Review, Arts

‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ Doesn’t Take Itself Seriously, Undermining Its Plot and Its Characters

★★☆☆☆

Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania checks all of the boxes of a typical Marvel epic—mostly great CGI, a witty sense of humor, and a formidable villain. This go-round, however, feels like Quantumania is too small a film for such an ambitious plot. 

Whereas Quantumania succeeds in its message of family and loyalty, it asks too much of the audience to take the film—and its villains—seriously.

The third installment of Marvel’s Ant-Man series follows titular heroes Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) as they struggle to find a heroic purpose after the events of Avengers: Endgame. Ant-Man’s daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton), tries to help people in her own way by leading a research effort to further explore the quantum realm, which is a subatomic world largely unknown to man. 

Cassie’s research goes horribly wrong when her exploration device malfunctions, transporting the entire Ant-Man family to the quantum realm. Once there, the bug-themed heroes have to stop Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) from wreaking havoc on the multiverse. 

Like the first two Ant-Man films, Quantumania reminds us that Ant-Man is first and foremost just a man behind the mask. When he isn’t donning the costume, Scott Lang is a devoted and loyal father who is willing to go to great lengths to protect the people he loves, which is clear within the core of the film. 

Family dynamics are built off love and trust, but the dynamic between Scott and Cassie has somewhat evolved in Quantumania. While they still crack jokes and are each other’s best friend, the difference now is that Cassie wants to help people like her father does as Ant-Man, and Scott’s role as a father makes him reluctant to let Cassie into the world of superheroes.

Though Cassie and Scott’s new relationship is fun to explore, many Marvel fans expected Quantumania to deliver through one particular character: Kang the Conqueror. Majors delivered a stellar acting performance, but in some ways, the film’s plot let the iconic comics’ supervillain down. 

In a sense, Quantumania felt like it was meant to introduce Kang to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) rather than use him correctly for this movie. Majors portrays Kang as a force to be reckoned with, but Kang’s actions don’t reflect the threat that he should pose. It makes the stakes feel lower in this Ant-Man film.

Kang has access to technology centuries ahead of our time, and he holds the key to a device that can literally travel through the multiverse. His failure to use these advantages in an effective manner undermines his legitimacy as the “next Thanos” for the MCU. That being said, Kang is expected to return in Loki Season 2 and Avengers: The Kang Dynasty—there’s still a chance for him to live up to expectations.

What really makes the film disappointing is how Quantumania expects audiences to accept some of the MCU’s craziest assertions. 

Full disclaimer—in a world where a snap can wipe out half the population and characters travel between dimensions, some liberties need to be taken. The audience needs to keep an open mind. Quantumania tests those boundaries like never before in the MCU. 

It felt stupid when a group of technologically advanced giant ants showed up out of the blue to help fight Kang. The countless different species of aliens with different powers was a wasted concept, especially when they were only used for comedic relief. Even the film’s ending felt like a Band-Aid that left some audience members somewhat confused, and it worked to further undermine Kang as a menacing figure. 

Kang deserved to leave a mark on the Ant-Man family—and on the MCU as a whole. His failure to leave Scott and the audience shaken is an upset for fans and casual viewers alike. What Kang needs is a moment like Thanos in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. When Thanos snapped his fingers and made half of our beloved heroes disintegrate, the audience was stupefied in disbelief. As Kang struggles to fend off a hoard of large ants, viewers can’t help but laugh at his inadequacy as a supervillain. 

If the audience is expected to take a film like Quantumania seriously, then the film should have taken more care in how far from typical MCU reality that it was willing to go. 

February 26, 2023