Review: ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA An Imaginative, Over-Stuffed Adventure

Ant-man and the Wasp Quantumania
Image via Marvel Studios

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is riding pretty high. The former felon-turned-superhero known as Ant-Man has helped the Avengers defeat the interstellar genocidal maniac Thanos and has managed to turn that bit of fame into a book deal. While he seems content to good-naturedly bask in his fame, his teenage daughter has been splitting her time between protesting for progressive causes and doing research into the Quantum Realm, a sub-atomic universe that exists below our own. Unfortunately, a device she has created to try and map the Quantum Realm seemingly inadvertently pulls them – along with Hank Pym, the creator of Scott’s shrinking technology, his wife Janet, who had previously been trapped in the Quantum Realm for three decades and their daughter and Scott’s love interest, Hope – down into the subatomic world. There, they find themselves in the middle of war between the denizens of the Quantum Realm and Kang (Jonathan Majors), a despotic warlord from our universe who sees the stranded heroes as his way back to continuing his rampage across the multiverse.

Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania strives to reach beyond the smaller but more personal stakes of the previous two solo Ant-Man outings for a story that is bigger and more sprawling. While it does achieve that to a certain extent, director Peyton Reed’s results are a bit of a mixed bag.

Effectively moving the story out of the regular world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and into a new setting divorced from any of the pre-existing aesthetic has really been an invitation for the designers of this movie to stretch their imaginations and the screen is stuffed with rich – and sometimes overwhelming – details about the world of the Quantum Realm. The denizens their ride about on vehicles that are half technology half living being, encountering creatures that range from humanoid to vaguely resembling microscopic organisms like protozoa. The film joins last year’s under-seen animated feature Strange World as one of the more richly designed cinematic settings of recent memory.

Still, there are moments were the film struggles, especially when the actors, and not just their characters, are in danger of being overwhelmed by the proceedings. Paul Rudd has made so much hay in his career acting the lovable dude both in his previous Marvel Cinematic Universe appearancesĀ  as well as his other roles that when he tries to get angry and threatening when Kang threatens the life of Scott’s daughter it just doesn’t convince. Liam Neeson with a certain set of skills he isn’t. The movie does try to retain the first two films’ sense of humor, but here it seems misplaced. Instead of finding some comedy in the absurd qualities of of Scott and company’s shrinking and growing powers, the film shifts the comedic focus onto the character of MODOK. The result waters down a very intelligent and dangerous villain from the comics to a comic relief, second banana henchman to the main villain. Sure, the character’s floating bobble head design is goofy while it simultaneously is being translated fairly faithfully from the printed page. But that apparent goofiness hides a character that is usually portrayed as cunning and vicious, the opposite of what we get here. (And yes, I know there was the animated Hulu series starring the character as voiced by Patton Oswald, but that whole show’s tone was intended as comedic, not like here.)

Of course, as part of the ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe storylines, Quantumania does have its fair share of world-building going on. If the already announced titles of some of the MCU’s upcoming projects are any indication, Kang the Conqueror is going to be playing a growing role going forward over the next couple of years. This can be good news considering how good Majors is here. But the film is self-contained enough that it can enjoyed just on its own as an installment of Scott Lang’s ongoing adventures, avoiding the pitfall that befell last year’s Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, which definitely required watching a Disney+ series beforehand in order to understand certain characters’ motivations..

Ant-Man and the Wasp Quantumania
Image via Marvel Studios
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About Rich Drees 7059 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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