Ant-Man and the Wasp returned to cinema as of Feb. 17, as “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania;” starring Paul Rudd as the beloved Ant-Man and a recasting of his daughter Cassie Lang with actress Kathryn Newton. The two movies in the Ant-Man series have been praised as great palette cleansers as they would tend to follow up on the serious and widely successful Avengers movies. “Ant-Man” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” succeeded with its humor, amusing characters and its ability to tell a great story on a smaller scale.
The newest addition to the Ant-Man movies, “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania,” however, was arduously tasked with the mission to start the next phase of the Marvel franchise and introduce a new mainstay villain: Kang the Conqueror. In order to meet these expectations, the new Ant-Man movie had to completely change its tone from the aforementioned iterations. Additionally, Kang the Conqueror, played by Jonathan Major, debuted as Marvel’s new threat to its superheroes. Carrying the heavy weight of Marvel’s new phase and villain, “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania,” ultimately falls short in almost every manner.
A main criticism that follows the newest Marvel movie calls out Marvel’s pattern of underdeveloped and unfinished characters and themes. This can be seen in how the film handles police brutality, privilege and a new side antagonist, MODOK. Cassie’s desire to fight against Kang is symbolic of the strife between organized protesters and abusive police. The conclusion of the thematic comparison ends in Kang falling to a revolt led by Cassie and the people that he oppressed. However, in its simplicity, the film fails to address the nuance and complexity of the situation.
MODOK’s character as Kang’s main henchman had his own emotional arc that ended with Cassie convincing him to go against Kang, which valiantly dies in his endeavor. However, the substance of the character is lacking in its portrayal of its comic origins. MODOK’s incredible relevance in Marvel Comics also calls into Marvel’s intention of subjugating its source material to one-off cameos as his death parallels the death of the Illuminati in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Subsequently, no character had a meaningful end to any of their stories. Although the film mechanically introduces the next Marvel phase and plotline, it fails to showcase any growth in the characters.
Kang’s introduction to the Marvel Universe, however, succeeded with Jonathan Major’s performance. With a calm and articulate manner, Kang also shows ruthlessness and strength when needed. Not unlike Thanos, Kang’s quiet confidence and mannerism prove to be devilishly charming and a standout performance despite the limitations of the movie’s narrative.
The movie takes place in the Quantum Realm, revealing the previously abstract and mysterious universe to be a concrete, living setting. A weakness in the cinematography of this new realm can be found in its incredibly noisy design. The fully CGI background screams with thousands of colors and noise that fail to contribute to any beauty or aesthetic. The environment that the characters traverse is ultimately a bane to the audience.
Verdict: “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania” fails expectations and attempts to tell a meaningful message. The film follows with doubts for the success of future Marvel projects with ill-written characters and plot holes.