Review of “Ant-Man and The Wasp” (2023): “Welcome to Phase Five” of “Quantumania”
Superhero weariness is the current Hollywood hot issue. Marvel initiatives have already spanned almost 15 years, not to mention all the DC failures, missteps, and unexpected successes along the way. Yet, is it actually superhero tiredness or is it fatigue from lousy movies? Titles like Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar 2 have shown that there is still a need for big-budget action movies, and the popularity of The Boys on television seems to indicate that superheroes are still quite popular.
After a lackluster Phase 4, in which Marvel flooded Disney+ and movie theatres with content without much regard for quality assurance or a larger narrative, the company’s current chief architect, Kevin Feige, recently declared that they have now developed a plan for Phase 5, which will begin with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. In this film, Kang The Conqueror, the MCU’s newest villain, as well as a number of other intriguing ideas, are introduced.
As the tale begins with Scott Lang sparring with his teenage daughter Cassie, it is definitely more of an Ant family title than a standalone Antman film. She was recently detained for tussling with law enforcement while attempting to disperse peaceful demonstrations against homelessness and rising rent by shrinking police vehicles with the help of her father’s technology. She has collaborated with Hank to develop a tool that will enable them to map the Quantum Realm, demonstrating that she is also somewhat of a scientist.
Janet and Hope try to rebuild their relationship after she just got back from the Quantum Realm. Hope is now a well-known philanthropist who strives to give everyone access to cheap homes while also receiving recognition for her efforts. The astute among you may have noted that this directly conflicts with the problems in the preceding sentence, a frustrating occurrence in this film that frequently struggles to keep up with its own tonal world-building.
The family eventually finds themselves drawn into the Quantum Realm, where they discover that it’s more than just a desolate, murky brown wasteland full of freedom fighters. There are rumors about Kang the Conqueror as well, a psychotic entity who wants to rule the multiverse. But, he isn’t actually all that dangerous, and that is the main flaw of the film.
Any movie needs high stakes and dramatic action to demonstrate how serious the villain is. Commodus appears feeble in Gladiator, but we know he’s a significant menace because he killed Maximus’ parents and has Rome actually choking in his hands. The Joker is a dangerous enemy due to his full insanity and unpredictability. Because Thanos’ acts are ethically repugnant, you may be sure that he is acting in accordance with his beliefs.
What about Kang? There are many of them, and he wants to rule. But, you never get the impression that any of the characters are in imminent danger. One or two stomach punches to Antman or Cassie as she is being held up by the throat to force Scott to do his bidding are the closest any of these players come to being even slightly injured.
By the time the credits roll and you sit through the first post-credit sequence, there is really no need to be afraid of this big monster, not at all. The concept of Kang and the way this movie concludes make a mockery of the original material. Future movies will no longer contain any threat of any kind, which is maybe appropriate considering that the multiversal concept removes any stakes when you know another form can simply take over.
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It’s aggravating because, with someone like Thanos, you could feel his menace right away as he instantly destroyed Loki and the Hulk in Infinity War. But this way? None of that exists.
The typical Marvel humor simply serves to further undercut this lack of threat. Fans of MODOK should avoid this film, as the character is exploited for laughs and lacks any kind of redeeming qualities. This is awful on a Mandarin level. There are extra jokes tossed in for extra laughs even at the end, in a scene that ought to be fairly tragic.
Nevertheless, I must highlight the characters, who do have some enjoyable moments. Cassie at least improves a little from her irritating beginning, but she is yet another “sassy girl genius” in a world that is becoming more and more populated with these stock characters. It’s lazy, it’s a tendency that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, and examples include Ironheart, Echo, America Chavez, and Ms. Marvel.
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Another issue with this film is its editing, there is a 45-minute section when our heroes first enter the Quantum Realm that is extremely sloppy. As the screenplay whiplashes between two groups, cutting at the worst possible times, the momentum comes to a grinding halt.
Quantumania would be a forgettable Marvel film to skip over in favor of the next blockbuster in any other universe. Quantumania is a failure at the beginning of Phase 5 and the film is meant to get us all pumped up and psyched for what is to follow. It’s a weakly written, awkwardly cut, and dramatically flat-lined movie that does nothing to support Kang as the main antagonist or even inspire anticipation for what Marvel has in store for us. If this is an indication of what to expect in Phase 5, Feige might as well pack up shop and quit his job right now.
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