall of LED screens that provides better lighting and reference on actors that was pioneered on the Star Wars series ‘The Mandalorian’. However, shots using the Volume are clearly obvious to the eagle-eyed viewer, the restrictive space preventing the characters from moving too far into the foreground or background. Reed, who directed multiple episodes of ‘The Mandalorian’, clearly hasn’t perfected its use yet.
The true draw, for both casual fans and diehard Marvel fanatics, is the introduction of Kang the Conqueror, played by rising star Jonathan Majors. A version of this character already appeared in the Disney Plus series ‘Loki’, promising that you’ll see worse versions of him soon, and this is certainly one of them. Majors eats up the villainous role, his persona cold and calculated, choosing his words very carefully. That isn’t to say he doesn’t show emotion, as his anger is explosive, the spittle flying from his mouth as he yells “I am Kang!”. There’s also a hint of sadness at times; when we first meet him in a flashback, he’s been trapped in the Quantum Realm and is saved by Janet, albeit his betrayal comes soon after. Majors feels almost Shakespearean at times, delivering monologues and cryptic phrases with a hint of glee. Marvel promises that “Kang will return” at the end of the film, and I’m sure audiences won’t be disappointed.
Quantumania tries its best to feel different from both its series’ predecessors and Marvel movies as a whole, but instead of taking bold risks, it holds back. The plot is certainly high-stakes, but not enough time is spent developing characters, leading to an indifference of feelings towards the fates of our protagonists. Each character feels like a shadow of a person, and talented actors are wasted in small, meaningless roles (Bill Murray and William Jackson Harper appear and disappear much like Ant-Man himself). There’s a mosaic of interesting characters to explore (including the bizarre introduction of secondary villain MODOK), and not a single one gets the needed time to grow. Instead, the classic Marvel formula takes control, leaving viewers wishing for more from the supposed maniacal film. There is surely a better version of this film somewhere, one that prioritizes substance over style and not the other way around. This is a solid addition to the MCU, and fans will be very excited for the trademark end-credits teases, but it’s never a good thing when your post-credits drum up more excitement then your climax.
‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ releases theatrically on February 17th.