Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania review: Jonathan Majors delivers as Marvel goes full cartoon

Paul Rudd and Jonathan Majors in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Paul Rudd and Jonathan Majors in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Pic credit: Marvel Studios/Disney

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania takes some massive swings. When a film aims for such ambition, divisiveness is bound to ensue. And there is ambition here with varied results.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a tale of two movies: 1) A fantasy adventure attempting to be as cartoonish and silly as Flash Gordon; and 2) A serious tale about the rise of a great villain who is a ferocious multiversal threat. The competition between tones leaves an odd taste, like mixing Mountain Dew and wine.

The film’s cold opening sets the stage for Kang, letting the audience in on how he and Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) know each other. Then jumping to Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), the titular character of the Man/Ant variety.

When we are introduced to him, Scott catches the viewer up on his life since saving the world. He is recognized everywhere he goes, honored at Baskin Robbins, and his favorite coffee shop thinks he is Spider-Man.

Scott has also written a book about his life as an Avenger, which he reads at a book signing during one of the opening montages. The memoir plays a comedic role throughout the movie.

His daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) makes fun of the memoir and even rolls her eyes when discussing it. Cassie has become heroic in her own right by engaging in protests—a choice that gets her locked up — making getting arrested a family tradition.

Questionable world-building

Cassie has worked with Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), dabbling with quantum physics in secret. She and Hank have been working on quantum realm navigation in Pym’s lab. But at the same time, she has been sending a signal through the navigation device that reaches someone on the other side.

Janet warns her to turn off the signal, and by coincidence, a portal opens, vacuuming everything inside the room towards the bright black vortex into the quantum realm.

Chaos ensues as everyone gets sucked into the portal, including Janet, who was once stuck in the realm for many years.

Kathryn Newton and Paul Rudd from Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Kathryn Newton and Paul Rudd from Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Pic credit: Marvel Studios/Disney

From here, we are introduced to a vast array of colorful creatures and world-building elements with enormous plot holes. The movie moves at a pace that allows little breathing room for explanations. As a film critic, this writer is not exactly a quantum physics major, but thoughts kept swirling in this reviewer’s head about how humans can survive such a microbe environment.

For example, how does air even work when an atom is more petite than an air molecule? How is everyone breathing in this movie? Oh yeah, because it’s in the script.

The film then brings us face-to-face with a series of questionable characters who keep referring to “Him.” As if they are referencing a god. And we quickly learn Him is Kang, and he is why the group has found themselves in the quantum realm.

The design of the world is visually pleasing. The purple aesthetic was a solid choice for a Kang the Conqueror landscape. However, a distraction in these films as of late is the use of LED screens instead of blue screen technology. It works fine for the small screen, such as The Mandalorian. When it is blown up on an IMAX canvas (or other giant premium formats), it’s noticeable that a big LED screen is behind the actors.

Adding to this, the comedy is more hit or miss in this Ant-Man sequel. Some jokes did not land as heavily as the past films. And this movie needed more Michael Pena.

All this said, Ant-Man and the Wasp is the most fun this writer has had at a Marvel film in quite some time. Yes, it is incoherent with the action scenes. Yes, the film’s world-building is messy. But this is a cartoon in live-action.

For instance, the movie has a character (MODOK) that is nothing but a face with tiny legs. There is an absurd reason for his deformity, and it does not care to explain why (or how) his newly deformed body survived. Imagine Daffy Duck being twisted into a pretzel or shoved into a small box. This is the same loony reality as Bugs Bunny.

The Marvel franchise has been headed into cartoon territory for a while. The biggest hint to the audience of this was right after She-Hulk twerked with Megan Thee Stallion. The days when the MCU tried to approach its characters with verisimilitude are gone. Depending on one’s tolerance for outrageous concepts will be the ultimate litmus test.

The same can be said about Flash Gordon. The miniatures used to make the city in that film are silly, the green screen has aged like milk, and has a story with absurd ideas. Everything is over-the-top and as it should be. However, Ant-Man and the Wasp does not have a caucasian actor playing an Asian villain — thankfully.

Jonathan Majors as Kang makes Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania a mixed outcome. This is not a complaint about Majors. He is thrilling. Quite simply, he is too good for the movie he stars in. He is both a feature and a bug. Majors makes the viewer understand how ridiculous everything is and how great the film could have been if it matched his energy.

Kang should have been introduced in a different film because he feels out of place in live-action Rick and Morty land.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is baffling escapism

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a messy, baffling, plot-hole-riddled escapism with a performance by Majors deserving of a more serious film. Even so, it’s an entertaining experience with lots of big swings.

There are a lot of adverse reactions to this movie, and it makes this reviewer’s head spin trying to understand how Thor: The Dark World has a higher Rotten Tomatoes score than this movie. It could be because the MCU has achieved such peaks that getting away with an entertaining misstep is no longer acceptable.

Still, for all of its faults, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania should satisfy those seeking an escape. And just like Magazine Dreams, it’s another film that showcases Jonathan Majors as a powerhouse performer.

For more reviews, check out our coverage of other films, such as The Outwaters and Landscape with Invisible Hand.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is now in theaters.

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