Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania
Feige and Co Fumble Right Out the Gate in Phase 5 With Kang’s Contrived and Lackluster Introduction
In an industry fueled by proprietary IPs and lifeless adaptations, there has been a stark shift in how film is judged and critiqued. For how could you compare the sharp but crude wit of The Hangover with the revolutionary, yet dated, direction of Citizen Kane? Everything we know and use to critique—structure, performance, craft—are all just words used to bring one movie up and another down. Some works are pieces of art, like the aforementioned citizen, while others are simply just…what’s the word for it? Ah, yes, rollercoasters.
And while I personally enjoy rollercoasters, the ride is beginning to feel tiresome.
Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, the 31st entry in the MCU, is the first installment of Phase 5 of the Multiverse Saga (God, that’s a lot, isn’t it?). Following the titular heroes a few years after the blip, the movie introduces Scott and Hope’s new normal of fame and stardom, offering a particular contrast to the first two installments. Post-blip, Scott and Hope are no longer just the bug heroes; they’re saviors of the world. But just as everything seems to be going right, the movie’s quick to force some half-baked conflict to ensure that explosions and fights with the big bad are to come. This time in the form of Scott’s daughter, Cassie (confoundedly recast by up-and-comer Kathryn Newton), who decides to follow in her dad’s footsteps by investigating the quantum realm.
And, yep, you guessed it, mania follows.
It’s not that Quantumania is a boring film; it’s just not a particularly good one. We’re treated with the usual explosive flare and spectacle these films have to offer, supplied with sloppily rendered CG and choppily edited fights. But in between these moments is an ill-conceived story loosely held together by contrivances and convenience. Exposition is forced in spurts, sequences pass without any real meaning or impact, and on top of it all, the quantum realm itself feels unrealized, lacking the immense potential it previously had. Quantumania is a film looking for a reason to exist, and even behind all the maniacal set pieces and campy one-liners, it never finds it. Instead, the film finds itself under the colossal weight of introducing the MCU’s newest big bad, Kang.
And what a big bad he is.
Coming off his Lovecraft Country fame, Jonathan Majors dominates the role of Kang the Conqueror with acute intimidation and convicted confidence. Every step, every move, every delivery is easily executed in Majors’ hands, showing the talented up-and-comer’s versatile range. We fear Kang. We feel Kang. We find ourselves in Kang all due to Majors’ conviction.
If only the film arose to Majors’ skill.
For a character of such influence, Kang’s arc is chopped and screwed throughout Quantumania’s runtime, offering little to no information on our newest villain’s plans or motivations. His actions are contrived, his decisions mangled together, all to amount to a half-ass villain who never develops as a wholly-conceived antagonist. Majors does his best to elevate the material given to him, but Kang is never fully fleshed out in the script for him to carry any real substance or severity. Not to mention how the film delays Kang’s inevitable return as this saga’s ultimate villain. Imagine if Josh Brolin’s Thanos was thwarted by Star-Lord’s improv dance-off in the original Guardians as his introduction in the MCU. Yet, somehow Kang’s “demise” in Quantumania is somehow worse than that hypothetical. It not only diminishes the intensity Majors brought to the role, but ultimately undermines Kang as any real threat to the heroes of the MCU. I mean, if Ant-Man can save the day, then what do you need the rest of the Avengers for?
Ultimately, Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania is a typical MCU entry pretending to be a franchise landmark. One that acts as if it’s moving the franchise forward but ultimately takes a few steps back. Yes, Rudd brings the necessary levity to this absurd character, and yes, Majors gives Brolin a run for his money as the MCU’s new big bad. But even below 750 words, there’s not much left to say about this latest rollercoaster besides the fact that the rides may need some boosting for future entries.