Review: 'Ant-Man: Quantumania' Dives Deep into the Quantum Realm
by Alex Billington
February 16, 2023
Down, down, down to the Quantum Realm ye' go. Marvel Studios is back with their latest, the 31st MCU movie to date so far (with more on the way later this year), yet another sequel - Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. While it technically is a sequel to Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) continuing the storyline following Paul Rudd as Scott Lang as the superhero known as Ant-Man, it really is more of an introduction to "Phase Five" of the MCU. It's a huge step forward, or a giant step down into the tiniest of realms. As the title indicates, this is all about "Quantumania" - taking us down to the Quantum Realm, and exploring the inhabitants of this entirely different, strange and unusual world while following the Pym Family and their attempts to escape and return to, well, the "regular-sized" Earth realm. This truly is the MCU's Star Wars, featuring some spectacularly trippy visuals, turning this sequel into the movie I really wanted to see with the disappointing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Although the script still is the weakest link.
With this many movies in the MCU so far, we all know what to expect with the Marvel formula. The biggest difference this time is that director Peyton Reed, who directed the first two Ant-Man movies, went on to work on directing episodes of Disney+'s Star Wars series "The Mandalorian" inbetween Wasp (2018) and this movie. That experience working in The Volume has certainly paid off, giving him a different edge this time around, allowing him to expand on the visuals and the epic world-creation in Quantumania. This is a place we have never been before. I just wish the script was as good as everything else. Credited to writer Jeff Loveness, the Quantumania script is generic and mostly stale in its pre-packaged story of the Pym Family. Filled with all the usual platitudes about his daughter and his family, whether it's "all about her" and saving her, or bringing the family back together. It's a visually spectacular world with a mesmerizing villain, strung along with generic, uninspired plodding for the main Pym Family characters. Yes, we get it, Scott really loves his daughter Cassie and does everything for her. Does he ever think about anything else…? I guess not.
There are a few aspects of Loveness' script that do work well, however, mainly involving the villain Kang The Conqueror, played by the extraordinary Jonathan Majors. As we all know, the villain in superhero movies has to be as complex and as intelligent as every other main character, or it's all for nothing, the rest of the movie falls apart. They've certainly figured this out already, especially with the "bad guys" from the Black Panther movies. Playing off the original introduction of "He Who Remains" from the end of the First Season of the Loki series on Disney+, Majors returns to play an alternate version of the character (a variant!) - a being known as the formidable "Kang The Conqueror". His story, how it connects to the Pym Family, and how it plays out over the course of this movie, is the most compelling part of the screenplay. Loveness, who also worked on "Rick and Morty" as a writer, brings in some of that "Rick and Morty" space spice to crank this up a few notches with some wildly imaginative only-in-the-Quantum-Realm twists & turns. This is what I wanted to see more of, mainly with the rest of the Pyms, but Marvel really can't shake things up too much.
Nonetheless, it's pretty much an objective truth that Jonathan Majors is a God amongst men - and a key reason why Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is worth watching. He's just so damn good, bringing his intensely charismatic, complex emotions to this trippy story of Realms and Multiverses and Variants. We're deep into Multiverse territory now, which has a whole other set of implications that this movie does not explore, but nonetheless it does make the stakes for this particular -Verse interesting. Majors has a, ahem, major role to play in the MCU after being introduced in "Loki" and this is an extension of that role, though more of a re-introduction, establishing some rules and concepts that future MCU movies might play with. I just love that they found and cast Majors in this role, as it's not an easy role to handle, with so much going on, and I think he's so damn alluring and so damn devious yet so damn charming that it's near impossible not to like him. Even though he's the villain, that appeal is exactly what makes him so wicked. Watch out for this guy. If you're bored of all the MCU movies, you won't be bored by Jonathan Majors, I'll say that much.
Everyone else in Quantumania is pretty much the same MCU character we've seen already, with serviceable performances, except for Michelle Pfeiffer as the other stand out. Pfeiffer's Janet Van Dyne was sucked into and trapped in the Quantum Realm during the events of Ant-Man and the Wasp until she was rescued. But what happened there was a big mystery until it's revealed in this movie. While it's all a bit obvious, it is ultimately an important part of the plot, as she was an important part of the QR before departing. Most people don't seem to miss her down there, which is a bit strange, but this is the Star Wars-esque epicness of this whole other universe. It's full of tons of characters, factions, entire armies and legions, with a revolution brewing much like in the early Star Wars movies, and time moves at a different speed. Marvel found a safe space to tell this kind of story because the QR exists separately from Earth-616 and everything else that has happened in the other 30 MCU movies. Though with Kang, there is a connection that will expand beyond the QR back into other realms and worlds and this is the big "what's coming next" tease with Quantumania.
As a fan of psychedelic imagery already, this movie delivers in spades the kind of psychedelic imagery that is necessary when diving into an indescribable place like the "Quantum Realm." What is it, exactly; how does it work, what are the physics, why do things look this way? None of these questions are answered, but they don't need to be either, because this is a "you've gotta jive with it" kind of place, not a "try to explain it" place. As someone who is growing increasingly tired of the Marvel Studios formula, with all the same beats and story structure over & over, I found some solace in escaping into the QR this time. There's so much to enjoy in the way of unexplainable visuals, wacky characters aplenty, and fun "let's just do something crazy" concepts because why not. This is Scott's attitude anyway! It is VFX galore, sure, but much like Avatar: The Way of Water, it's enjoyable to spend time in this CGI world, exploring a new Realm. When Kang shows up, that's when it gets really good, as he is there to add some psychedelic thoughts to our minds, and make us mull over the Multiverse questions he's going on about. I don't think this will be the last we will see of him…
Alex's Rating: 7.5 out of 10
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