The Little Guy
Welcome back to the wonderful world of Scott Lang, where things just always work out in the end. When we left off with Scott in Endgame in 2019. Wait, we haven’t seen this dude for a whole presidency?!? Well, nothing has really changed. He’s still coasting off being the MVP of ‘the blip’ and finally getting the recognition he’s always wanted. He wrote a book. Now, Quantumania is clearly supposed to change his status as a hero, but how do we do that after Thanos? Where can he possibly go from here? What’s the next level up? Oh yeah, he’s Ant-Man so the next level is down. We’re going back to the Quantum Realm.
Scott Lang, Edgelord?
Quantumania tries really hard to make us care about Scott Lang and the stakes of his hero’s journey, and it falls kind of flat. There’s a huge focus on Scott’s home life and his relationship with his daughter in particular. Cassie is running around these streets doing vigilante things having never been to one superhero class. The whole movie really revolves around two plots. Cassie and her development into who we know to be the hero, Stinger. Also, the mystery of what led Janet Van Dyne to want to escape the Quantum Realm and never return. Both points are never really resolved, have Galactus-sized plotholes in them, and make this movie look a lot like a setup for later Phase 5 projects.
Quantumania attempts to make Ant-Man into a high-stakes hero and the movie uses Scott’s love for his daughter to do it. This Scott Lang is more edgy and capable of going to a dark place to get the job done, but can the MCU’s resident funny man take us there and make us care? Not really. We get way more from Michelle Phiffer’s Janet than ever before and it feels refreshing but seems out of place. The more we learn about Janet’s thirty years in the Quantum Realm, the more it feels like we needed more than one movie to flesh that arc out. We are given a whole new dimension to branch off into for more Ant-Man adventures.
When He Was Kang(s)
If you didn’t know before this movie, Jonathan Majors is HIM right now. The brother is in three high-profile films this year alone. That said, his reprisal of Kang is the exact level of intensity and charisma Majors is known for. However, after he gave us the slick, suave, knowledgeable He Who Remains at the end of Loki season one I was not ready for him to flip the switch and wild out in Quantumania. Majors already let folks know what he was called to do as the multiversal mega villain, to play. Play. All. The. Kangs. Meaning each one is different, and he’s going to bring everything he’s got in the tank to make it happen.
This take on Kang hits. He’s focused and ruthless and plays his cards close to his chest until the very last second. More nuanced is the core of desperation that fuels this man, Majors is in touch with the very core of this character. He eats every scene he’s in. And really shines playing off of the naivete and innocence of Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man. Something about the manic way Kang bares his teeth at others brings out their own desperation and it shows. Majors really applied pressure on everyone he shared the screen with. In all honesty, he’s the sole reason to check this movie out. The way he holds the character begs the question: can he keep the MCU as shook as Thanos did? Can he keep the Avengers in a chokehold for like five to ten years? Can Kang’s name ring bells across the multiverse? We gon’ see.
Real rap, Quantumania is not terrible, but it is a miss for me. The pacing is strange for an MCU movie, the way we move into the Quantum Realm is so quick it feels cheap. It was like, “You already know where we’re going from the trailer! Let’s go!” Quantumania was really giving Osmosis Jones energy and it felt wrong for the format. The hollow pieces of plot (that could have been rich with lore from the source material) made it feel more episodic than it should have. This could have easily been a Disney+ ‘Special Presentation’ in the way that Werewolf By Night was and setup the rest of Phase 5.
In spite of its shortcomings, the acting was great. Michelle Pfeiffer’s still got it and does a great job gifting us more substance than we’ve ever gotten from any version of Janet Van Dyne. Majors does his thing and transcends the medium; it feels like he brings one hundred and ten percent to every moment. Everyone else kind of fades into the background. Kathern Newton holds her own but is a weird choice as Cassie Lang. Simply because MCU audiences have been asked to engage Scott’s identity through his plucky and clever daughter and now she’s…someone else…with none of the chemistry of the last two Cassies.
Standout performances came from the denizens of the Quantum Realm, Katy O’Brian stole a few scenes as the stone-spirited Jentorra whose abs alone could have saved the multiverse. David Dastmalchian doesn’t reprise his role as Eastern Bloc hacker Kurt but shows his versatile whimsy as the gelatinous Veb.
The one that hurts my heart is the use of fellow unexpectedly chiseled and very talented Black actor William Jackson Harper (who many have petitioned for to be the next Reed Richards) as a throwaway plot device character. He channels some of the Chidi swag from The Good Place and performs really well with a wasted character. Standing out in a different light is the very unnecessary cameo from Bill Murray as a resistance contact from Janet’s heyday. It was just weird and distracted entirely from what was happening.
Mind you, Quantumania is pretty to look at – the visual effects are running on a high clip. The Ant-Man suit is looking a little evolved and it’s bordering on too much detail, but it has the functional look down pat. The Wasp and Stinger suits look great and the details like the push-button deployment look dope too. Kang looks as great as The Conqueror, I know that metallic purple and bright green are not easy to pull off, so, props to the design team. Visually there was very little to pick at and the sound choices are still as dynamic and unique as the ones for Star Wars. You know exactly when Pym particles are being used and when Kang is out here letting his Time Blicky off and erasing bystanders from the timeline.
