Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023) is a mind-numbing mess, but Jonathan Majors’ Kang is incredible

Phase 5 of the MCU has finally arrived… and boy do I hope the future is brighter than Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Rounding out a trilogy of Ant-Man films, this is the largest of the bunch (and technically the smallest), as our favourite characters leave Earth behind for a perilous trip into the Quantum Realm.

This film kicks off and things initially look promising – it highlights an interesting family dynamic amongst the main characters and teases a heartwarming father-daughter bonding arc. However from the moment our crew of character delve into the Quantum Realm, it goes downhill. The first act (40 minutes or so) is an absolute mess with a narrative so hollow and void of tension that there’s nothing interesting to grab hold of. As they explore the depths of the Quantum Realm, meeting crazy alien species and conversing with Bill Murray, there was absolutely no narrative tension keeping me invested in what was going on. The lack of substance in the narrative is painfully frustrating, especially when you have Kang right there, waiting to be used.

The introduction to the Quantum Realm should be filled with awe akin to how we are introduced to the world of Pandora in the Avatar franchise. Instead, this is a deflated whimper of an intro that’s cool for a brief minute… and that’s about it. Time spent setting up the various inhabitants of the world (withstanding Kang) is time wasted on characters who are painfully one-dimensional and barely make a dent on the story. I can’t tell you the names of any supporting characters, nor can I tell you what they add to the film. One character is painfully featured as comedic relief, while the rest of these “villagers” just sort of hang around in the attempt to formulate a wholesome arc that fails.

The attempt to build up suspense leading to the arrival of Kang is poorly executed, contributing further to the mess that is the first act. I won’t get into the specifics, but certain information is constantly being withheld from the group for the stupidest of reasons. Mind you, this is crucial information that would help absolutely everyone and avoid 90% of the chaos that ensues thereafter. But it’s like the writers said “we need the events of this movie to happen, so we’ll make this one character infuriatingly stupid to ensure it does“.

By the end of the first act, the film has been a disaster… then our lord and saviour Jonathan Majors arrives as Kang, and he’s incredible. He’s everything I hoped he would be, proving himself as a menacing villain who (with time) could rival the legacy left by Thanos. He’s charismatic yet fearsome, showcasing the extent of his power and not holding back when he needs to get things done. Sure, there’s some wider-universe narrative through-lines that hold the character back, but every scene in which he’s on screen is infinitely more interesting. He injects a much-needed dose of dramatic tension to the story, increasing my engagement and waking me up from the slumber I was falling into. He gets involved with a tonne of action and is the centrepiece of the film’s best moments.

Thankfully Kang is a a serious villain, one who is entirely exempt from the MCU’s tendency to turn their characters into quirky and quippy jokes. It helps to strengthen his character and make his place in this narrative as a ‘conquerer’ believable. Jonathan Majors is one of the strongest up-and-coming actors, really committing to his every role and enhancing every film he appears in. With this one appearance (following his Loki cameo) he’s cemented himself as the hottest piece of the MCU at the moment, guaranteed to generate hype for any MCU project he’s in.

Speaking of the villains, MODOK makes an appearance in here and holy shit what an atrocity he is. It’s crazy that we have the introduction of (potentially) one of the greatest MCU villains alongside the introduction of without a doubt one of the worst. There’s no need for him to be in this film whatsoever. He adds nothing to the story aside from being an incompetent waste of space. On top of his place in the story being pointless, the character design is another level of awful. When his armour is on, the character looks awesome. It’s when the armour comes off to reveal his face that it turns into a joke. I’d rather not talk about this mess of a character anymore.

Performance-wise, everyone is pretty good (again withstanding Jonathan Majors’ great performance). I have no complaints about Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, and Kathryn Newton is clearly having fun in the role of Cassie Lang. There’s no big moments for anyone, but I wouldn’t say I was let down by any of their performances. Even Michelle Pfeiffer (Janet Van Dyne) and Michael Douglas (Hank Pym) are solid. Now Evangeline Lily is good as Hope Van Dyne, but let’s be real, this should have just been called Ant-Man: Quantumania because she’s sidelined for so much of the film you’d be forgiven for forgetting she’s even in here. Thinking back on the movie, I can recall only one scene where she makes an impact… and that’s it.

My opinion on the visual effects is two-fold. On one hand, the wide shots of the various landscapes within the Quantum Real are fantastic – they display the scope of the world well and look pretty awesome. However it’s when the characters interact with the landscape or wildlife where it becomes immensely distracting. Obviously being set in another realm means almost none of this can be filmed on physical sets, but it leads to the issue of seeing right through the CGI when it’s clear the characters have no idea what they’re looking at or touching. I understand that it’s an extreme example, but I have to use Avatar: The Way of Water as a comparison since every shot of that film, close-up or wide, felt beautifully real… so it’s not like it can’t be done.

As much as this is an Ant-Man film in terms of its title, it feels entirely disconnected from the rest of the trilogy. While the first two films are much smaller in scale – heavily focused on Scott Lang and the people in his life – this is a major departure that hardly feels like the same line of films. It’s more on the Avengers-level scale, which takes away from this being a story personal to Scott. I still wanted to love this movie, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

In the end, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is mostly rubbish. There are redeeming qualities – the menacing arrival of Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conquerer – the light comedy that doesn’t overpower the film – some of the action of the third act. But overall it’s let down by a story that’s at times hollow and directionless, with supporting characters that are either terrible or entirely forgettable. The after-credit scenes have me excited for what’s to come, but as for this being the conclusion to a trilogy of Ant-Man films and the opening to Phase 5 of the MCU – it’s a fumble of epic proportions.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.