Reviews

Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 5/16/23;
Disney/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $213.75 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence/action, and language.
Stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Kathryn Newton, David Dastmalchian, Katy O’Brian, William Jackson Harper, Bill Murray.

With the conclusion of the “Infinity Saga” in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, the Marvel Cinematic Universe found itself in the unenviable position of having to crawl out from the shadow of the massively successful story arc that dominated its first decade of existence.

For the most part, the films and TV shows following Endgame were standalone adventures, wrapping up loose ends from established characters, or introducing new concepts and characters to the MCU without a clear path as to what the franchise as a whole would be building toward for its next major crossover event.

Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, while completing a trilogy for the “Ant-Man” sub-franchise of the MCU, was also touted as the first big stepping stone to setting up the next major story arc with the arrival of Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), a variant of whom was previously seen on the “Loki” TV series.

Kang, whose various iterations from throughout the multiverse seek dominion over all possible timelines, has already been announced as the next major Avengers villain for the upcoming films Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars, so establishing him in Quantumania, the 31st MCU movie, was seen as being of vital importance to future storylines of the MCU.

The prospect of such developments would also serve to elevate the importance of the “Ant-Man” movies, where before the character was something of a mid-level player in the MCU. But it also made sense given Ant-Man’s connection to the Quantum Realm, which was previously established to have a role in the MCU’s version of time travel and alternate realities.

With Peyton Reed returning for his third stint as an “Ant-Man” director, the MCU’s choice to write the screenplay was Jeff Loveness, who previously was best known for “Rick and Morty,” a cartoon comedy. And the results are a bit clunky.

While it’s fun to check in again Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), aka the Ant-Man and The Wasp of the title, and their Ant-Man family — Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer as Hope’s parents, Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, the Ant-Man and The Wasp of the previous generation — the arrival of Kang gives the film a much darker tone than the light-hearted heist-movie sensibilities of the first two. The film is missing Michael Peña and the rest of Scott’s X-Con pals, who were a great source of comic relief from the first two movies. Instead, the film has to make due with some superfluous new characters mined from the depths of the Quantum Realm, where the main characters are transported following some misguided experiments.

The film also continues the MCU’s youth movement, with Scott’s now-teenaged daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) becoming yet another hero with a Pym-particle-powered shrinking suit.

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Zipping Scott, Hope, Hank, Janet and Cassie through a portal of visual effects to the Quantum Realm, a fantastical civilization that exists as a hidden layer beneath our own, makes the set-up seem a bit like Tron, though with a world of biological weirdness substituting for the digital frontier.

The premise puts more focus on Janet, who was rescued from the Quantum Realm in 2018’s Ant-Man and The Wasp after three decades of being trapped there, thus making her privy to all its secrets. Her outsized contribution to the story provides credence to the argument that she might be considered The Wasp of the title. The film’s prologue reveals how Janet, just before her rescue, came across a Kang newly exiled into the Quantum Realm, and destroyed his only means of escape. Kang subsequently set up an empire to conquer the Quantum Realm, with Janet joining a resistance movement to his rule.

Thus, Janet and her family join the rebellion against Kang, who is now being assisted by MODOK, a killing machine inhabited by the broken body of Hank’s former protégé and rival, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who was seemingly dispatched to microscopic oblivion by Scott in the first “Ant-Man.”

The visual effects, though colorful and flashy, are omnipresent and a bit overwhelming, while the superimposed face of Stoll onto MODOK’s giant head is just bizarre. The fact that there are so many creatures that live in the Quantum Realm, and so many who look human, just raises questions about what exactly it is, as it seems much more like an alien world than its previous depictions of a sub-atomic netherworld. Humans transported there can now breathe and act relatively normally, though there are at least still mentions of strange phenomena such as a “probability storm” that allows Scott to team up with different versions of himself who exist only as a facet of his potential actions — one of the film’s better sequences.

On the other hand, given that the Pym suits can still shrink and grow relative to what’s considered a “normal” size, it raises the question of if the Quantum Realm actually represents a sub-atomic layer of our world (in which all the characters would already be miniscule), or it’s just another alternate dimension. At one point Scott and Cassie use their suits to become giant versions of themselves, but the abundance of alien-world visual effects around them make it hard to get any sense of scale of how “big” they’re supposed to be.

The setting offers almost no boundaries for the story, aside from the audience’s awareness of the characters, and the performances are all top notch. Rudd is effortlessly likable as Scott Lang, Pfeiffer is commanding as Janet, and Majors is a compelling menace as Kang.

However, a lot of the discussion over the film’s underperformance both critically and financially will likely focus on Loveness’ experience as a screenwriter. This is his first movie, and the fact that he’s already lined up to pen the next “Avengers” films isn’t settling anyone’s doubts about the future of the MCU.

Granted, the studio previously turned over the “Infinity Saga” to a pair of TV comedy writers — the Russo Brothers — and the results paid off, so time will tell. But their first efforts in the MCU, a pair of “Captain America” movies, were far more effective entries in the canon than Quantumania.

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Reed and Loveness provide a feature-length commentary on the Blu-ray and digital editions of the film in which they discuss the storytelling process, and hearing their thought processes of connecting various elements from throughout the “Ant-Man” trilogy should better contextualize the film for a few viewers.

The commentary is the highlight of an extras package that is otherwise rather paltry for a Marvel movie. There are just two behind-the-scenes featurettes: the seven-and-a-half-minute “All in the Family” about the heroic characters of the film, and the 11-and-a-half-minute “Formidable Foes,” about the films’ bad guys.

Also included among the extras are a two-minute gag reel, plus two superfluous deleted scenes running a total of three minutes, with unfinished visual effects.

 

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