REVIEW: ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ makes room for Marvel’s next Big Bad
Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania juggles two mounting tasks–bringing the titular heroes Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Hope Pym (Evangeline Lilly)’s adventures to a close and kicking off the Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a new “big bad” that is dubbed as the next Thanos.
One does not need a degree in Pym Particles to know that those are big shoes to fill, whose gem-hunting exploits and Malthusian beliefs affected every power sect in the MCU–from a swinging arachnid high-schooler to a talking racoon in space.
In this goal, the story succeeds, introducing Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror, the movie’s real MVP. His scenes with Michelle Pfeifer’s Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp, are moving and terrifying. Their banter is a masterclass in acting and sometimes I wished they changed the title to The Wasp versus Kang. The deserted-island scenario the two characters found themselves in is a stuff of nightmares.
If you felt Majors’ first appearance in the MCU non-threatening in Loki Season 1 as “He Who Remains”, it is because the original is a pragmatic variant opting to keep the sacred timeline intact to prevent the creation of the multiversal Kang’s.
The council of Kangs attempted to outwit each other, leading to “incursions” which bring universes to a collision course. On the other hand, Quantumania’s Kang is compelling and cunning, who believes that the ends justify the means to save the multiverse.
Majors (Lovecraft Country, The Last Black Man in San Francisco), is the perfect actor to play Kang The Conqueror because of the spectrum of roles he can believably portray.
In the comics, Kang’s variants include the young Avenger Iron Lad who does not want to become Kang, the pharaoh Rama-Tut who decided to conquer ancient Egypt using future tech, Scarlet Centurion - a moniker he used to match his combatants’ superhero codenames in modern times, and Immortus - a jaded and wiser Kang who grew tired of fighting. Majors’ strong performance in Quantumania proves he has the acting range to bring infinite variants of Kang to life.
Much praise should be said about Pfeifer, who 90s kids have been fantasizing about since her purr-fect portrayal of Catwoman in Batman Returns. The Golden Globe award-winning actress (The Fabulous Baker Boys) is a scene-stealer and finally had the chance to shine after her brief appearances in Ant-Man and the Wasp and Avengers: Endgame.
There was a moment I was so engaged with Kang and Janet that I wanted to see more of them. Understandably, their strong performances were the polarizing aspect of what was supposed to be the last movie featuring Scott Lang and Hope Pym.
The subplot between Hope and Janet missing out 30 years of their lives together could have been given more time. It is as if a mature woman does not need a nurturing relationship with a mother.
Hope, a strategic woman who actually taught Lang how to fight, takes a backseat and acts more like a sidekick. Even the prologue and the epilogue only feature monologues by Lang. Arguably, The Wasp in the movie title can refer more to Janet, the original superheroine who used the name.
Still, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the next best thing to having a Fantastic Four movie. Sidenote: Scott Lang’s Ant-Man was a member of the Fantastic Four in the comics and Cassie appeared as a supporting character.
The family dynamics of the Pyms (or is it the Langs?) are fun to watch especially when Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) now acts as a grandpa to Cassie (Kathryn Newton). Newton’s acting however are quite limited to two facial expressions throughout the movie and suffers in comparison with the legendary thespians in the cast. Let us just say, Newton (Pokémon Detective Pikachu) still has room to grow.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, however, lost the franchise’s DNA of being a heist movie, a more intimate plot that director Peyton Reed was praised for. Despite the imperfections, writer Jeff Loveness of Rick and Morty fame delivers an eccentric family superhero adventure that sets the events of Avengers: Kang Dynasty, which Loveness is also set to write.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023) is now showing in the Philippines. Stay for one mid- and one post-credits scenes. The movie is best enjoyed after watching Loki Season 1 (2021), Ant-Man (2015), and Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) on Disney+.