I didn’t have big expectations, but I figured we’d get another mid-tier MCU movie. Woo boy, was I wrong. The 3rd ANT-MAN outing has some really high points. There are some lovely sequences with Paul Rudd returning as Scott Lang/Ant-Man, Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet Pym, and Jonathan Majors as The Conquerer, but the negative outweighs the good, and I’m sad to say: Down in the quantum zone, things are literally an absolute mess.
What do you get when you take the framework of TRON, the Mad Max universe, and a famous scene from THE MATRIX RELOADED, plus some likable MCU heroes, and drop them in a blender? That, in a nutshell, is ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA. The film starts out strong. There are two opening sequences juxtaposing different points of view of the Marvel Universe, and they had me excited for what’s to come.
If you’ve read my recent piece on Ant-Man in the MCU so far, you’ll know it’s been almost four years since we’ve seen Paul Rudd in the suit. The movie swiftly gets us up to speed on what Scott Lang and his family have been up to. It’s funny, clever, and one of the movie’s best parts. The story moves quickly, almost at a breakneck pace, with getting down to business and setting up the main arc. There have been complaints in the past about how the MCU films have too much downtime throughout. Captain America needs some time to come up with a plan, or Thor stops to crack jokes. There is none of that here. Once the action starts, it goes until the very end.
Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conquerer is another big highlight of the film. I know they’re setting up Kang to be an even worse villain than Thanos, but at least Thanos had a complicated mission statement. Kang’s simplistic motivation may work in the comics but doesn’t translate well to the big screen. One could look at Thano’s world-destroying mission and say, “well, he has a point.” That’s absolutely not the case here. Kang is to be feared for sure, but I couldn’t empathize with him at all.
Have you ever watched a film where there’s a character in a scene, but suddenly they disappear, and you don’t know why? While they’re offscreen, they’ve inexplicably formulated some ridiculous scheme or traveled far and returned in what seems to be only a few minutes of storytime. This film has that in spades. How did she get from here to there? How did that person do all that in the last two minutes? Why is this happening?!! ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA seems to know it’s not a very good movie too. There are a few meta jokes about its purpose in the larger universe, and there are a lot of jokes about Ant-Man’s personal purpose in it as well. The former are fluff, while the latter made me realize the filmmakers know the fans have sometimes said, “Hey, why is Ant-Man here?”.
I’ve noticed that with a couple of exceptions, the more recent MCU special effects haven’t been as good as those from the films leading up to and including INFINITY WAR and ENDGAME. I’m semi-convinced that James Cameron hired the best artists for his AVATAR sequels, and everyone else is getting the B-Team. The effects here aren’t the worst, but they’re not great, and they pulled me out of the story a few times – a big red flag. Remember that scene in THE MATRIX RELOADED where Neo is fighting hundreds of Agent Smiths? Like that, literally.
The messy plot, the sub-par effects, and some of the most stilted dialogue ever put into the Marvel universe sunk this film even when the performances and the few well-done sequences tried so hard to keep it afloat. If you’re still in the market to see it, stick around for two end credits scenes, including one that was a nice surprise.
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA is in theatres now.