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Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania Review

February 16, 2023 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA Image Credit: Jay Maidment/Marvel Studios
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Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania Review  

Directed By: Peyton Reed
Written By: Jeff Loveness; Based on the Marvel comics and characters
Runtime: 125 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Paul Rudd – Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Evangeline Lilly – Hope van Dyne/The Wasp
Jonathan Majors – Kang the Conqueror
Kathryn Newton – Cassie Lang
Michael Douglas – Hank Pym
Michelle Pfeiffer – Janet van Dyne
Katy M. O’Brian – Jentorra
William Jackson Harper – Quaz
David Dastmalchian – Veb
Bill Murray – Lord Krylar
Randall Park – Jimmy Woo

The Marvel Cinematic Universe formally kicks off Phase 5 with the new sequel, Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania. Picking up about two years after the events of Avengers: Endgame, superhero Scott Lang (Rudd) has settled into a comfortable life, exploiting his fame and celebrity after saving the universe from Thanos. Things are going well for Scott. He’s in a committed relationship with Hope Van Dyne, aka his partner-in-herodom The Wasp (Lilly), and he recently published his own memoir, Look Out For The Little Guy.

However, while Scott is happily reaping the rewards of his success, his now teenage daughter, Cassie (Newton), is not. Cassie has already begun an aspiring career of activism, and she’s been getting help from Hope and would-be grandfather Hank Pym (Douglas) to further explore the subatomic Quantum Realm, creating a device that can send signals in and out of the mysterious existential plane.

After Cassie and Michael reveal what they’ve been building, it’s far too late for them to heed the warnings of Janet Van Dyne (Pfeiffer), who was stranded in the Quantum Realm for 30 years. They are sucked in through a portal and separated in the Quantum Realm, which they realize is a unique universe teeming with intelligent life and civilization. The source of their quandary is a despotic megalomaniac, a multiversal conqueror by the name of Kang (Majors). Kang needs a means of escape, and unfortunately for the Ant-Man, he is the key to Kang’s escape. Kang’s escape from the Quantum Realm could bring about the subjugation of the entire Multiverse.

Quantumania is a high-stakes, action-packed adventure. The previous Ant-Man movies were smaller-scale, more intimate stories, but director Peyton Reed and writer Jeff Loveness eschewed that and decided to go big for the third film. The visual realization of the Quantum Realm, which is basically the Microverse of the comics in everything but name, is impressive with its bizarre creatures, unusual residents, and strange physical landscapes. The design team truly went all out in creating such a unique, alien realm.

The basic premise is a familiar one to longtime Marvel readers. It’s a tried-and-true setup where the heroes are stranded in an alien realm or planet that the heroes find under the siege of a tyrannical ruler or dictator. The heroes must step in to help to save the day. The setting of the Quantum Realm, asserting Kang as the big bad, is fun and imaginative.

Besides Kang, the film’s other big debut is that of the one and only longtime Marvel rogue, MODOK. When Marvel was making films like Iron Man and Captain America, the mere idea of seeing MODOK in the MCU at that point seemed far-fetched. MODOK is a great, entertaining character and a mainstay villain in the comics. However, fully realizing MODOK in the MCU seemed unrealistic for a long time due to the character’s overall look and physical weirdness. Quantumania does showcase a visually faithful version of MODOK that is incredibly satisfying.

The Quantumania version of MODOK is a departure from the character of the comics. MODOK has been altered to fit the long-running narrative of Ant-Man films and what’s been established in the MCU. However, even with the changes, the attempt at realizing MODOK is still well executed, funny, and at times tragic. Even though it’s a different MODOK, the filmmakers do well in adapting the character and making him visually faithful to his comic counterpart. MODOK is such a wacky character it was almost expected he would likely never appear in the MCU, so it’s delightful that he gets his chance to shine here. Not to mention, MODOK had one of the more compelling character arcs in Quantumania, even when compared to the main heroes.

