Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania Movie Review: A light-hearted superhero film with humble aspirations
Rating:(3 / 5)
By now we all know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe projects aren't just superhero films. Each film of the MCU is an amalgamation of at least two or three genres. When a superhero film had an extra dose of cultural representation, the end result was a Black Panther or Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. When a superhero film had an extra layer of coming-of-age elements, it became a Spider-Man Homecoming; and when a superhero film and fantasy blended together the result was a Doctor Strange. The newest Marvel film, Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, which kickstarts the much-awaited phase five (after the almost-forgettable phase four), is a mashup of multiple genres. It is a 'sci-fi-meets-family-drama-meets-kids-films' formula that fits into a superhero film. While the positive of this blend is definitely the universality of the themes, the flip side is the lack of exploration of these themes.
Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors, Kathryn Newton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas
Director: Peyton Reed
Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantamania completely sticks to the template set by the successful kids adventure franchises like Jumanji and Spy Kids and has an over-simplified plotline that goes, "the heroes get trapped in an unearthly world, take down a super-villain and return back to their reality."
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Since the stakes are never really high, we barely expect major twists or thrills from it. But what keeps us invested in the film, apart from the undercurrent of humour, is the mystery surrounding the principal antagonist Kang The Conquerer(Jonathan Majors), who got introduced to us as 'He who remains' (the noblest variant of Kang) in Loki. If you are someone who gave the Tom Hiddleston series a skip, I seriously recommend you to catch it to enjoy Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantamania to the fullest, aside from the mandatory revisions of Ant-Man, Ant-Man and The Wasp and Avengers:End Game.
It was a relief to see Kang, the man massacring timelines(read universes), written with utmost sincerity and seriousness, without giving in to the temptation of making a joke out of the villain like Thor: Love and Thunder. Jonathan does the heavy lifting and brings the much-needed gravitas to the screenplay. He shows that casting the right actor can make a world of difference to a film with functional writing. Even though Kang as a character has motives that are almost strong as the previous supervillain Thanos, it is Jonathan's performance that makes the role all the more exciting. Kang has seen so much that we don't know if he is hiding a sea of tears or unquenchable rage within him, and Jonathan succeeds in delivering this delicate balance. But the major issue I had with the writing of Kang is we really don't get to know his complete abilities and how he inherited them, despite spending significant time with the character. I understand that they have saved it for the upcoming MCU films, but when you have Ant-Man fist-fighting the presently strongest villain of the MCU, a lot is lost in translation.
Whenever a film has the 'heroes stuck in alternate world' narrative, the writers introduce a ticking timebomb-like situation in the heroes' actual world, forcing them to race against time and return. Here, the almost day-long travel to the quantum realm should have cost our heroes a forced jump to the future. (A major callback to Avengers: End Game, where Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) lost five years of his life by getting stuck in quantum real for five hours.) And Earth could have been facing a threat in the absence of the PYM-tech wielders. But to all our disappointment, these effective and logical stakes are conveniently avoided, restricting our focus only to the quantum realm.
If breaking the time variance rule preset in MCU is one issue, the very depiction of the realm is another. Scott's brief travel to the real in Ant-Man and The Wasp only gave us a glimpse of a world filled with hazel-coloured crystals where our hero is made to float mid-air. But with Quantumania, the rules are rewritten and we are introduced to a Madmax-meets-Star Wars dystopian world with human-like blobs, human-like houses, and human-like humans! I know it's crazy, but it is how it is. I really wish Marvel gave us some serious explanation of the detour and the resultant new world in the upcoming films.
All the intricacies and marvel-ness aside, Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania tries to be a light-hearted family drama at its core. It has a mother who has a dark past, a daughter who is coming to terms with reality, and a guilt-stricken father who wants to make up for the lost time. It also has an oddball set of people coming together to form one harmonious team... or should I say, family? This isn't the most novel of all ideas for a film, but it works for sure. The liberal dose of drama topped with a couple of effective laughs makes up for minimum-guaranteed entertainment.
But, hey shouldn't we be focussing on the 'superhero' aspect of the film and be invested on the larger threats awaiting our Marvel heroes? Well, Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania is an odd MCU film where the hero himself is more focussed on the sugary family moments in his life, leaving the superhero business in the backseat. That is quite a precedent set by Ant-Man, to consume this episode of his life as a family drama rather than a superhero film.