It feels like a short and long time since we’ve had a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film. Truly, what is time anymore? Torn between “superhero fatigue” (note: not tiredness of superheroes specifically, but of the mundane storytelling and repetitiveness in recent films) and wanting to know what comes next, I had to figure out what to expect at the beginning of Phase 5.
I entered the Canadian Premiere of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania with zero expectations. However, one thought was that I might root for the villain, Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), something that was confirmed by one of the film’s stars, Kathryn Newton, when she told theatregoers she was most excited for them to see Kang. Once the film was over, I was intrigued about the possibilities for the future, but quickly realized that did not outweigh the disappointment concerning most of the storytelling throughout.
Quantumania begins with the lovable Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) letting the audience know about his life post the events of Avengers: Endgame. With a recognizable face, he gets coffee on the house, and diners send drinks to his table. You know, all the perks afforded to a superhero who was part of saving the world. Fellow superhero and Scott’s significant other, Hope van Dyne, a.k.a. Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), has been making moves, taking Pym Technologies and improving lives for the better.
Cassie Lang (Newton) is also trying to follow in the footsteps of her father and Hope. However, she has a penchant for finding trouble with every good deed she pursues. Scott tries his best to talk sense into her, but you know how stubborn teenagers can be. However, trouble finds Cassie again after she and Hank (Michael Douglas) create a device which is supposed to map the Quantum Realm but also sends a signal to it. Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) is terrified of where this machine is sending its call, and the result explains why. Suddenly, the group is sucked into the Quantum Realm, the last place Janet wants to return to and the same place she’d warned her husband and daughter about since her rescue in the previous instalment. The leading cause of Janet’s fear? Kang.
The primary purpose of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is to set up the MCU’s newest threat. After the defeat of Thanos in Endgame, Kang is the next villain set up to deliver greatness and Majors fires on all cylinders. As soon as Kang arrives, he steals the show, thanks to Majors’ performance. Pfeiffer is the only other character compelling enough in the story to match with Majors. The duo share some crucial on-screen moments, and seeing them together was one of the film’s fleeting highlights. Unfortunately, while more time should have been dedicated to Pfeiffer and Majors, viewers are subjected to gags that overstay their welcome and other attempts at comedy, which could have been left on the cutting room floor, specifically when it came to M.O.D.O.K. This character could have proven to be another interesting villain to add to the MCU’s roster, but the opportunity is wholly wasted for the sake of “comedy.”
While comedy is subjective, for the majority of Quantumania, it served to be the film’s biggest faux pas and was a hindrance to the greater story being told. Instead of leaning into some of the more emotionally resonant story beats or the chilling Conqueror at the helm of Janet’s fears, the writing team seemed content with burying a story that could have been more compelling beneath repetitive wisecracks. Even those who are used to and enjoy the MCU’s brand of humour might find this one a slog to sit through. Every moment does not require a joke at the end. In fact, most of these moments seemed like they were inserted only to distract from the misfires in the actual script. Since the first film was released, plenty have regarded this particular franchise in the MCU as filler, and finally, there was the chance to beat this allegation, but it’s ultimately squandered.
This is what makes Quantumania so frustrating. There are moments that tried to tell a good tale, which includes interesting ideas, and at times, compelling character choices that could have been the making of a great Ant-Man movie. There are some truly enjoyable creatures and places in the Quantum Realm that is yearning to be explored. It gave similar vibes to venturing to new places or planets in the Star Wars universe–which makes sense considering Quantumania‘s director, Peyton Reed, is a big fan of the franchise. Therefore, there was a great chance for worldbuilding in the third installment of the franchise, and while it worked in some areas, it faltered in others. The chances were there for the taking, but much of it is lost in sloppy storytelling and exasperating comedic beats.
Perhaps the superhero fatigue finally got me, or perhaps the MCU is just unable to recapture some of its past glory days. That said, at least the film succeeds in establishing the MCU’s next Big Bad. However, neither Majors, Pfeiffer, nor the naturally charming Rudd can save Quantumania from itself. For a plethora of reasons, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is nowhere near as good as it needs to be to usher in a new phase of the MCU.