REVIEW: “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” (2023)

How long has Kevin Feige and the massive entity known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe been introducing us to the Multiverse? It seems like forever. Yet here we are again with “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”, the first big Marvel production of the year and the 31st film in the MCU. Director Peyton Reed returns for his third Ant-Man film, although this one is more ambitious and has a significantly larger scope. Unfortunately that alone doesn’t equal a great movie.

I guess it depends on who you talk to, but ever since 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame”, the MCU has been a frustrating and at times rudderless mess. It has nowhere near the flow or baked-in excitement since Thanos was defeated. Instead, Feige and company have over-extended into television, repackaged classic old characters, brought in a humdrum selection of new characters, and has spent more time introducing storylines than exploring them. Perhaps success has gone to their heads. Or maybe they’ve forgotten what made the early run so great.

Admittedly, out of the early MCU, the Ant-Man films were among the weakest for me. I liked their smaller and more intimate scale. But neither the stories or the storytelling left much of an impression. “Quantumania” has much more on its plate. It’s supposedly the start of Phase 5 of the MCU although I quit trying to understand their “phases” years ago. Most of the cast returns including Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Michael Douglas. I say “most” of the cast because for some reason Feige recast Cassie Lang (Emma Fuhrmann was dropped and replaced by Kathryn Newton).

Image Courtesy of Marvel Studios

This time the villain is Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), a classic baddie in the comics who is still waiting to be adequately defined in the MCU. Those who watch Marvel’s assembly line of Disney+ shows first saw Kang in the first season of “Loki”. I was hoping “Quantumania” would give us a deep dive into the character, but sadly it doesn’t. Yes he gets some good screen time and we get to see him in action. Otherwise he only gives us vague allusions to grand ambitions and of “what’s to come”.

As for Scott Lang (Rudd), aka Ant-Man, he’s been spending his post-Endgame days basking in the glory of his days as an Avenger. Hope (Lilly) is running things at the Pym van Dyne Foundation. Cassie is an activist who keeps winding up in jail. Janet (Pfeiffer) is holding onto secrets from the 30 years she spent trapped in the Quantum Realm. And Hank (Douglas) basically tags along and talks to ants.

Scott and his family are sucked into the Quantum Realm after one of his daughter’s experiments goes haywire. The Quantum Realm is a CGI world full of wacky creatures, sentient walking buildings, and Bill Murray running around playing himself. It’s also a realm on the brink war as a rather bland tribe of freedom fighters led by Jentorra (Katy M. O’Brian) are rising up to fight the mighty Kang who has amassed a mighty techno-army. Scott just wants to get his family home. But Cassie believes they should get in the fight. So we get some manufactured tension between a conqueror and the people, and (on a smaller scale) between a father and his daughter.

But it’s hard to get too invested mainly because the movie barely goes skin deep. So much feels left out or underdeveloped. Kang is the best example. This should have been where we learned the most about him. Instead he just wants to leave the Quantum Realm. That’s it. He’s not into quelling the uprising. He barely seems aware they exist. He just wants to leave. His “powers” are never really explained, and even fans of the comics will have a hard time making sense of some of the things he does. And while the movie tries to make him menacing (in an almost Shakespearean way thanks to Majors), it lacks the edge to pull it off.

Many of the problems can be traced back to screenwriter Jeff Loveness’ script. Taking on something this massive and expansive as your first feature film screenplay is a big ask, especially coming from writing for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and doing a handful of “Rick and Morty” episodes. His story lacks depth, detail, emotion, and even laughs (the scattered attempts at humor fall flat). The dialogue goes from stiff to hammy, and all the quantumumbo-jumbo is never as interesting as it should be.

Image Courtesy of Marvel Studios

But the biggest problem with “Quantumania” is that it just doesn’t move the needle in the MCU. Nothing about it feels special or even significant. And it certainly doesn’t feel as though it moves things forward. But it’s also short of its own personality and charm. The entire thing feels processed and churned out by the Marvel machine rather than creative minds.

I’ve came down pretty hard on the movie as if it’s terrible. It has a great cast, some of the visuals are actually quite striking. And then there’s M.O.D.O.K., a character I’ve always loved in the comics. The MCU’s origin of M.O.D.O.K. is utterly ridiculous. But once I got past that disappointment, he was actually one of my favorite things in the movie. Not because he’s a great character. But because he looks so hilariously bizarre, sometimes by design and sometimes due to crappy CGI.

