REVIEW: ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ Hands Kang the Keys to the Franchise

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a whole lot of movie. Massive in scope, bold in its choices, and heavy on thrills, the blockbuster sequel is a lively, fast-paced deep dive into the weirdest corners of Marvel Studios’ ever-expanding universe. The film takes its titular terminology to heart by infusing a healthy dose of manic energy with the series’ signature sense of family fun, creating a unique experience that’s both fresh for the franchise and familiar to fans. Not every creative decision delivers, and the script can sometimes move too quickly for its own good, but what does land hits with impact and makes one thing perfectly clear – the Marvel Cinematic Universe now belongs to Jonathan Majors.

Since its inception, Quantumania has promised to be a bigger, “more important” affair than its light-hearted, mostly self-contained predecessors. Whether it really needed to serve this function is another question entirely, but there’s no doubt the project accomplished what it set out to do. Marvel Studios’ latest offering still houses much of the storytelling DNA that defines an Ant-Man adventure, but this time, the pint-sized entertainment comes with an innate feeling of gravitas. Where other Ant-Man flicks featured smaller, intimate tales highlighted by distinctly personal villains, Quantumania makes room for something much larger and far darker to wrap itself around the narrative. The aura of Kang, Majors‘ impressive new MCU antagonist, is enough on its own to push the film far beyond the Ant-Man series’ normally-relegated status, and it seems apparent Kevin Feige and the folks at Marvel Studios understand exactly what kind of force they’ve secured for their future.

Much will be said about Jonathan Majors‘ performance in the film, and rightly so. The actor is a powerhouse. An undeniable presence on screen. When the Conqueror speaks, everybody listens. Majors is already a star, but his showing in Quantumania and the implications it has for the next several years of superhero cinema are enough to make him, and his character, names on par with Robert Downey Jr.‘s Iron Man. Faithful fans have been searching for the next face of Marvel since credits rolled on Avengers: Endgame, but they’ve been looking in all the wrong places. There is no hero coming to take the throne from Tony Stark. With Quantumania, the MCU has been overtaken by another power entirely. For the foreseeable future, all will bow to Kang, and the box office will be ruled by Majors.

Jonathan Majors as Kang The Conqueror in Marvel Studios’ ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ¬© 2023 MARVEL.

Yet, despite Kang’s encompassment of the film, he’s not the only facet to admire throughout its two-hour runtime. Particularly, the visuals that compose the Quantum Realm’s stunning aesthetic do a lot to set the movie apart from its precursive outings. Quantumania’s writer, Jeff Loveness, once boasted that designs for the project were partially inspired by Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune, the great unmade science-fiction epic known for its proposed over-the-top imagery and colorful concept art. The delightful absurdity with which Quantumania presents its new characters and their world would suggest this is true and is a refreshing step forward for the genre’s overall embracement of comic book silliness and the awe-inducing joy it has to offer. Truthfully, there should be more comic-inspired films that treat semi-sentient houses and hole-less blobs as viable supporting players in large-scale action sequences. It’s good for the soul.

Also sufficiently understood, and often commented on by director Peyton Reed, is the importance of family dynamics and the relationship between Paul Rudd‘s Scott Lang and his daughter, Kathryn Newton‘s Cassie. Although it tries with everything it has to be a different type of movie than the first two installments, Quantumania still carries the Ant-Man name in its title, and therefore should also continue the overarching themes of the franchise. Thankfully, it does so and asserts the familial connections between its protagonists as driving forces behind the plot. Everything in the movie circles back to Scott and Cassie, from its chaotic third act to a memorable midpoint scene that rivals the Doctor Strange films in psychedelia. Without that, there is no emotional core to the film, and everything else fragments into an overstimulated mess.

Unfortunately, regardless of the many promisingly poignant seeds planted as potential talking points early in the movie, much of what could have become a weighted payoff seems to dissipate by the time of the film’s conclusion. This can probably be attributed to Quantumania‘s high-speed script, which barely gives even its most tragic moments room to breathe. Cassie is a character who cares deeply about humanity, and many of her concerns are raised briefly and then never subsequently addressed. Michelle Pfieffer‘s Janet van Dyne is finally given something tangible to do but is vastly overshadowed by the rise of Kang and pacing that feels eager for the plot to end. Even Quantumania‘s attempt at tying the story to the Ant-Man tradition of heisting quickly becomes just a simple fragment of the larger sensory storm at hand.

One may leave the theater wishing they had felt a little more than excitement, but if the goal is simply to arrive and undergo two hours of absolute crowd-pleasing, popcorn fun, Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania is the warm winter escape a moviegoer might be hoping for. Full of remarkable creature effects and gleeful moments of nerdy fulfillment, the movie is a madcap start to Marvel’s fifth phase. There should be no questioning where the MCU is headed after this. All roads lead to Kang, or some variation of him, and Majors is a steady hand to put the keys to the vehicle in. It’s his multiverse, and the Avengers are living in it.

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