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HomeNewsAnt-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania review: Sacrifice to the Marvel machine

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania review: Sacrifice to the Marvel machine

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If there’s one thing that characterised Ant-Man’s little corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), it’s that it’s small.

Small doesn’t mean insignificant, and those movies certainly had connections to the rest of the MCU.

But there was something really charming and loose about its goofy, lower-stakes, self-contained vibe. The second film, Ant-Man and the Wasp from 2019, didn’t even have a villain, just a couple of antagonists.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania takes a wild departure from these smaller-scale capers and goes big, like really big. It makes Scott Lang’s Giant-Man persona look like Regular-Man.

The third instalment in the Ant-Man movies, and the 31st overall MCU film, is a superhero epic of gargantuan proportions that overwhelms and overstimulates, but still manages to deliver some human emotions despite the CGI circus.

Directed by Peyton Reed, it’s a movie of many moving parts – and some of them work, and some of them really don’t.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame, Scott (Paul Rudd) has almost gone into superhero hibernation. He’s written his memoirs (a book you can actually buy in real life from September), he’s basking in the love that comes from saving the world, and he and Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) are gentlemen who lunch.

But when his now-18-year-old daughter and budding activist Cassie (Kathryn Newton) shows him that she and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) have been trying to map the Quantum Realm by sending signals down, the device seemingly malfunctions and sucks them into it, along with Hope van Dyne (an underused Evangeline Lilly) and Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer, spectacular as always).

You might remember that the Quantum Realm is a secret universe that exists beneath ours. It was briefly shown in the first two Ant-Man movies, and Janet was trapped there for 30 years.

What we didn’t previously see was the layers and worlds of the Quantum Realm, an alien-esque landscape that visually draws from other MCU titles such as Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok.

But it is most derivative of Star Wars, in more ways than one – if Disney didn’t own both Marvel and Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy might’ve considered suing.

There’s a Big Bad lurking inside the Quantum Realm, and he’s the arch-villain of this tranche of MCU movies to be known as the Multiverse Saga.

Kang the Conqueror (an intimidating Jonathan Majors) is a fierce, megalomaniac and powerful figure who experiences time in a non-linear fashion.

He is genocidal, manipulative, to the point the other versions of him have exiled him to the Quantum Realm. He is to the Multiverse Saga what Thanos was to the Infinity Saga.

The marriage of Ant-Man’s wacky sense of humour to the Shakespearean extravagance of Kang makes for uneasy tonal bedfellows.

Maybe the real battle in Quantumania is the one of the more straight comedy you want it to be, and which it wants to be, versus the imposing and lofty plot-moving story the wider MCU tapestry demands it be.

It often feels as if the spirit of Ant-Man was sacrificed to service the cogs of the Marvel machine.

The jokes, quips and gags ratio is still high, and there are genuinely fun moments including tete-a-tetes with a supporting Quantum Realm telepathic character played by William Jackson Harper, or the return and evolution of Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross into MODOK.

There are plenty of other positives to be found, including the movie’s focus on the relationships between the characters, especially that of the father-and-daughter dynamic of Scott and Cassie.

That Reed and screenwriter Jeff Loveness grounded Quantumania’s colossal set-pieces in these relationships is what saves the movie from being only an overblown shambles.

Rudd has always been a charismatic performer, the kind of actor you always want to root for, and he creates tangible onscreen bonds with his co-stars. Rudd’s charm isn’t bombastic or obviously blinding, but there is a magnetism to his presence that yanks you into his orbit.

So, you want to see Scott pull through, and you want everyone around him to pull through because, while those characters all have their own arcs, they’re important to Scott. And Quantumania has the benefit of goodwill from Rudd’s eight years in the MCU to offset the grandiosity of the Quantum Realm.

But there is no denying that the Ant-Man you knew is not the Ant-Man of Quantumania – and it’s not an upgrade. It is so bogged down in excessive CGI action sequences, its extravagance dissipates into a numbing nothingness.

It’s barely forgivable.

Rating: 3/5

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is in cinemas from Thursday, February 16 with previews on the evening of Wednesday, February 15.

Story Credit: news.com.au

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