Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantum-meh-nia

With several of the big Marvel heroes phased out, it falls on Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) to move from plucky comic relief to tentpole of the MCU. Rudd's third Ant-Man film as a lead is his weakest, although he's certainly not to blame. Scott Lang continues to be fun and charming as the script moves characters through brightly colored CGI-manufactured sets for both joke and sight gag payoffs. And while many of those do offer a chuckle, ultimately that's not much more to the script as when screenwriter Jeff Loveness attempts to get serious your attention will shrink to quantum levels.

The script is all about delaying payoffs not because they make sense in terms of the narrative but in obvious attempts to manufacture tension and delay key moments in unnatural ways. For example, Cassie (Kathryn Newton) is given her own suit, but she doesn't use it when her life is first put in danger. Instead, it's reveal is delayed several minutes in order to manufacture a cinematic moment that makes no sense for either story or character structure.

The plot of the film involves Scott, Hope (an underutilized Evangeline Lilly), Cassie, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), and Hank (Michael Douglas) getting shrunk down and kidnapped into the Quantum Realm. Of course all this could have been avoided if Janet had revealed anything about her time in the realm to the family in the months (years?) she's been back, but as I mentioned before neither logic nor story is a strength of this film.

Loki fans will remember Kang (Jonathan Majors) from the character's introduction in the divisive finale of the series. Majors returns as a different version of the character imprisoned in the realm and looking for the heroes to help him escape. As with the Loki variant, this version isn't much more interesting as Marvel's live-action foray into the multiverse continues to be less effective than Sony's animated adventure. Twice now Marvel has used Kang not as a great character on-screen to get excited about but as a MacGuffin teasing a far more dangerous version of the character lurking just out of reach. It's like if Rick and Morty was centered around only the lesser versions of Rick Sanchez.

Speaking of Rick, Marvel nerds will know that Rick and Morty stole plenty from Kang the Conqueror's long (and messy) comic history including the Council of Ricks. While Rick's foibles, humor, and codependent relationship with his grandson, make him an intriguing flawed character to watch hop around realities, the stoic monologuing Kang is far less interesting. 

The film offers some nifty CGI in developing the look of the Quantum Realm along with an odd assortment of effects who stand-in for actual characters. No one introduced in this film is in any way memorable with the possible exception of a longtime joke of a Marvel character that gets shoehorned into the story for more laughs (most of which fail to land). And don't get me started on how it wastes Bill Murray in a nothing role that is completely superfluous to the plot while also giving him nothing of note to do on-screen. There's also a lame attempt to make direct parallels to Cassie's social movements in the real world to circumstances in the Quantum Realm that even director Peyton Reed can only care about for so long before giving up on.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania isn't a bad film, but it's not a good one either. Honestly, it's not much of anything. It's the most average, middling, humdrum project to bear the Marvel logo. And what's most concerning is given events of the film, this is where the MCU is headed. Unlike Eternals, which can be ignored as an unfortunate adventure on the outer edges of the MCU, this movie is planting its flag and driving us forward by making Kang, who through two appearances (despite a fine performance from Majors) is about as bland as can be, the central thread of this phase of the MCU in ways that don't inspire confidence for its future.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
  • IMDb: link

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