Eye For Film >> Movies >> Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania (2023) Film Review
Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania
Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson
Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania is bookended by two montages of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) wandering through San Francisco to John Sebastian's Welcome Back. You might recognise John as the lead singer of The Lovin' Spoonful, and the song as the theme for late Seventies sitcom 'Welcome Back Kotter'. The show was originally going to be called 'Kotter', but they changed the name to reflect the theme song, which though it was commissioned for the series ended up changing its name because there weren't any good rhymes for the name of the character.
"Why...", you might ask, "not change the name of the character?". Teacher Gabe Kotter was played by stand-up comedian Gabe Kaplan so there was already precedent. "Why...", I hear you continue, "are you bringing this up?" Mostly because it's an example of the compromises of one set of creative decisions and commitments having weird repercussions on later works. Which is most of what's going on with this film.
If I've counted right, it's the 31st MCU film, the third Ant-Man title, the first of 'Phase Five', and if that seems like I'm putting it entirely in context rather than standing on its own merits then you've spotted its weakness. If you've seen any of the ancillary shows, particularly Loki, you'll recognise a character who we see in the prologue. Though they've got an Avengers film with their name in it pencilled in for 2025 you've got to wait almost 50 minutes to hear it in this film.
Said character is in effect the antagonist, though the biggest obstacle here in the quantum realm is a total absence of scale. Not locally, but emotionally, tonally. Events are triggered by a signal sent down into the small, which, though we're in a multiverse, appears to be shared across the universe but not between them? I sort of stopped caring, if only because the blurry sameness of leaving room for 3D adaptation and the work of (by my count) 25 odd effects houses got distracting.
There are wondrous landscapes made in water tanks. There are houses replicating La Pieta. There's an antagonist whose visage is less of a stretch than the acronym that is their name, and this in a universe that's already taken a crowbar to a thesaurus to give us SHIELD. That blurry sameness extends to plot and character. Secrets kept. Universe needs saved. Older actor appears in cameo as an ostentatious noble.
Directed by Peyton Reed, who directed the other two Ant-Mans (Ants-Men?) and, still within Disney, two of the more disappointing episodes of season two of The Mandalorian, it's got all the usual Marvel weaknesses. Deep stakes undermined by repetition. Glibness that's often neither arch nor witty. This adds a voiceover, and if ever a medium had a chance to show and not tell. Written by Jeff Loveness, it's a début feature for a TV comedy writer. Six episodes of Rick And Morty might be enough to qualify one as a multiverse expert but the exploration of probability suggests that those behind the camera are luckier to be here than the audience is to watch it.
It's okay. Relentlessly okay. Non-stop, wall-to-wall okay. There are some exciting bits, and some dramatic bits, and some funny bits. If the aim of comic book movies is to replicate the experience of reading comic books then they've absolutely nailed filler strips with guest artists between storylines that were less rushed. Newspaper versions of stories told elsewhere, blurry retreading. There's also a sense of homework, as if every scene is waiting for a panel at the bottom right hand corner that says 'See Issue [blank] True Believers!' or 'Don't Forget To Like & Subscribe.'
Because they won't say the name of their (small) big bad, they instead say the name of the person who helped them. That's not Scott, or Hank (Michael Douglas) or Cassie (Kathryn Newton, replacing Emma Fuhrmann) or Hope (Evangeline Lilly) or Krylar (Bill Murray) but Michalle Pfeiffer's Janet.
Janet! Damn it, if only there were some filmic reference to characters constantly saying Janet. In a world of multiple worlds you'd think there'd be extra forks enough to include some references, and even a line about "having needs" during a 30 year absence defeats anticipation.
There are some pretty niche Easter eggs. A bridge code is issue numbers for Scott Lang appearing in the Avengers and as Ant-Man in a Marvel title. If you're looking forward to Season two of Loki then most of the other references will have been more obvious. None more so than product placement for Baskin Robbins.
There's a million things this could have been. Ant-Man offers the opportunity for smaller stories, with the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man being deployed for reality defence rather than low level capers. That this might be a footnote in the interstices between two seasons of a spinoff show is to miss the fine line that things like Rogue One and Andor weave between existing events, and they don't get to play around as much as the MCU does.
There are a variety of eating and drinking establishments full of a variety of alien looking coves, but as the song goes, Mos Eisley Mos Problems. Parts of this appear in linked anthology show What If? and if you take the 'ant' out of 'anthology' you're left with 'hology', which is an option short of watchmaking.
This is less than the sum of its parts, basically serving to fill a hole brought about by the way that Marvel approaches storytelling. There's a Lego set that covers a theme, and at one point a peripheral is wielded in such a way that my first thought, genuinely, was 'oh there's already a Lego bit that shape.' Merchandise as modus operandi.
Ultimately the issue with this, as with many other franchise films, is that however big its own story is it can't change too much. There might be some small scope for character development but no matter how notionally dramatic things are we know we'll be returning to something indistinguishable from the status quo ante.Reviewed on: 17 Feb 2023