Is the MCU Too Big to Fail?
This movie does not feel like an Ant-Man movie. Peyton Reed misses out on the key details that made Ant-Man stand out from the rest of the MCU. The comedy used to be circumstantial and based on these well-acted relationships. To watch a whole Ant-Man movie without any of Michael Peña’s Luis is criminal. Not just a fan favorite, but there are folks who would watch an entire movie of just Luis talking his shit and punching people in the face. So yeah, that’s a monstrous fail. Add to that not having Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale to ground audiences in Cassie’s development – and it becomes so much harder to care about anything that happens to her at all.
I firmly believe there are places for politics in any piece of media, but they went too hard in the paint on this one. Peyton Reed had Cassie looking like Kendell Jenner in that Pepsi ad solving the world’s ills by doing little performative actions. The caucasity was at peak levels in ways that distracted from the ‘look out for the little guy’ thematic thread that made the franchise unique. Reed’s execution makes it look like protestors are ‘the little guy’. It reads as out of touch. Add all these things up and it feels like Quantumania gets pumped out because the MCU machine demands it. As if the studio is too big to fail, making it subject to putting out the kind of lackluster movies the nerdosphere clowned the DCEU for.
As A Blerd…[spoilers!]
Spoilers from here people…
As a lifelong comic reader, there are some egregious and self-destructive deviations from the source material. Yall finna hear about it here.
How in THE hell is Darren Cross now MODOK? Why? Tell me the reason! He was great as the villain of the week in Ant-Man, but to do that Marvel Studios already had to undermine Hank Pym’s run as Yellowjacket. Which came after Marvel Studios took the creation of Ultron from Pym too?! We will not have it, oh! To make MODOK a Kang lackey removes his AIM origin and limits his life and second death to the Ant-Man franchise. MODOK has so much to offer as an off-kilter character that seeing them mishandled like that annoyed me to no end. Marvel Studios, y’all need to stop killing your villains. The stakes need to be at their highest to necessitate that. If it ain’t Endgame-level drama happening, just don’t do it. Deadass.
Kang’s empire in Quantumania was the spitting image of his Chronopolis in the dimension of Limbo. Both are important to the character of Kang and the fabric of the multiverse. Making his base of operations in the Quantum Realm feels like a cheap ploy to keep the dimension relevant. Especially since Ant-Man and the Wasp had it looking like a trippy no-man’s-land where Janet was left to her own devices and couldn’t wait to send Scott there to collect them special particles. So why make it a place so dangerous now where Janet was a *checks notes * “freedom fighter” against Kang’s authoritarian rule? So much of this realm (which doesn’t exist in the comics) is so convenient for the sake of this one movie, and it doesn’t hit. I dub the Quantum Realm as Liquid Asgard from here on out.
Whose choice was it to reveal one of Kang’s essential “alias” identities? Whose? In the mid-credits scene, we are treated to a meeting of a gathering of Kangs, and it’s cool on one hand to see the full scope of Kang’s impact on the multiverse. We revisit a newer trope in the digital movie age, one actor playing dozens of themselves with different reactions and expressions. Majors goes all out for it, and it lands. However, we also meet the high council of Kangs. A trio representing his most influential and powerful versions from the far past, present, and far future; we see it led by none other than Immortus, ruler of Limbo (what they are calling the Quantum Realm in the MCU). It’s our first time seeing Immortus in live action although he is referred to by He Who Remains in the Loki season one finale. It’s cool to see, but it felt like a weird place to reveal such a large and potentially brilliant secret.
When I first saw Immortus, I thought it was Conan (the barbarian, not the comedian) and Dr. Strange’s rogues all-star Kulan Gath! Now, the character of Kang has been around since 1963 and Kulan Gath since 1974, and they weren’t revealed to have any interaction until Savage Avengers in 2021. If that was Kang all dolled up in a Kulan Gath get-up, in the post-movie credits no less, could you imagine the implications? Do you know how dope it would be to get an Ant-Man and Dr. Strange team up ala No Way Home? Well, it wasn’t him, but who knows? One day, far in the future, we might get that as an escape loophole for Kang. But, probably not.
The Victor Timely cameo was cool and a great deep cut for comic historians. Its’ connection to Disney+’s Loki season two was the most refreshing part of the movie and that is saying the quiet part out loud. Why play with such vaulted and important Marvel lore without any payoff? Comics fans will suffer quite a bit through Quantumania while MCU fans get their worlds expanded.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a fun, family-friendly, big-budget marquee superhero movie, this is your flick. Quantumania is purely set up for Phase 5 of the MCU, dressing the stage for Kang to be the big bad. Nothing about the movie moves Scott’s story forward, but everyone else’s does. As a standalone movie, it falls squarely right in the center of worth it and not worth it to see in theaters. The reality is, if you want to keep up with the universe, you’re gonna see it anyway. Until we see how this phase pans out, Quantumania is ranking pretty low as far as Marvel movies go. Let’s see what happens next.