Friday 26 May 2023

Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania (2023)

I have enjoyed the Ant-Man movies, despite them always feeling like lesser Marvel movies. While everything was building towards grand Avengers-based adventures, being taken on tangents with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and co. felt refreshingly small-scale (no pun intended) and more simplistically fun. And I own them on 3D Blu-ray, which is the best way to get maximum enjoyment from them, as far as I’m concerned.

Try as I might, however, I could not work up any enthusiasm for this third instalment in the series. Marvel have been wildly inconsistent after achieving an astonishing modern cinematic success with the finale of the Infinity War saga, and I wasn’t thrilled to think of an entire movie set on the quantum realm. We have been there before, very briefly, and it’s visualized as an alien landscape in which people can very easily lose their minds.

But here we are. Things start very quickly. Cassie (Scott’s daughter, now played by Kathryn Newton) has been working on a device to map the quantum realm. It works by beaming a signal down there, which causes a problem when something locks on to that signal and drags Cassie, her dad, Hope Van Dyne AKA The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer). The quantum realm is even more dangerous than ever, thanks to the looming presence of Kang The Conqueror (Jonathan Majors).

Peyton Reed may be an experienced pair of hands back in the director’s chair, and he may have his cast happy to work with the usual large amount of invisible environments to be added in later, but writer Jeff Loveness is the one trying to fit everything into the film in a way that mixes humour and tension as it sets up the new main villain of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sadly, he isn’t up to the task, leaving the cast floundering and the screen full of garishly overdone CGI that wouldn’t look out of place in some of the Star Wars prequels.

The only thing this gets absolutely right is the build-up for Kang, and that is as much down to the performance of Majors as it is to the script. Jokes are very hit and miss, with way more of the latter than the former, and it’s strange to even think of a whole movie set in the quantum realm when previous movies had delivered such dire warnings about accidentally going there. Then you have the issue of scale, changing scale often being a vital fun factor for these movies. It isn’t as enjoyable to watch someone shrink and supersize, depending on the situation, while they are in a world with less substantial reference points to help underline the rapid changes.

It isn’t necessarily ALL the fault of Loveness, who I am sure will have been given plenty of notes and plot points to hit, but the script here, in every way, keeps this bogged down near the very bottom of the Marvel movie pile.

Rudd is still a great choice for our hero, arguably even better at portraying an reluctant everyman hero than Tom Holland in the Peter/Spider-Man role. Newton is a great addition, playing her socially-conscious teen with an energy and naïveté that stops her from ever becoming too annoying. Douglas, Pfeiffer, and Lilly are all as good as you would hope, and all get involved in some of the action set-pieces, and there is a surprising reappearance in the series for Corey Stoll, although I am still making up my mind on whether I liked or disliked his character. Majors is the other highlight though, as I have already said, and the third act at least does well to give viewers an idea of how this character should so effectively threaten, and could even change, heroes, timelines, and realities.

There are some fun cameos, and one that feels a bit too smug and irritating (for some reason), and an intriguing moment at the end, as expected, and I will admit that some of the third act came close to making up for some of the lacklustre scenes that preceded it. Close, but not quite close enough. Visually, tonally, and even conceptually, this is a mess. It’s a shame that it couldn’t at least manage to be a consistently entertaining mess.


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