erik lundegaard

Tuesday June 20, 2023

Movie Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)


Did they intend to make Scott Lang’s daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton), super annoying? Within the first 15 minutes, she:

  • Gets arrested protesting the SFPD breaking up a homeless encampment (she says she did it peacefully but she also shrinks a cop car down to Matchbox size, which she hands over to the police with a knowing smirk*).
  • Dismisses the fact that dad, Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), sure, helped save half the universe, but what’s he done for us lately? Why aren’t you saving the world AGAIN, Dad!
  • Reveals she’s been sending signals to the quantum realm where Grandma, Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer)**, was traumatized for 30 years.
  • Gets everyone in her family sucked back into the quantum realm.

* I thought the point of Ant-Man was that even ant-sized he maintained the strength/weight of a full-sized human. So wouldn’t the cop car weigh like 2,500 pounds rather than 2.5?

** I get that she’s 65 now. But if that’s Grandma, call me Grandpa.

And while Cassie has moments of regret, as soon as they run into a tribe of oppressed peoples led by an angry female warrior named Jentorra (Katy M. O’Brian), who glares angrily at Ant-Man as if he were Gen. Custer, Cassie’s all “We have to help these microscopic people, Dad!” rather than, you know, looking for ways to get out of the horror she got them into. But of course that’s the point of the movie. Early on, reading from his awful autobiography to a rapt room of kids and parents, Scott says: “Make mistakes. Take chances. Because if there’s one thing that life’s taught me, there’s always room to grow.” He says this cheesily, in that knowing-wink way of Paul Rudd, but it’s what Cassie does. She makes mistakes, takes chances, and in the final act rescues the angry female warrior and gives the speech that rallies the masses to take on Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors).

She’s still super annoying.

Nothing but Star Wars
I avoided this one for a while. The quantum realm? No, thanks. Maybe others felt this way, too. (It didn’t do great at the box office.) Maybe Marvel had research indicating, “Yeah, no one cares about the quantum realm,” and rather than pivot they just tossed everything into it: giant cilium and cannister-head robots and 1970s-era Omni magazine far-out landscapes, and 1980s-era “Blade Runner” cityscapes. Not to mention bars out of “Star Wars.” It’s so “bars out of ‘Star Wars’” you’d expect a lawsuit if both properties weren’t owned by Disney. That’s creativity now—copying from whatever other IP you own. Oh look, jawas. Oh look, sandpeople. Oh look, Bill Murray. 

Murray plays Lord Krylar, a self-important functionary with a thing for Grandma who gets his quickly and ironically—eaten by a type of critter he’d been eating, which was supersized by the original Ant-Man, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). He’s down there, too. He and Janet Van Dyne (Pfeiffer) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), a.k.a. the Wasp of the title. They get separated from the Langs and have their own adventure.

You know, for a title character, Wasp doesn’t factor in much—in the storyline or in our imaginations. Who is she? What’s her role? There’s nothing there. Scott has the father-daughter thing going, Grandma is guilt-ridden because she helped Kang before she realized who he was, and Hank, original Ant-Man, just gets off some good, breezy lines. Does Douglas act much any more? He did “The Kaminsky Method” TV series a few years ago—I might have to check that out. Otherwise he’s been sucked into the Marvel universe. But he’s so good. He’s fun.

I also liked Majors as Kang. I always thought of Kang as a semi-boring Iron Man villain but apparently he controls the multiverse, or whatever, and is being positioned as the new big supervillain. Majors plays him both infinitely sad and terrifying. You empathize until he shows his true self:

Let me make this easy for you. You will bring me what I need or I will kill your daughter in front of you, then make you relive that moment over and over again in time, endlessly, until you beg me to kill you. 

What does Kang need here? A power core. That’s this movie’s Maguffin, or one of its many. Scott agrees to steal it, but then the Multiverse kicks in and suddenly there are thousands of Scotts. But Hope shows up, the Scotts band together for the good of Cassie (I guess none of them find her super annoying), and Scott and Hope team up to take on Kang. All the boxes are checked. Our titular heroes destroy the power core, Cassie somehow creates a portal back to Earth, and Kang is defeated by original Ant-Man and a horde of ants that were also sucked into the quantum realm and became hyper-intelligent. More irony, since Kang was forever dismissing Scott’s power: “You … talk to ants!” Oops.

Stick ’em up
Mostly, though, I was bored. It took several sittings before I finished. I worked it down like a kid eating broccoli. Without the nutritional value.

At least they seem to be setting up something big in the Marvel universe again. Post-credits, we got all the Kangs ready to take over all of their various multiverses. That certainly beats whatever they’ve been doing since 2019, but do they have to keep going bigger? Thanos killed half the universe and now the Kangs are messing with the fabric of all time and space. Part of me misses bank robbers.

Posted at 08:03 AM on Tuesday June 20, 2023 in category Movie Reviews - 2023  
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