Worth the Ant-icipation or a giant Ant-i climax..?

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania kicks off Phase Five of Kevin Feige’s grand Marvel Cinematic Universal (MCU) plan. And despite delivering some spectacular high points, jaw-dropping episodical streaming content, and the glorious chaos of an unraveling multiverse, it’s a plan that took a few critical thwacks in Phase Four.

Box office reviews were inconsistent and James Gunn, one of the MCU’s most bankable, creative directors pulled the trigger on defection to the brand’s biggest rival and now sits, Thanos-like with the power of life and death over another dynasty of much loved comic characters, as Co-CEO of DC Studios.

What was needed from Quantumania, was a steady hand on the Rudd-er. But did it get it?

Quantifiable achievements

Disclaimer: If you have any understanding of quantum physics, we strongly advise you to leave it in the foyer. Taking it into the screen will only end in you feeling what the rest of us experienced in trying to get through the first few chapters of A Brief History of Time.

Save for a few short minutes at the beginning and end of the movie, the entirety of the story takes place in the sub-atomic Narnia of the quantum realm. It’s a true metaverse (though mercifully sans crypto-bros) and once we’ve been cinematically hurled beyond the whirly-gig filaments of Higgs-bosons, leptons and quarks — we discover that there’s actually an abundance of life in this world within a world.

As above, so below — the anthropomorphic inhabitants of the quantum realm are in conflict — tyranny and subjugation are not the preserve of the macro continuum. It’s an existence beyond time, we’re told, and one ruled over by the gleefully omnicidal Kang the Conqueror (played by Jonathan Majors), who we first saw in the Loki TV series.

In Kang we get a villain (or villains, it might be the quantum realm, but the multiverse still persists) that in portrayal and degree of purposed, nuanced evil might just eclipse Thanos. Majors plays a scrumptious, at times even relatable, antagonist. Like Thanos, he’s a well-intentioned bad guy whose end goal is logically constructed, it just employs a slightly murdery methodology.

Standing against him are returning stars Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) AKA Ant-Man; Hope Van Dyne AKA Wasp (Evangeline Lilly); Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) a scientist and essentially Lang’s mother-in-law (not her first quantum rodeo); Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) ant-enthusiast and de facto father-in-law to Lang; and Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton) Ant-Man’s daughter. All of whom get sucked into Kang’s backyard off the back of a cataclysmic lab accident.

Upping the ant-e

After watching, I’m still firmly of the opinion that there are no bad Paul Rudd movies. The fact that he’s included in a speaking role is, alone, worth at least three merited stars. He brings humour, levity, charisma, and the self-deprecating charm of a (quite literally) little guy doing big things. And all of that is here in spades. Plus Bill Murray has an extended cameo so there’s arguably an extra half a star in that,

The quantum realm is a beautiful place, often reminiscent of a galaxy far far away, although this is perhaps less surprising given that it comes from a director (Peyton Reed) who in addition to overseeing the first two Ant-Man movies, also called the shots on two episodes of Disney Star Wars spin-off, The Mandalorian. 

We’re also given some great, cinematic action sequences that play out poetically on the big screen, but to say the film is without its faults would be a miscalculation of the magnitude that leads to lab accidents where people are sucked into microscopic misadventure.

According to the tenets of a commonly touted pub fact — ants can carry up to 50 times their own body weight, and at times in this film, it feels like Rudd, Majors and Newton are doing just that. 

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania might not be Marvel at its worst, but it’s not Marvel at its best. Hope’s (Lilly’s) character development was relegated to a few brief saviour engagements; the film’s multiple capture and escape sequences were risibly repetitive; an, almost complete, absence of plausible science to explain a science-heavy narrative left the final product feeling rushed; and the line “I love you peanut”, which was deployed more than once, landed like a contrived echo of “I love you 3,000”.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect for fans will be, how close it comes to greatness. There are many moments where this film feels achingly close to delivering on its epic potential, honouring its beautifully built world and original story crafting, only to miss by an atom’s breadth.

Verdict: It is my sincere hope that nothing in the final paragraphs dissuade you from watching the movie. This is, after all, the commencement speech for Phase Five, and the pros, outweigh the cons. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is funny, often magnetically beautiful, and sets up a villain arc that will no doubt conquer audiences everywhere. Quantum realm included. 

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is available to watch in cinemas across the UAE from February 17. Book tickets: here.

Images: MovieStillsDB