In 2015 we met the tiniest superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man, or what is the same, Scott Lang, a normal man surrounded by gods and monsters who, thanks to his charm, his wit and the magic of Pym particles , he made a place for himself among Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. And in the heart of the audience. Seven years later and with a war for the universe in between, The Ant-Man saga continues with ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’. But in all this time, a lot has changed in the UCM and this has to be reflected yes or yes in his new adventures.
‘Quantumania’ is the 31st Marvel Studios film and the third in the solo franchise of the superhero played by Paul Rudd. In addition, it acts as the starting signal for Phase 5, after ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ and the Christmas special ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ closed a fourth stage characterized by experimentation and interconnectivity between series and films, which sharply divided the audience. If the previous installments of ‘Ant-Man’ worked as a light hors d’oeuvre, something smaller to cleanse the palate between more monumental proposals, this ‘Quantumania’ increases in size (ahem) and scale to become the most epic, ambitious and spectacular installment of the (for now) trilogya sci-fi family adventure that continues to build the multiversal plot that will culminate in ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’.
Peyton Reed, the director of the first two installments, returns to take charge of the third, with Jeff Loveness as a screenwriter, a signing that, by the way, comes out of the ‘Rick and Morty’ quarry, a series that has already given several writers to Marvel. And it makes sense that, to raise a story of alternative dimensions and multiversal variants, they resort to a staff of experts in the field. In the cast we also have the whole family again, led by Paul Rudd, with Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne, Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet Van Dyne, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym and the addition of Kathryn Newton as Cassie Lang (the third actress that we have seen in the role, and hopefully, the definitive one).
‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ plunges us headlong into the Quantum World, the subatomic universe that was presented to us in the first installment and that we can finally fully explore. After an accident, Scott and his family find themselves transported to this strange world, filled with creatures and dangers that defy the imagination. There they will face Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), an emperor with dark plans who is trapped in the place and needs the help of the Langs and the Pyms to get out of there. Their confrontation will serve to reveal secrets from the past that we had pending since the first film, while laying the foundations of a dynasty that will mark the future of the saga.
Journey to the Center of Chroma
‘Quantumania’ is totally different from the two previous installments of ‘Ant-Man’. Like other Marvel solo franchises, Ant-Man’s has also grown (just as its title has lengthened), leaving behind heists and urban adventure to become a science fiction odyssey that takes place almost entirely in a world that escapes the confines of the possible. After a prologue in which we discover what has become of Scott since his last battle with The Avengers and a couple of scenes that bring us back to his family, the film goes directly and bluntly into the matter. There is no time to waste and ‘Quantumania’ quickly immerses its protagonists in the Quantum World, where 95% of the film takes place.
A universe built from references such as ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’, ‘Amazing Journey’, camp/pulp classics like ‘Barbarella’ or ‘Flash Gordon’ and old science fiction magazines from the 50s, 60s and 70s ( as Reed has confessed on several occasions), an amalgamation of influences that gives rise to a world of overflowing inventiveness in the creation of its monsters, its environment and its architecture (the phallic building-ships say it all). But If there is something that ‘Quantumania’ inevitably reminds of -besides the recent ‘Mundo Extraño’- it is ‘Star Wars’, from which it clearly draws so much in its aesthetic section, its mythology and its races (it seems that at any moment we are going to meet Greedo or a Twi’lek in the local cantina), as its history, replicating the idea of the empire, led by a terrifying villain, and a resistance fighting on the “street”. In this way, ‘Quantumania’ is the closest thing to ‘Star Wars’ that Marvel has done so far.
That is one of the most interesting and satisfying aspects of ‘Quantumania’, the world building with which Peyton and Loveness build their universe.. In fact, to set it up, the film uses the same digital technique as ‘The Mandalorian’, The Volume. However, the result is not as good as in the Disney + series. Here there are very successful sequences, but also hThere are moments in which the chromas are so flagrant that it is impossible to fully enter into the proposal, bringing it closer at times to ‘Spy Kids’ than to the Lucas galaxy. This invites us to reflect: the success of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ has put more value on practical effects and realism in blockbusters, and although CGI was essential to build the Quantum World, one cannot help but think that what you are watching is more of a VR game than a movie. Despite the fact that Marvel makes sure that the human factor and emotion take the reins of his saga, in ‘Quantumania’ what is truly tangible is missed and it is inevitable that the digital maelstrom ends up engulfing everything. Us included.
