First and foremost, this review contains SPOILERS for the movie, so here’s your SPOILER ALERT, you’ve been warned.
Ant-Man has never been the kind of Marvel property with a heavy heart or dark edge, and Quantumania is no different. While the story may play with the idea of genuine loss or grand-scale threats, at its core this is about keeping your Pym-hand strong! (I had to, sorry.) But seriously, I really enjoyed this movie a lot, and I’m glad it stuck to the things that have made this particular Marvel family, fun.
Probably one of the highest compliments I can pay this movie is that it is paced amazingly well. From the pithy catch-up voiceover that starts us off to the brief reintroduction of who are main players are ending in the near immediate immersion into the Quantum Realm this movie starts off running and never stops. Given how bloated and drawn out Black Panther Wakanda Forever was by comparison, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a blessedly tight film. It even comes in under two hours!
The thing is, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is no Iron Man, Thor, or Hulk. He’s not super strong. He’s not super smart. Yet, he knows this, which is why audiences can relate to him better than any of those other heroes. Who Scott is? Is a divorced ex-con who only wants to do right by his daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton). Having precious time with her after the snap, Cassie is no longer the little girl she was in the first two movies, which sets up the conflict within the story: how to make-up for time lost.
It is fun to see Scott tackle his beloved peanut as a surly teenager. Though I miss Judy Greer, as Cassie’s mother, Maggie, and Bobby Cannavale as Maggie’s second husband, Jim Paxton. While there was a perfect opportunity for a cameo of both of them when Cassie winds up in jail, sadly no such cameo comes. They’re not the only familiar faces left out however, as none of the X-Con Security fam made it into the movie either. No Luis (Michael Peña), no Kurt (David Dastmalchian), and no Dave (T.I.) to bumble on through making hilarious observations about serious situations. Luckily for us, the immediate Pym family plus Scott and Cassie (Kathryn Newton) pick up the slack quite nicely along with help from some new friends, and a very special old enemy.
The hodge-podge of characters isn’t terribly surprising considering an ambiguous setting like the Quantum Realm allows for real creative license. Its more common interpretations of what “alien” life might look like based on old-school science fiction tropes and novellas from the 1970s. We’re talking plant people, amorphous blob people, people that look like parts of them were replaced with the logo for Pixar, and of course people…just with weird paint, or weird skin color. Standard, Star Wars-level “hmm I bet this would make an interesting alien” types. I will say that the various single instances of creatures can be at least partially explained by Kang, as the villain’s grown a habit of destroying entire worlds and people.
The best part of this is the Pym family’s reaction to these beings. Scott and Hank’s especially. Let me take a moment here to really praise Michael Douglas. He starts off with his usual smarmy distain for Scott, but once he gets into it, he really comes alive. His love for his adoptive granddaughter is blatant, but it’s his love for his wife and daughter that really shines.
Douglas gets some amazing moments in this movie – his conversation with Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) regarding her time with a side-piece in the Quantum Realm alone is dynamite (also thanks to Bill Murray for the excellent cameo). But his reaction to the ship’s controls, his reliance on the gold standard for him (Ants!), and his overall zaddy confidence really allows him to steal the show (and my heart!).
Not that I’m sleeping on Pfeiffer either – she’s one third of why that conversation about her sex life in the Quantum Realm works so well. Her Janet is guarded, a warrior forged out of the necessity of survival and guilt combined. She’s fantastic and her willingness to fight Kang at any cost is admirable. Though lucky for her, the others keep her from making any really devastating decisions. Yes, it may have holes a plenty, but if you don’t see them when you’re watching, and you still love the movie after you realize they were there, that’s a winner.
“Throwing Kang into her backstory feels like a stretch, but the important part is that I don’t care. Which is a sign of a good movie.”
Lastly is Evangeline Lilly’s Hope, honestly one of the weaker main characters in our movie. That’s not to say Lilly’s performance isn’t good, again, she’s the last third in that chat about her parents’ sex life that makes it work so well.
Still, Hope doesn’t get as much love in this movie as she does in the first two and maybe that’s because she’s a pretty realized person this time around. She’s not vying for her father’s affections, or working on the wrong side of the law; she’s taken full control of the company and is making real world-changing progress. Most of her place in this movie is helping Scott (as usual), and strengthening the bond she wants with her folks.
The new players here don’t add a whole lot more than extra comic relief and deus-ex-machina saves. Most of the humor here involves how oddly their bodies function or how cool their abilities are – credit given to using mind-reading in a very chill way. For once the man who can know your thoughts (Quaz played by William Jackson Harper) isn’t a bad guy at all, and is, in fact, very against reading your mind because…well, ew. Which I also appreciate because let’s face it, it’s very true. People are disgusting.
