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“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” – an unpleasant start to phase five  

Photo credit: Flickr

This review contains spoilers for “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” 

Phase Five of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has officially begun with the release of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” The Multiverse Saga is back and more confusing than ever, with this entry taking place in the subatomic Quantum Realm. This dimension is eccentric, and intergalactic, but ultimately illogical and forgettable. At times, I questioned whether I was watching a Marvel movie or a low-budget Sci-Fi disaster. Plot lines became convoluted and one-liners fell flat. At least the action sequences were fun. However, I can’t help but feel as though this movie served primarily as a setup for “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty” rather than the conclusion of a trilogy. Even though the writing was painfully subpar, one thing is certain: there were some fine performances that helped us forget about the unpleasant groundwork laid for the next chapter of the MCU, if only temporarily.  

The highlight of the film for me was Johnathan Majors’ chilling performance as the exiled Kang the Conqueror. Though we met a variant of Kang in season one of “Loki”, known as He Who Remains, that version is long gone. This compelling variant is manipulative, commanding and tyrannical, yet I found myself sympathizing with him and his unbridled rage. For such a captivating villain, he wasn’t used enough. I’d be more than willing to explore Kang more if it meant cutting exposition from the already half-baked plotlines. I have a hard time understanding why, out of all the characters in the Marvel canon, Ant-Man was chosen to face off against Kang and walk away nearly unscathed. It felt like Kang forgot how powerful he was once Ant-Man showed up. Considering that he was responsible for the annihilation of timelines, the start of multiversal wars and multiple revolutions, you’d think that there would be more of a fight.  

Another outstanding performance worthy of recognition is Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal of Janet Van Dyne. In the film, we are reintroduced to Janet as she adjusts to her normal life outside of the Quantum Realm. Right before Janet and the rest of the gang are sucked back into the Quantum Realm and separated for the plot’s convenience. We quickly learn that Janet didn’t simply live in the Quantum Realm for the decades spent there, but she fought against Kang’s tyrannical rule. However, she abandoned everyone when she returned back to Earth and carries tremendous repressed guilt. The way Pfeiffer navigates the exploration of her character’s guilt and anxiety was one of the saving graces of the film. Scenes shared between Pfeiffer and Majors are among the best.   

Despite the outstanding performances by Pfeiffer and Majors, the movie had a lot of wasted potential, most notably, the poorly done introduction of M.O.D.O.K. Here, his story has been significantly changed from the comic source material. In the MCU, M.O.D.O.K is a villain we’ve seen before, Yellow-Jacket. While it was exciting to see a familiar face, M.O.D.O.K’s presence is underdeveloped and distracting. Marvel movies are becoming synonymous with bad CGI, but this was simply ridiculous. M.O.D.O.K was hard to look at without laughing. He lacked any complexity and was reduced to a punchline. Though his look may have been intentional, I can’t help but wonder if over-worked VFX artists and tight deadlines are to blame. However, visuals shouldn’t be sacrificed in a movie when the writing is already subpar. M.O.D.O.K. is far from the killing machine of the comics, and he doesn’t pose any real threat. 

It’s unfortunate, as he is a pretty interesting character in other Marvel stories.  

If you can look past messy and oftentimes distracting CGI, confusing plot lines, and underdeveloped characters, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” isn’t the worst movie to come from Marvel. Of course, it is also far from the best. As the introduction to phase five of a franchise that has proven itself time and time again, I expected so much more. At the very least, I’m confident in Majors’ ability to portray the most compelling and terrifying villain since Thanos. The MCU can only go up from here…hopefully.  

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