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‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: QuantumMania’ Review – Marvel misses the mark with muddled characters

Showing Ant-Man and Kang. Make audience aware of what film is being reviewed.
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man and Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror in Marvel Studios' ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA. Photo by Jay Maidment. © 2022 MARVEL.

Staff writer Taha Khambaty reviews “Ant-Man and the Wasp: QuantumMania”, a weak film that is only partly redeemed by the strength of Jonathan Majors’ performance. Spoilers Ahead!

“Ant-Man and the Wasp; QuantumMania” sees Scott Lang return to the Quantum realm alongside his superhero family. The film follows these characters as they navigate the realm, now a fully inhabited world, and try to stop Kang from escaping. 

While it features a great cast, Jonathan Major’s portrayal of Kang The Conqueror is undeniably the best part of this film. Majors delivers a fantastic performance that is both memorable and menacing. His use of a sombre politician-like demeanour to get what he wants is brilliantly contrasted with the merciless rage he shows when things do not go his way. However, the film routinely undermines the threat that Kang possesses by not letting our heroes actually lose when encountering him. It is hard to believe that someone who has killed Avengers (yes, plural) cannot squash Ant-Man and his pint-sized posse. Additionally, if Marvel wants to make Kang the next big bad of the MCU, they need to stop making the audience invest in new versions of him that are (spoiler warning) killed off at the end of their respective series/ films.

Another new addition to this film is Kathryn Newton’s Cassy Lang, AKA Scott’s daughter. While Newton’s performance is adequate, most of the time, she feels like a generic young sidekick just learning the ropes and being a teen. The script doesn’t give her any character any real growth (except literally), which makes her feel one-dimensional. She’s just a young superhero, helped by the MCU’s phenomenal STEM programs, and able to make world-changing technology in her garage. 

The other characters in the movie also feel underdeveloped. Michelle Pfeiffer gives an admirable performance as Janet Van Dyne, but her character simply isn’t given enough development, despite being a central figure in learning Kang’s backstory. Similarly, Michael Douglas is fun as Hank Pym, but for most of the film, he remains in the background, only coming into focus during the climax. The worst offender here is Evangeline Lily’s Wasp. You would think that having the character’s name in the title would make her a primary focus of the narrative but, instead, she is just there to buzz around and help in the fight scenes. Corey Stoll’s M.O.D.O.K. is another disappointment, being perhaps the biggest waste in the film. He feels like a generic henchman that just happens to be connected to the first film. While a humorous interpretation of the character could have worked (that is what 90% of what the MCU does), the jokes don’t really land and (spoiler warning) his redemption feels more like a bad joke than something that is actually earned.

That said, Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man is still a lot of fun, bringing a natural charisma that helps even some weaker jokes land well. Yet still, you could easily feel that the character ends up at the same size he started and does not show any meaningful change, leaving audiences wondering if there’s any real growth happening here.

This consistent flaw makes one thing incredibly clear, despite some good moments, the film feels more like Marvel movie no. 31 than an actual “Ant-Man” film. It’s a means to progress the larger narrative of the MCU without focusing on telling its own complete narratives with fleshed-out characters. While the first 15-minutes have interesting concepts, such as Cassy’s disconnect with her father, Scott’s comfortable life after the blip compared to others’ problems, and Janet’s trauma in the Quantum Realm, all of these are mentioned but not explored. It leads to the film being unable to shrink away from the feeling that it’s more of a stepping stone to the larger multiverse saga than a stand-alone film and, as a result, rushes from ‘plot point A’ to ‘plot point B’ without spending time on the characters that actually advance the plot. 

This issue is also evident in the film’s world-building. The Quantum realm has a rich, other-worldly feel to it, but the inner workings of it are only superficially explored. They feel more like plot devices to keep the audience informed, and the characters within them are only given enough depth to elicit some emotional investment when something negative happens to them. Additionally, the film’s editing is at times jarring, with cuts that can disorient the viewer. It’s possible that these issues arose from cutting some establishing shots in favour of a faster pace, but they leave the film feeling a bit antsy.

Finally, the end conflict still comes down to CGI armies fighting under a red sky, which has become the new tired trope in Marvel movies (replacing the blue sky beam). While the resolution to the final conflict does feel unique and Ant-Man-specific, it still ends up being CGI army vs. Kang and his CGI army. Despite this issue, the plot in execution does not feel as artificially progressed as “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” or as unfocused as “Thor: Love and Thunder.” In the end, while this review (and others online) has more bad things to say than good, this is not because the film is terrible. Instead, I say this because it constantly reminds its audience of the giant impact MCU films used to make.

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