The Jonathan Majors Show
As often happens in Marvel, it is the cast who emotionally anchors a story that runs the risk of getting out of hand on more than one occasion. This time, yes, the titular heroes of the film go into the background to give prominence to other characters. Although Scott remains the central character, the plot doesn’t always revolve around him, with Janet (Pfeiffer) being the main focus point. His bond with Kang and his past in the Quantum World is the backbone of an argument that makes these two characters the most important elements of the film.. As for Hope (Lilly), the truth is that they could have removed The Wasp from her title, because her participation is quite reduced compared to the previous installment, staying rather on the sidelines of it until they remember of her in the final act. But of course, they couldn’t call it ‘Janet and Kang: Quantumania’.
When the film returns to Scott, it does so to tell us about his dual role as superhero and father, whose main motivation is to educate and protect his daughter, making up for the time lost with her during the Blip. It is perhaps the most interesting aspect of his evolution in this installment beyond comic relief. Scott Lang is a natural extension of Paul Rudd, a guy who can’t be liked by anyone, but in ‘Quantumania’ he becomes a more three-dimensional being, and it is partly thanks to the intergenerational tension that is established between him and Cassie, a struggle between Generation X and Generation Z (he has lost his way and she represents the activist spirit of today’s youth) that, however, remains in the first act, giving way to a more classic father-daughter conflict.
In whom we delve deeper is Kang, the villain that has been heralded with hype and cymbal as the Thanos of the Multiverse Saga. After leaving his mark in the UCM playing The One Who Remains in ‘Loki’, Jonathan Majors puts himself in the shoes of another variant of Kang to continue developing the most complex villain that Marvel has given us so far, something (much) more than a simple tyrant. Majors is an actor who gives himself 100% to everything he does, and ‘Quantumania’ is no exception. If in ‘Loki’ we saw a variant of Kang in a clown key, in ‘Quantumania’, the actor is in a Shakespearean play or in a peplum, taking Alexander the Great as a reference, but also (unconsciously or not) Darth Vader. Her presence is felt even when he is not there (merit of a script that knows how to use the antagonist to create atmosphere), but every time he appears on the screen, he eats her and leaves no residue.
However, Kang and the Multiverse is proving to be a double-edged sword for Marvel, since while (as usual) they’ve been spot on with Majors’ casting, and he’s throwing all the meat on the grill (and what’s left), Kang remains an elusive villain, an abstract threat that is as confusing as it is imposing. (something that is in its essence, but that becomes quite frustrating). And this is where ‘Quantumania’ stumbles, especially when it is presented as a step forward in the UCM, as the start of something that is set, or should be set in motion. The feeling of constant preamble does not fade, and when the film ends, we are still on the surface of the Multiverse, a concept that we have been working on for two years and that, for now, continues to hold promise for the future.. Even entering uncharted territory and proposing something different with each title, the Marvel formula repeats itself and stagnation is inevitable. ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ is a key film for the future of the Multiverse Saga (don’t miss its two post-credits scenes, quite important), but it doesn’t always feel like one.
The formula loses effectiveness
That’s not to say that ‘Quantumania’ is a bad movie. In fact, it gives Marvel fans what they’d expect from the studio, but that formula that has worked so well until recently is starting to wear thin, as evidenced by a climax we’ve seen before. Of course, although it can be too chaotic and overloaded, the film is full of great moments, both at an epic and action level, and between the characters, a family that works as glue in a world that escapes logic. As in ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’, but without going so far in humor (calm down), ‘Quantumania’ is a waste of crazy ideas without restriction that redirects ‘Ant-Man’ towards the strange and the Martian -something that is reflected in the inclusion of MODOK (iconic and bizarre comic book villain who here provides the most absurd touch, but doesn’t quite work in real action) and the character of Bill Murray, who rather seem to belong to the franchises of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ or Taika Waititi’s ‘Thor’.
In summary, ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ may be too much, as has been the trend in Phase 4 of Marvel. There’s a lot to enjoy about it (its terrific family dynamics, its action scenes, its visual creativity, its epic world-building, its magnificent villain), but as a start to Phase, this is not the film that is going to convert the naysayers. from Marvel or the one that will remove the general feeling of overload, saturation and exhaustion that has been dragging on for some time. The level is high and the demand is increasing. I am sure that the future of the Multiverse Saga holds great things for us, but the journey to reach the destination is starting to be too uphill.
The best: His visual inventiveness, Jonathan Majors and Michelle Pfeiffer (the real stars of the film) and Scott and Cassie’s parent-child relationship.
Worst: That he inevitably loses the most modest essence of ‘Ant-Man’ to surrender to the multiversal maelstrom. The feeling of exhaustion it produces.