But while “Quantumania” may not be terrible, it’s not memorable either. Kinda like the entire MCU since “Endgame”. This is another entry that fails to muster excitement or move things forward in a meaningful way. It just exists – a gear in a moneymaking machine that is starting to lose its steam. “Quantumania” will still make money. But even the most rabid loyalists are noticing the dips in quality and letting their voices be heard. And if the MCU loses them….. .


13 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” (2023)

  1. I’m going to see this tonight. It’s a shame this isn’t getting better reviews, but I’m not surprised. I think until Kang takes center stage, the MCU is going to struggle just because Infinity War/Endgame were so strong.

    • I just want MCU to have the same energy as everything leading up to Endgame. These days I find myself watching just to watch. Back then my whole family was excited whenever an MCU came around. Not so much these days.

      I miss that.

  2. Keith, I agree with your review, except I wouldn’t have awarded it as many stars😀. What a mess. I feel guilty coming down as hard as I did on Strange’s “Multiverse Of Madness” and Thor’s “Love And Thunder.” It’s amazing to write but for me this was way worse than those two. Juvenile story and dialogue, and spending all of the film’s budget on CGI can’t gloss over those facts. Lazy, sloppy filmmaking as Marvel continues to display they have no interest in replicating the Avengers formula we came to love. Two hours later, you have a new villain whose main power looks to be being in every timeline. Not very scary, just inconvenient. That also sums up my feelings on seeing this movie.

    • It’s such an unremarkable movie. Kinda like the MCU as a whole. I don’t know about this new batch of creatures. Nor am I convinced in Feige. There are a lot of factors, but the MCU has stalled. And this movie does nothing to get it moving again.

  3. Damn. I know I’ve been pretty much out on the consistent cadence of the MCU since Far From Home (the entertaining epilogue to Endgame, where things properly ended) as I’ve mentioned before; there’s just little that feels like event viewing, and the flooding of media—mostly TV, but some movies too, now makes it oddly daunting to stay interested. Too much to keep up with, particularly as most of it seems to fall in the painfully mediocre realm at best. You know more than me, but it even feels like the stars of these features look kind of worn down and not as immersed in their movies and characters.

    I think this will probably be another MCU film I’ll watch when I decide to pay for Disney+ every year or so for a span of a few months. But yeah, I’ve definitely conceded now that when I watch these I’m gonna be out of the loop on so much lol. Shame, 2008-2019 was an impressive masterclass on how you build an interconnected universe.

    • You nailed it, and I think your approach to these things is the better one. As I’ve mentioned, nothing about this movie feels significant. And I know what you mean about keeping up with everything. I couldn’t make it through the last three streaming shows and don’t find myself very excited about any of the upcoming MCU movies. Soooo different than how it once was.

  4. I just saw the film and while I liked it I think more than you did. Yes, it is a film with some issues. I feel like the lack of humor is evident in favor of exposition really dragged the film. The stakes I think could’ve been more evident and I feel like there wasn’t enough development in this rebellion within the people at the Quantum Realm. I’m still processing it. I don’t think it is a bad film but just alright but it’s better than Eternals in some aspects. Notably because of Jonathan Majors.

    Let’s hope Marvel never hires Jeff Loveness again. Where’s Luis? Kirk and Dave?

      • I noticed something that I feel into why this film didn’t work in comparison to the previous ones. Ant-Man had four credited writers in Edgar Wright, Adam McKay, Joe Cornish, and Paul Rudd. Rudd would return to help write Ant-Man and the Wasp with four different writers. Now usually, a team of writers on something like this wouldn’t work but those films somehow did and they were totally enjoyable as I really loved the 2nd film a lot. Plus, I think this film tried to take itself too seriously when it shouldn’t have been even though Kang is an absolute serious threat. There was a lot of tonal imbalances within this film as if there’s going to be a fourth Ant-Man film. No more Jeff Loveness. Just get Paul Rudd and some writers to create something that is fun. Plus, bring back Luis, Kirk, Dave, Cassie’s mom, and her stepdad. Also give Agent Woo other than a 10-second cameo. Here’s my full review. I’m done.

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