Quantumania Is Quirky But In An Entertaining Way
I try my best to avoid spoilers or discourse about a piece of media before I review it. But I already know that I’m the odd one out. Because I have no particularly strong issues with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania—and the internet seems to have quite a simmering hatred. Perhaps I’ve missed some external situation, some problematic element or deep-lore betrayal, but it’s fine as a movie. It’s not even close to the best Marvel film, but it’s not anywhere as bad as most of Love and Thunder. It’s not deeply forgettable like Iron Man 2. The plot is actually less messy than Spider-Man: No Way Home’s weirdly convoluted inciting incident.
I enjoyed this movie well enough because of how deeply strange Quantumania is. Comic books have never been a large part of my media diet, but one thing I like about Marvel or D.C. is the wild interconnectedness and ever-scaling weirdness that comes with letting so many writers play around in a shared universe/multiverse. And Quantumania leans into this mindset. It has characters like M.O.D.O.K. (who’s getting a little bit of a renaissance), a creature with broccoli for a head, and another with an energy cannon where a face should be. Scenes in Quantumania have the sheer chaos of looking over a comic book reader’s shoulder: a cavalcade of strange imagery that a non-fan would find incomprehensible. But that’s fine nowadays to work within as a framework. We’re deep enough in the MCU that things are a web of shenanigans. I’m pretty sure that’s what we wanted from all this—at least at the beginning.
This Is A Natural Evolution Of Comic Book Movies
And, even better, going this wild and varied helps side-step a common enough problem in Marvel: the overabundance of C.G.I. Now, make no mistake, Quantumania is as C.G.I. as they come, but it’s less bothersome because it’s all so visually interesting. It reminded me of the creature designs in Strange World—and that is a compliment. Taking the core concept that most structures and vehicles have a living element is enough of a gimmick to give the whole movie some much-needed personality.
Now, as to the nuts-and-bolts plot itself…it’s, well, a mixed bag. It’s honestly just Star Wars again. That’s not a bad template for a movie that wants to feature this much extraneous lore, but obviously not super original. Most battles are against faceless, helmeted minions with kill blasters. The upside is that this lets the plot narrow its focus to the characters and the comedy.
Quantumania Uses A Well-Worn Framework Story
And, unlike my Thor review last week, I didn’t mind the comedy—it made me chuckle once or twice. I’ve grown mostly numb to Marvel’s attempts, so that was a pleasant surprise. Specifically, any scene featuring William Jackson Harper as Quaz was delightful. Since I saw The Good Place, I’ve considered him one of the funniest actors working today. Outside of that, Scott/Ant-Man has a few comedic moments that mostly land off the back of Paul Rudd being effortlessly charming, and the whole supporting cast gets at least one moment of decent levity.
The character work that comedy is layered over is what caught my attention, though. These characters are campy and textbook, but their actors give them some real energy and interplay. I like Cassie’s (played by Kathryn Newton) consistent focus on helping others. I like how Ant-Man’s core character trait of being a father is never abandoned. The side cast is less developed/consistent, though. It would’ve been nice for Hank (played by Michael Douglas) or The Wasp/Hope (played by Evangeline Lilly) to get more screen time or things to do. But my favorite dialog exchange actually happens with Janet (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) and Hank. They have a discussion about romance that oddly resonated. Despite being presented comically, it had this element of realness and sadness that startlingly hit home.
But the tour de force here was Jonathan Majors as Kang. It’s no contest. Though some plot events take away his gravitas (and perceived threat level), the early moments are incredible. The quiet menace, the confidence, and the interplay of both being dignified and willing to murder on mass made for compelling scene after compelling scene. Ever since they killed off Thanos and severely under-used Ultron, I’ve been worried that Marvel wouldn’t stick the landing for its next main villain. But Kang seems like a perfect foe in this ever-expanding multiverse. He feels both human and like an evil Time Lord from Doctor Who.
Kang Is The Absolute Best Part Of This Whole Film
But, yes, for all those wanting this movie’s smackdown, there are problems with the plot. But M.O.D.O.K. (voiced by Corey Stoll) being a tonal whiplash of a character with some clunky jokes is nowhere near the true problems. My beef with Quantumania is more structural. The editing has some disorienting choices. Worldbuilding is deeply underexplored. And most galling to me personally, this movie has multiple moments where something comes out of nowhere, problems get resolved too easily, or both. The biggest offender, by far, is a plotline involving the ants. I won’t spoil it, but if you think a character developing unheard-of superpowers is a clunky storytelling trick, this is on another level.
There’s also a running plotline of withheld information. Quantumania pulls the audience along by the nose rather than just giving us the expositional “big reveal” when it makes organic sense to do so. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Ant-Man 2, but I’m almost positive that the prequel(s) have no character moments or established motivations that make this plot point anything more than a time-sink.
Quantumania Has Several Baffling Plot Points In It
And, finally, the criticism I always seem to have for Ant-Man: not enough use of the powers. The whole gimmick of this character is fun with scale. In Quantumania, the shrinking powers have only three moves: dodge, hit harder, or sneak into places. There are some innovative fight moments to be had with characters turning giant, but this is the most underutilized and under-explored part of these movies (and the passive worldbuilding of the MCU overall.) I can and have seen fictional people in suits hit each other many times now, and the biggest reason to watch different MCU movies is to get different subgenres, emotional tones, and fighting styles. If Ant-Man doesn’t use shrinking/growing powers much, the whole endeavor feels watered down.
So, with all the positives and negatives laid out, it’s like I said at the top: Quantumania isn’t the best MCU movie, but it’s also not the worst. It’s middle of the pack, with fun visuals, good performances, and entertaining scenes to offset its other choices. If you like bombastically weird science fiction that does not take itself or its plot seriously (except when it suddenly does), then Quantumania is a breezy, enjoyable watch.
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