By Daniel Paiz
Cypher Flicks reviews Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania, the newest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The events of this film take place after Avengers: Endgame, but it’s not clear as to how much longer afterwards. Previous characters return, including:
- Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd)
- The Wasp/Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly)
- Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas)
- Hope Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer)
- Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton)
- Jimmy Woo (Randall Park)
The core group returns as Ant-Man, The Wasp and the rest of the family seemingly fit into a routine of living life. However, Cassie (Newton) has been learning and building with some of grandpa’s (Douglas) older writings and blueprints. This leads to a return trip to a very small place, where new characters reside, including:
- Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors)
- Lord Krylar (Bill Murray)
- Jentorra (Katy O’Brian)
- Veb (David Dastmalchian)
Other characters reside down there too, but some are best left for later to discuss. If you have watched the trailer for this film, then you should know topics discussed further aren’t spoilers so much as developments. Here’s the trailer in case you haven’t witnessed the breezy way in which the Quantumania gets going (sidenote, Marvel trailers tease stuff the film doesn’t have):
All the, Quantum Things
Little things build up to become big things, despite one’s best efforts of prevention. It’s something both Janet (Pfieffer) and Cassie (Newton) work through over the course of this adventure in the Quantum Realm. Processing the effects of disappointment, hurt, and solitude occurs throughout this story, but ultimately it molds each character’s decisions and resolve. Janet has three decades of separation from her family, and Cassie has a lifetime of Ant-Man not being who she needs or hopes for in a father. These story arcs feed into a big theme in this film, which is redemption. Redemption is one of several reactions to grief, and it seems there are two main kinds of reactions to that heavy emotion in this film.
Kang The Conqueror (Majors) has resolve that leads to an entire empire within this minute world. In this film, Ant-Man and company run into the singularly focused time-traveler, and he is searching for the exits. In the trailer shown above, the younger Lang has unknowingly opened the door for the ancient being. A series of events follows, which one can imagine leads to battle scenes and on-the-fly planning.
Each little thing that seems like something random or out of order actually leads to a bigger payoff later on. Viewers likely understand how Kang doesn’t recall Ant-Man or the others, on account of the numerous superheroes the levitating Conqueror has vanquished. It’s important to remember (especially if you have watched season 1 of Loki) that multiple timelines and variant existences are as common to this green-clad man as breathing is to readers of this article. Hard to fault the conqueror for having other priorities.
Speaking of priorities, the chatter of other reviewers has felt oddly focused on things that aren’t really worth the focus. There are so many reviews of this film that seem to be haphazard. If you are not familiar (lucky you) with the reviews, let’s dig into them.
Reviewing the reviewers
Certain critiques would make sense for this film, such as the outcomes of three of the main characters at the end. One could also get into the outcome of MODOK, a character that was a fun addition but had a less than desirable story arc. Alas, those haven’t been complaints this Marvel fan has come across; instead, the reviews seem to be about the storyline.
“Convoluted” was a favorite word of reviewers, stating things were packed in too tightly or it was too much at once. This one seems strange because third installments of Marvel films previously carry more weight for the overall Marvel universe. Captain America’s third chapter focused on Civil War, pro or anti-registration stances, Zemo and more. Thor 3 destroyed Asgard and set up Thanos coming after one of the infinity stones. It seems relatively plausible then that Ant-Man 3 would be a launchpad into Phase 5, and setting up Kang was partially done with season 1 of Loki.
Back to the word “convoluted” itself, this plot seems pretty straightforward. [slightly spoiler-ish portion right here] Once it’s found out that Janet and Kang know each other, what the Ant-Man crew has to do is fairly obvious. How they plan to do so is somewhat on the fly, but that’s normal for Marvel characters. How their end goal potentially comes to fruition is foreshadowed in earlier scenes. The fights go how you would expect, then clever moves by the good guys take place, and roll the credits.
There’s an important distinction to make between how critics reviewed this film, and how the audience has received it. For some reason, perhaps due to still being in the realm of clickbait, critics seem to keep calling this film too packed or convoluted. However, audiences, who also possess eyes and ears and minds, seem to have enjoyed this film quite a bit more than their paid counterparts. Take a look at how things compare over at Rotten Tomatoes:
As of opening weekend (February 17th was the official release day), ten times as many audience members who decided to share their opinion had different viewpoints than the critics. As one who writes about films they enjoy or are curious about, reviews critical about this film have been quite telling; it seems other reviewers either didn’t bother to pay attention, or expected to go in without refreshing on other projects connected to this one. Those both seem like important things to do before reviewing this film, but what does this writer know. Anyways, there’s some good stuff in this film that pleased this particular audience member.
The Quantum Realm itself is a very fascinating place, despite how little has been revealed about it. There’s a feeling that it’s been directly pulled from some comic book panels, which adds to this overall experience. Then there’s the characters introduced in this small yet limitless space. Sure, Jentorra is a fearsome combatant and a true leader against the conqueror. Quaz (William Jackson Harper) and Xolum (James Cutler) also add to the band of rebellious characters to cheer for. But the biggest addition is the gloopy, blobby collection of ooze there is, the one known as Veb (Dastmalchian). This oozy being might initially be for comic relief, but they almost feel representative of the audience. Sidenote, Veb is pretty important for new visitors to the Quantum Realm.
Plenty of critiques are stating the new characters such as these are underdeveloped or are surface level roles. With everything going on, it doesn’t seem like it would make sense to go into a bunch of detail about these characters. Jentorra tells Ant-Man and Cassie some of her tragic story; this makes this character more approachable but also hints to the audience that everyone else rebelling has similar tales of tragedy as well. If every single character had even a brief story time like this, it would drag the plot.
The main characters are mostly developed, with Cassie being somewhat of an exception. The true impact of Scott’s absence is subdued initially, and it becomes apparent why Hope and Hank Pym aren’t surprised by Cassie acting out. Redemption comes for Cassie though, as her arc is one likely crafted for future projects focusing on the next generation arising on our screens.
Comic book films are meant to bring panels of art and dialogue to life, and this film does a pretty good job of that. There’s some humor and a handful of action. There are also high stakes for not just who viewers see onscreen, but characters off of it as well. Being the launchpad for a whole new segment of the overall MCU storyline is difficult. Peyton Reed and others who worked to do so delivered some fun for audiences. They also reminded everyone that despite countless timelines and looming incursions, not everything is doom and gloom.