Released: 16th February
Seen: 22nd February
Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been somewhat polarising for people who are fans of this cultural juggernaut. In the aftermath of the Infinity Saga and dealing with the events of Endgame, Phase 4 has felt somewhat uneven to some viewers who have been vocal about not really knowing where it’s been going. Personally, this hasn’t felt like a big deal since it felt pretty obvious to me that phase 4 is pulling the double duty of dealing with the aftermath of Endgame (This being the major thread of films like Multiverse of Madness, Love and Thunder and Wakanda Forever) and setting up the Multiverse that will clearly be a large factor for phase 5 (This idea is explored in things like Loki, No Way Home and What if?). Sure they’ve been a little haphazard about how to use these ideas and haven’t really made it clear on what’s to come but the groundwork has been laid… and now with Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania they’ve decided to start showing their hand.
Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania picks up with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) trying to have a moment of normalcy with his family, in particular his daughter Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton) since he missed several years of her life. Part of this attempt has included working in the basement with her grandfather Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) on a device that’ll let them contact the Quantum Realm.
This idea doesn’t go over well with Cassie’s grandmother Janet (Michelle Pfieffer) who still has some obvious PTSD from the 30 years she spent trapped in the Quantum Realm so she tries to stop the device… but this is a movie where there’s a piece of stupidly powerful technology, ergo instead of stopping it the device ends up sucking the family of assorted fighters into the Quantum Realm where they’ll not only meet a strange assortment of creatures but will have to deal with a figure from Janet’s past, the terrifying Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors).
Quantumania doesn’t waste much time getting to the main event, namely letting the main group of characters run around the Quantum Realm that we’ve only seen snippets of up to this point in the franchise. After hearing so much about it we finally get to experience the strange and fascinating society that’s been living in this subatomic universe that’s been a constant element of the MCU for a while now. The design of this place really helps the audience feel a part of this strange little world, the VFX people have absolutely outdone themselves (considering the amount of time they had to do everything, you can tell if they had the time they actually need that this would probably be one of the best-looking films in the MCU… maybe when they unionize they’ll be able to use that power to get the time needed to make the visuals hit their full potential), hopefully in a future movie we can come back to this part of the universe and see more of the weird little areas that make up this universe.
As far as the plot goes, Quantumania is pretty basic with an Alice in Wonderland-style “Just enjoy the weird stuff until you can go home” plot, so there’s nothing really to spoil about it because in general, you’re just enjoying the weird creations and details that fill the Quantum Realm. It’s certainly not quite like our earth but they do just enough that you can pretty easily keep up with how things work, from the living houses to the weird drink that lets you understand what people are saying it’s all just a lot of great quick world-building stuff that allows the Quantum Realm to feel real quickly enough for the actual stakes of the film to work.
The way that Quantumania uses this trip to the Quantum Realm to further explore Janet’s history is where the film gets a good bulk of its power, in large part because Michelle Pfeiffer absolutely kills it every time she’s on-screen and sells the combination of deep trauma and being an unstoppable badass. She is what really carries the film and stands out beside almost everyone else in the film, though this shouldn’t be too shocking because this is Michelle Pfeiffer after all. It’s more her movie than it is Ant-Man’s since we spend so much of it delving into the details of what she was doing during those 30 years and it would be easy to say she was the undeniable star of the film but then Jonathan Majors storms in and makes everyone know that the rest of this era of Marvel is going to belong to him.
Jonathan Majors already made a pretty big impact with his brief appearance in Loki, signaling that Kang the Conqueror was going to be the big bad for this era of Marvel films but it’s here in Quantumania where Kang not only gets to really stake his claim as the successor to Thanos but lets us know that we’re in for something bigger than we could possibly imagine. He’s terrifying but charming, powerful and intelligent in ways that few other villains have been. In a few scenes you know this character can and will do whatever it takes to get what he wants and doesn’t care about anyone other than himself, after all he is a conqueror. Jonathan Majors knew he had to make damn sure everyone watching this know that Kang was going to be a major issue and oh boy, he did that.
When the film isn’t reveling in the one-two punch of Pfeiffer and Majors, it has a lot of fun with some of the sillier elements of the Marvel world. The introduction of Modok is handled hilariously, namely by basically admitting that Modok is stupid and should be roundly mocked at every opportunity. The side characters are quirky and fun, all with enough personality to make them memorable and hopefully enough that they might be brought back in the inevitable massive battle we all know is probably going to happen about four Avengers films from now.
Unfortunately, that’s where the big problem of this film is, it feels mostly like it only exists to set up things that are going to be really important about 12 films from now. It’s here to set up Kang and just what can be done with this new Quantum Realm (something that was only touched on in Endgame) but in terms of the actual story of Ant-Man it really isn’t doing much for him as a character, indeed he feels like a side character in his own film. It makes the film feel like it’s one you need to see mostly for the overarching MCU story so you know how some of this stuff got started instead of seeing it for the title character who is really just there to experience the strangeness of this new world.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is still a fun time, at this point Marvel films have the process down to such an exact science that it’s honestly going to be shocking if one of their films isn’t at least just OK but it’s mostly just setup for what’s to come. Beautiful setup with some fantastic performances and a glorious middle act that really opens up the potential of this universe substantially, but still just mostly setup.
There are also two end credits scenes and sure enough, both of them are pretty major for what’s to come… again, like the rest of this film it’s all about setting up the next major event so if you’re interested in that, stick around.