David Dastmalchian sneaks in a kind of cameo as the voice of Veb, a weird little blob guy whose essence allows people to understand all languages (or maybe just those in the Quatum Realm? It’s not clear at all), but he doesn’t sound at all like our Babba-Yaga fearing Kurt. Ah well. No small parts, right?
Fearsome freedom-fighter Jentorra (Katy M. O’Brian) is mostly concerned with keeping her people safe from Kang and clashes with Scott and Cassie because their presence endangers them all. She’s our deus-ex-machina, helping Cassie to lead a rebellion against the Conqueror towards the end of the movie.
Finally, I’m going to throw Cassie in here. That might seem unfair, but to me, she’s probably the weakest character in this movie. Newton plays Cassie as a mix of teenage angst and doe-eyed ignorance. What I mean is that she is easily frustrated by what she sees as a black and white situation when the adults around her can clearly pinpoint the nuances. Freedom fighting and rebellion might sound cool in theory, but in reality there’s a lot of death and collateral damage involved.
I suppose in that respect, Newton does a good job of portraying Cassie as an innocent girl trying to follow in the footsteps of her famous father. Yet, there’s still a lost connection for me here. I never quite get over the hump of seeing Cassie as annoying – not sure if that’s my hang-up or Newton’s, but either way it makes her character less appealing to me overall.
She keeps throwing Scott’s absence in his face but the whole world got blipped for five years, doesn’t that give him a little slack in her eyes? It’s not like Scott went out to get cigarettes and never came back, he got trapped in the Quantum Realm. Hell, he’s part of the reason everyone came back from being blipped at all, but I suppose this is in line with a teen girl’s thinking – myopic.
The Big Bad
That’s it for the good guys, so let’s take a quick peek at the opposition, shall we? There’s really only two villains in this whole movie: Kang (Jonathan Majors), who Majors plays as both exhausted and enraged, and M.O.D.O.K. who is revealed to be none other than Darren Cross aka Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll) who miraculously survived his apparent death in the first Ant-Man movie.
Kang offers zero humor as the main baddie, and perhaps that’s a good thing. He’s the real weight here and it shows. My only real problem is how wet he always seems to be. Like, when we first meet him he’s dripping sweat (or tears?), and later in the fight scenes his face is especially shiny (doesn’t help he has those two matching tear stain lines under each eye). I can’t tell if he’s always on the verge of crying, has just cried, or just has trouble regulating his body temperature. His motives are kind of iffy, but I’ll say that I understand them way better in this movie than I did when he showed up at the end of Loki.
I wasn’t a big fan of his inclusion in Loki, and all it did was confuse me. Now I’m half-wondering if Loki doesn’t actually take place after Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Considering the Time Bureau exists outside of space and time, it’s very possible that when Loki takes place doesn’t matter at all.
Darren has had a journey. Because anything and anyone who gets sent into the Quantum Realm doesn’t die, neither did he! Though, he did go through a Darth Vaderesque resurrection process that resulted in his remaining body parts being encased in a mechanical “suit” for lack of a better word. It’s never entirely explained why only Darren’s head survives full-sized while the rest of him becomes shrunken but it’s possible this is just to make it so he can properly embody the unique aesthetic that is M.O.D.O.K.. Mind you, everyone’s favorite floating evil head has already appeared in the smaller Marvel Universe care of a HULU series, but here, he’s molded to fit in the MCU.
Stoll does a great job of making M.O.D.O.K. human. Yes, he’s obsessed with the idea of revenge at first, but his relationship to Kang immediately evokes Enchanted and the villain-sidekick dynamic that is painfully one-sided. Just as in that movie, here Stoll’s character is made to realize his lower status, with Cassie outright confronting him on it. Writing about it does not do the scene justice, I assure you. It is insanely comedic the way it goes down and inevitably leads to Stoll’s equally humorous redemption.
Final Thoughts on Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania
Overall, this movie was funny above all else. You may think a movie without stakes is worthless but you’d be wrong here. Scott’s main concern is his family and his interactions with them are really what cement many of the moments in this film. Sure, Ant-Man may not evolve quite as heavily as Thor, Hulk, or Iron Man, but he shows himself capable of getting serious when what matters to him is on the line. One of the best scenes that the trailers show is Scott telling Kang he’s willing to lose if it means Kang also loses.
Granted, his loss here might mean Earth’s greater loss to many more of him later, but I’ll take the Pyric victory. And so will Scott, though he isn’t entirely able to shake the doom off and that, to me, is what makes this movie great. Yes, it’s a comedy, all’s well that ends well, but the truth is clearly more sinister. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quatumania has a wonderful way of wrapping everything up in a nice little bow but making sure the audience knows that bow has some frayed edges.