Review for Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania
Sometimes you just have to stop, to re-evaluate your life choices. I’m nowhere near that stage of life, but I am at the point where I’m questioning my choices in entertainment, in particular the comic-book movie. COVID came, blessing me with an abundance of free time, and I decided to use it to go all in on Marvel and DC movies. It got to the point where I was in the supermarket on day one, to pick up the newest super-powered releases. Sure enough, I was there, back in May, to pick up Ant-man and the Wasp Quantumania, the first movie in Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And it’s been sitting on my really quite small, feature film to-watch pile for the last three months.
So am I getting tired of superhero movies? After all, Quantumania has been resting atop the second Shazam movie in that pile, also unwatched. But there are still movies that I am looking forward to seeing on BD, the third Guardians movie, the controversial Flash movie, and Blue Beetle looks interesting. It could be my disquiet with the direction these franchises are going in. The DC Universe has been in freefall, even before Zack Snyder departed, while the MCU has been coasting on past glories since Infinity War and Endgame, with few of the movies in Phase 4 really hitting the spot. Phases 4-6 will encompass the Multiverse Saga, with the excellent Spider-Man: No Way Home tantalising us with the promise of the Multiverse, and then Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, really squandering that promise. In that respect Quantumania is a key film in the saga, introducing the main villain of the story, serving as the foundation for the eventual Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, the penultimate movie of Phase 6. Quantumania really has to get things right.
Scott Lang has finally got the perfect life. Having helped save the universe, he’s happy to live off past Ant-man glories, He’s reconnected with his daughter Cassie, and he’s even got the extended family that comes with Hope van Dyne, her parents Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne. He only realises just how dysfunctional this family is when he gets a phone call to bail daughter Cassie out of jail. What’s more, she’s been working with Hank, experimenting with ants, and finding a way to explore the Quantum Realm from where Janet van Dyne was eventually rescued.
However, when Janet learns of what Hank and Cassie have been up to, she freaks out, demanding that they shut down their experiments sending signals down into the Quantum Realm. For there are things that she experienced during the 30 years she was trapped there, that she hasn’t told anyone. Her warning comes too late, as a portal opens up, and Scott, Hope, Cassie, Hank and Janet are all pulled into the Quantum. Someone heard their signal, someone wants them there.
Ant-man and the Wasp Quantumania gets a 2.39:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on this disc, with the choice between DTS-HD MA 7.1 Surround English, Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 Surround French and German, and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo English Audio Description. There are subtitles in English, French, German, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish. If you want better than this you’ll have to go for the UHD release. There are no issues with the technical quality of the transfer, clear and sharp with rich, consistent colours, and presenting the film without visible compression or such artefacts. The audio too is nice and immersive, making the most of the action and music while keeping the dialogue clear. If you want to talk about the abundance of CGI and the prevalence of the digital backlot, that’s a whole different discussion. The disc itself is fine.
You’ll also want the UHD if you want a proper sized case, and the kind of o-card slipcover every format release of the Marvel movies got once upon a time. The Quantumania Blu-ray is simply slipped into a thin BD Amaray style case. The disc boots to a slightly animated menu, and you get the following extras.
All in the Family (7:28)
Formidable Foes (11:36)
Gag Reel (1:52)
Deleted Scenes x2 (2:59)
Audio commentary with director Peyton Reed and screenwriter Jeff Loveness
I loved the first two Ant-man movies. They were irreverent, daft, and entertaining diversions from the MCU mainstream. The Avengers movies may have been the trunk of the MCU tree, but just as the Captain America movies leaned towards political thriller, the Ant-man movies were the MCU comedies. It was the absurdity of heroes shrunk to minuscule size compared to the problems they faced that meant that comedy was the natural route for the films to take. Ant-man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the third Ant-man film loses all that, and instead delivers an underwhelming and rather generic MCU effort. Perhaps in the process of setting up the pieces on the Multiverse chessboard, they lost what makes Ant-man so special.
It is a common whinge about CGI in MCU movies, but I’m going to whinge it anyway. Just like the more esoteric aspects of the Marvel movies, Thor, Guardians, Black Panther, the setting of the story is such that it doesn’t really call for real world locations. Taking us into the Quantum Realm really does mean that the filmmakers have to let their imaginations run riot, to create alien worlds and bizarre creatures. But this is 2023. You have to be on the top of your game to make the imagery feel real, even if it doesn’t look remotely real. You have to believe that your characters are in that environment, interacting with it. Despite the use of the newest tech (you can see an Augmented Reality wall in the behind the scenes footage), Quantumania looks just as much a digital backlot movie as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Actually worse than that, Quantumania looked like a cross between Attack of the Clones and TRON. There were some scenes in the film that actually felt like a remake of the former.
Scott and his family get sucked into the Quantum Realm, where as well as exploring their new surroundings, they have to resolve their various issues and tensions. Not least the fact that Janet van Dyne has kept secret everything that she experienced when she was trapped there for 30 years, and we now see that was a whole lot of experience. There’s a civilisation in the Quantum, of human looking and completely alien beings, and it’s a society living in fear, given that another person, shrunk down and trapped there, has become a dictator, and has plans to escape the Quantum, back into the macro world, using his Multiverse Drive Ship, to go back to what he does best, destroying realities and timelines (once again lifting a plot arc from Jet Li’s The One). Janet previously thwarted him by stealing his ship’s power source, but now that her family is there, he has the leverage to get back on track. That’s Kang the Conqueror by the way, who judging by this film doesn’t have the screen presence to serve as an effective saga villain the way Thanos did.
Quantumania plays it straight, far too straight, with Kang feeling like a generic, all-powerful villain, and the heroes comprising a rag-tag band of rebels fighting against him. Not enough is made of the other characters we encounter in the Quantum, and Bill Murray is wasted as a glorified exposition cameo. Actually he’s doubly wasted, as his Lord Krylar is idiosyncratic and funny, and set up with the flamboyance of Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster in Thor Ragnarok. Comedy is what Ant-man does best, and Krylar would have been the perfect villain, and more than capable of carrying the film where Kang can’t.
Comedy is what Ant-man does best, but the one joke in this film, MODOK is the joke that falls flattest in all of the MCU. The special effects certainly don’t help, looking unfinished and crude, and it’s all in service of, one unfunny line. The Ant-man films also thrive on making the familiar alien, by changing the scale. Miniaturised characters having epic battles among everyday objects can be delightful. And having the outsized in our everyday lives can certainly open eyes. But there’s nothing familiar about the Quantum Realm. It doesn’t matter what size the characters are in settings that are wholly alien. And they missed the obvious chance for a Kang versus King Kong one-liner.
Ant-man and The Wasp: Quantumania is a mediocre offering from Marvel. They also seem to be going through the motions with the Blu-rays too. At this point Disney have given up on physical media completely in Australasia, and when you look at the extras on this disc, the end cards only mention that the films excerpted within can be streamed on Disney Plus. They don’t even mention that they are available on disc. An afterthought of a movie in every respect, Marvel are rudderless when it comes to their Multiverse saga.