Jonathan Majors also leaves a major impression as Kang, a despotic timeline variant of the individual referred to as He Who Remains from Loki. Majors brings a regal air and authority to the role. It’s a nice first look at the character. The main drawbacks are the typical MCU sequel-baiting and the contrivances that cause Kang to seek Scott Lang’s assistance.

The main story arcs in the film are Scott’s conflict in coming to grips with his daughter growing up and embarking on her own superhero journey, and Janet’s past in the Quantum Realm returning to haunt her. Based on marketing material, it looks like Scott’s melancholy over his lost time with Cassie was jettisoned from the film unless that was misleading. That was a missed opportunity because their character arc lacks a bit of gravitas. The excised material could better emphasize Scott’s desperation with protecting Cassie but also growing to accept the woman and hero she is destined to be.

One major problem with Quantumania is the result of the MCU asserting Scott Lang and Hope Van Dyne as the Ant-Man and Wasp duo of the MCU. Hope simply isn’t an interesting character and doesn’t have much of a personality. In Quantumania, Evangeline Lilly is given little to do other than react to her and her family’s predicament. The film barely explores her relationship with Scott, much like the last two films. Rudd and Lilly are competent talents, but they don’t have much chemistry. The one time the film significantly acknowledges that the two are in a relationship is almost shocking because of how little development their pairing has received over the previous Ant-Man films. It’s not that Lilly is miscast, but that the MCU miscast The Wasp by using the Hope Van Dyne version.

For much of Marvel Comics history, Janet Van Dyne was always The Wasp, and Janet is a great character. She was a founding member of the Avengers, and one of Janet’s defining attributes is that she enjoys being a superhero. Hope was never much of a character in the comics, and she’s still not given much development in these films. The MCU marginalizing Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne as the older superhero couple of the previous generation, making Lang and Hope the current generation, was a massive misstep. It not only robs the chance to adapt some of Hank Pym’s biggest and most important storylines in the comics but also Janet’s major moments. The Ant-Man films using Hope instead of Janet as The Wasp is a missed opportunity.

Case in point, Hope is there throughout Quantumania. She’s part of the action, but she’s mostly a passive player. Janet has more of a story arc in Quantumania due to her connection to the Quantum Realm and her past involvement with Kang the Conqueror.

Michael Douglas has some amusing moments in Quantumania from time to time, but he never once truly disappears into the character of Hank Pym, the former Ant-Man. Since the films try to downplay all the flaws of the comic book version of Hank Pym, he comes off as incredibly milquetoast.

Despite misgivings over MCU’s utilization of Scott Lang versus Hank Pym, Rudd has an affable, charismatic charm as Scott Lang. Putting Scott in a dilemma with such intense stakes works well, especially when matched against Kang. The reason Marvel Studios pitted Kang against Ant-Man is because of Scott’s underdog quality, which works for the most part, but mileage may vary.

Something that has been getting lost in the conversation over recent MCU adaptations is that currently, it’s possible to realize the stories and characters of Marvel Comics onscreen without having to cut as many corners. Twenty years ago, comic book superhero films were limited in their scope of characters and battles. Due to the progression and development of visual effects, it is now possible for comic book superhero films to bring these characters to life in a way that wasn’t feasible even in the days of the early X-Men and Spider-Man films. Despite its flaws, Quantumania brings that traditional Marvel comic book flavor, along with deeper sci-fi weirdness, and is an overall satisfying experience.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Marvel's Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania is an entertaining, high-stakes sci-fi adventure. It features Scott Lang in the matchup of his life against Kang the Conqueror, who leaves a good impression. The main issues are the results of past choices involving the MCU versions of characters. Also, it looks as if some good material was left on the cutting room floor that could have better rounded out the film's overall narrative. Evangeline Lilly isn't given much to do, but as a comics fan, it is a treat to see Kang and MODOK visualized on the big screen like they jumped right out of the comics. Quantumania is flawed, but it's an enjoyable sci-fi adventure overall.