Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania stumbles the Marvel Cinematic Universe into phase five by re-introducing Jonathan Major’s Kang the Conqueror.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, directed by Peyton Reed, is hotly anticipated as the introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe phase five’s antagonist Kang the Conqueror.
Played by Jonathan Majors, Kang makes his cinematic debut after appearing as He Who Remains in Disney+ exclusive Loki.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania has Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), and the Pym family, Hank (Michael Douglas), Hope (Evangeline Lily), and Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) accidentally sucked into the quantum realm, a sub-atomic plane, where Janet was previously prisoner.
Seeking to escape, our heroes navigate the strange world whilst Kang the Conqueror attempts to hunt them down to obtain Pym particles to fix the ship that allows him to conquer the multiverses.
That is all the film offers. While I would have been delighted to see character beats, learning, or growth, little was available.
Storytelling is, for the most part, a matter of three acts – a beginning, middle and end. How a story takes shape affects how we, as an audience, respond. To explain it better, the place our characters start, the trouble they get into, the resolution, and the state we leave our characters.
If we take Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, therefore, and apply this to it, our characters learn little to nothing at the end of the film that they don’t already know. Scott begins as an author, riding the relevancy wave, cashing in on his actual book Look Out for the Little Guy, who is reminded to save people after fighting alongside Captain America, and as someone who helped defeat Thanos. Similarly, Cassie is rebellious, Janet is reluctant to share her past, and Hank loves his ants.
In the end, the film repeats its opening sequence, pausing as Scott reflects on its unravellings, yet dismisses it as quickly as it began, as if rightfully dismissing the entire film. Janet never opens up about her past beyond surface-level exposition and a weird delve into her sexual needs, Cassie remains rebellious, and Hank still loves himself some ants.
Similarly, for audiences immersed in all things Marvel, which the MCU targets itself for, its disappointing handling of Kang’s re-introduction offered nothing new.
Especially as, for the first 55 minutes of the one-hour fifty runtimes, Kang is never named, only referred to by his title, The Conqueror.
This excessive use of over-introducing is annoying, but ultimately makes sense. New audiences won’t necessarily know who Kang is, his legacy or status as a multi-universal threat. However, while I am sure it is a commonplace, I am curious about the number of new audience entrants to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, moreso, whether Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the best jump-on point.
After all, as the iconic Alan Silvestri soundtrack reminds us, this is a Marvel movie. A film swamped in media coverage, where its pre-sold concept adapted from the comics, and now its cinematic fanbase constantly encouraging audiences to learn and read about characters before their introduction.
Whilst it is beneficial to treat audiences as the same level of understanding, not presuming that they will have seen Loki on Disney+, the clumsy way in which it is presented fails to offer anything new.
Comparitvely, the alternate idea to this would be Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which sets its entire story on the idea audiences will have seen WandaVision. This makes sense given its higher age certification and, therefore, the expectation that the mature audiences will be financially positioned to subscribe to Disney+.
Cutting back to Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, as mentioned, the film opts for the lazy decision of referring by mysterious third-person pronouns, partly to keep up its mystique, but also no doubt to keep up the illusions for those who have miraculously stayed under the Marvel radar.
In truth, when Jonathan Majors enters the film as his enigmatic tyrannical conqueror, he oozes a charisma I look forward to delving deeper into over the next few years. In Loki, he was mischievous, considered, and unhinged. Here: planned, deterministic, and omnipotently benevolent.
A delightful casting, for sure, and one of the rare few instances that excited me for the MCU’s future as I look forward to relishing what Majors does differently each time Kang returns.
A lack of story aside, many will be mesmerised by the stunning visualisations of the quantum realm, losing themselves in its majesty and awe.
At first, admittedly, I was amazed.
But, there’s only so much of seeing Paul Rudd generically lit to accommodate for a greenscreen that I can stomach, especially when the backgrounds were noticeably blurry or low detail, hoping that our eyes wouldn’t wander off the never-ageing Clueless star.
In addition to this, introducing M.O.D.O.K. (Corey Stoll), a supervillain of his own right, its name an abbreviation of Mechanised Organism Designed Only for Killing, as more overuse of composited imagery, reminded me of George Lopez in The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, where the 2005 film director Robert Rodriguez used digital imagery to every inch of its capabilities, and not necessarily to the best standard, mirrored across in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Disappointingly, this wasn’t the only reference I spotted to other media. I believe that Rick and Morty was a clear place of influence, as both the citadel of multiversal individuals and a Schrödinger’s cat of indecisiveness played a crucial part in the story unfurling.
Of course, a reference is harmless and can be seen as a way to gap demographics. However, when the film struggled to have heart, vapidly borrowing from other media and references leaves a foul taste.
Equally, to include Bill Murray and William Jackson Harper in limited roles felt like it was trying to extend an arm to both the elder and Netflix audiences that, up until now, Marvel mainly had ignored.
The elder, who may have been dissuaded by the constant stream of Marvel movies and for whom Murray is a nostalgic reminder, and the Netflix audience, encouraging them back into cinemas and away from streaming relying on Harper’s Netflix hit, The Good Place.
Considering the behemoth that is Marvel, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is a shame how directionless Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania feels.
Its reliant use of dues ex-machinas, the term used to describe a seemingly unsolvable issue conveniently finding a solution at the last minute, and consistent pacing and storytelling problems are not new, and I fear, at least for now, won’t be addressed until Marvel reassesses its strategy from quantity to quality.
In the infinite realms of the Multiverse, where possibilities are endless and limited by imagination, I am sure there exists a version of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania that is terrific and worth celebrating. This wasn’t it.
Did you like this review?
Would you like to read more reviews, news, and opinion features sent straight to your inbox? Then, consider subscribing to our weekly newsletter.