‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ Review: A Tiny Hero in a Film That’s Only a Little Bit of Fun

Marvel really needs to get its act together, and I mean yesterday.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is the third film of the “Ant-Man” series and 31st installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly return as the titular heroes, who must find a way to escape the Quantum Realm and defeat Kang (Jonathan Majors), a time-traveling warlord. Peyton Reed directs again while Kathryn Newton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Corey Stoll, and Michael Douglas also star.

At this point, you either jumped off the Marvel bandwagon ten films ago or have accepted that you’re going to ride the train until the end of time. While the case was made back in April 2019 the franchise should’ve ended with “Avengers: Endgame,” the millions upon billions of dollars being grossed were a clear indication that was never going to be the case. Cut to nearly four years and nine films later, the wheels have begun to come off the once indestructible Marvel machine, with fatigue setting in thanks to lazy scripts and horrible green screen. “Quantumania” doesn’t give any indication of things getting better, because while it features a few fun battle sequences and menacing villain role from rising star Jonathan Majors, it’s just an empty shell of a once proud franchise.

Paul Rudd could read a cookbook and make it witty and charming, and he has moments of charisma here. The issue is while the first film (and to a degree, the second) was low-stakes (bad guys wanted a high-tech suit, not exactly end of the world stuff), this latest film has Rudd quite literally fighting to save every universe in existence (“trillions of lives” as the film points out). So while making a quip during a small-scale heist is fun, here it feels out of place.

New to the cast is Kathryn Newton as Cassie, Rudd’s daughter (replacing Emma Fuhrmann from “Endgame,” who one could argue got a bad deal). I like Newton, she’s really funny in “Freaky” and “Blockers” and has shown her ability to do “serious acting” with “Three Billboards” and “Ben is Back” (an underrated Christmas drama in its own right). Newton is fine here, she has some little dorky moments that made me smile, but for being a depicted genius who can build a device used to travel to different dimensions, they at times make her come off like a fool for the sake of a joke.

The highlight is Jonathan Majors, who if he isn’t already a star will be by the end of the year thanks to this and “Creed III.” Majors is acting circles around everyone as Kang the Conqueror, cut from the same cloth as Josh Brolin’s Thanos in that he’s a sociopathic villain but he has honor and dignity, and when he explains his vile plan to murder many innocents it somehow seems justified (the alternate universe versions of himself dominated so many worlds that it threatens to destroy every known universe, so he is out to eliminate the ones posing a threat to the natural order). Majors is fun, intimidating, and badass, and I hope we get to see more of this specific version of the character in future installments (he’s being set up as the new big bad of Marvel, though there are various versions of the character in comic lore).

Recent Marvel movies have come under fire for having horribly, distractingly poor CGI and green screen, and that’s no different here; if anything, it’s the worst it’s ever been. And I do want to tread lightly as it’s known that Disney is exploitive of the VFX teams, giving them limited resources and short timeframes to get projects competed. However when you have a film that was, quite literally, shot entirely in front of a green screen, you can’t help but point out how bad said green screen looks. The lighting is clearly not coming from the world around the characters, and they look flat compared to the background. Films like “Dune,” “The Batman,” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” all had to do visual effects work amid the pandemic, and they look great and even earned Oscar nominations, so while I feel for the overworked staffs, a company with pockets as deep as Disney has no excuse to be releasing products that look worse than 2014 YouTube sketches.

The screenplay is classic MCU, with jokes undermining dramatic moments, characters not receiving any true development outside one lucky person, and a messy yet somehow overly simplistic narrative. It borrows from Marvel’s own “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Thor: Ragnarok” and thinks it can get away with putting the Walmart version of specific scenes, story beats, and character designs on screen, thinking we wouldn’t care (or worse, somehow wouldn’t notice).

“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” isn’t the kind of not-good movie you get upset about or are mad you watched; I still found some joy in it and look forward to my annual MCU theater trips, hoping to recapture some of that “Endgame” or “No Way Home” magic. But my friend brought up a good point that I think rings true: are we excited about new *Marvel movies*, or just going to see them out of necessity because they’re the shiny new toy; they no longer feel like the event films they once did. This clearly wanted to be the MCU’s version of “Star Wars,” but it instead settles for being “Star Bores.”

Critics Rating: 5/10

Walt Disney

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