Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023) – Film Review
Director: Peyton Reed
Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michelle Pfeiffer
By Roger Crow
When Edgar Wright spent years developing an Ant-Man movie, it was a shocker when he left the project at the 11th hour. Could anything be salvaged from the mess? Well, yes, as it turned out. Peyton Reed did a terrific job juggling the comedy, adventure and effects while hero Scott Lang’s character arc from petty thief to superhero was well rounded. Even his comedy colleague Michael Peña was in danger of stealing the show with his now much-imitated rapid fire explanation of how information passed from one person to another.
The sequel was also a lot of fun and actually set up the two-part Avengers epic, Infinity War and Endgame. Who knew such a B-character would become such a major player in the Marvel universe? You could even forgive the helmets appearing out of thin air because nano tech is everywhere in the MCU. (Believe it or not Marvel, I don’t actually mind watching people taking off real helmets, and it doesn’t actually waste that much screen time).
Ant-Man and the Wasp in the real world was a lot of fun because extraordinary characters in ordinary surroundings worked a treat.
The third movie, Quantumania, reduces extraordinary characters to okay characters, because everything else is so extraordinary.
“Sucked into the quantum realm”
With a preamble flashback to Janet Van Dyne (an excellent Michelle Pfeiffer) in the sub-atomic quantum realm (that’s a tiny universe to those who don’t speak Marvel), we meet the mysterious Kang (Jonathan Majors).
Now pay attention because Kang will be a major antagonist in the next Avengers movie. (That’s if Majors hasn’t been fired over a recent real world fracas).
Back in the present day, and Scott Lang has a happy life. The San Francisco locals love him, because he saved the world after the ‘Blip’ – short for the whole episode with finger-snapping Thanos, which led to half of all existence being extinguished, and then resurrected from dust. Seriously, if you’ve not seen them, get those last two Avengers movies watched asap, because nano costumes aside, they are quite the achievement.
Anyway, Lang’s genius daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) is now all grown up and just as smart as her surrogate grandparents, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas lending much needed gravitas) and the fabulous Ms Pfeiffer.
Before you know it, everyone is being sucked into the quantum realm because of a gizmo young Ms Lang created, and about 80 per cent of the movie is given over to dazzling special effects and bonkers characters. It’s like starring at one of those toy kaleidoscopes for 90 mins, and not always in a good way.
“An appetite for destruction”
I’m all for exotic worlds on screen, as long as there’s a logic, and this tiny world would be more believable if it were on another planet.
Naturally there are more gags involving heroes being really big or really small – though it’s all relative as they’re mostly really small anyway. Everyone is.
The massive problem with Ant-Man 3 is despite the bonkers visuals and characters, there’s hardly any story, and certainly not one that’s original. At times it feels like a remake of Tron Legacy, in which an exiled despot summons an army to take on rebels in a hi-def world. Naturally there are smackdowns, and portals to other dimensions, and people not jumping through portals when they should because they spend too long reacting to things.
Oh, and there’s also MODOK, one of Marvel’s daftest villains who is basically a floating head with tiny limbs and an appetite for destruction. The fact said villain is linked to the first movie is an interesting twist. However, when multiple Ant-Men start appearing, Marvel once more fall for the belief that lots of heroes is better than one. Sorry, no. The whole point of heroes is there’s one of them and they are unique. Less really is more, though naturally the ant sub-text is exploited in a set piece involving a power source.
Like Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and recent Spider-Man movies, this is another MCU offering that deals with infinite alternate worlds, which is a very slippery slope as anything can and usually does happen. Hey, what if an alternate Ant-Man was President of America and had a sidekick made out of cake who speaks French? Sounds ridiculous but that’s the Marvel Cinematic Universe these days. Anything goes because of the multiverse.
How about no? Just dial it all down and have real superheroes tackling one villain and best of all, have their costumes made of actual fabric instead of digital particles.
In an age of ADHD editing, when viewers are believed to have the attention span of two seconds, there’s little sign of a slow burn Ant-Man offering any time soon.
Oh, and Bill Murray pops up in a glorified cameo, because why not? There was a time when this would have being quite the event, but these days it just feels all a bit meh.
Naturally there’s an explosive finale, and a fun epilogue before a couple of credit cookies, one of which teases what looks like the dullest Avengers movie to date, and a teaser for the next Loki series.
Written by Rick and Morty veteran Jeff Loveness (because Marvel bosses seem obsessed with that hit-and-miss animated saga), this isn’t a bad movie, and certainly never dull, with some fun moments. However, if you want a three-course meal of a fantasy epic, don’t be too surprised if it feels as nutritious as candy floss.