Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania- Can a movie just be good nowadays?
There's a lot of discourse happening currently about the state of cinema, and how there are so many terrible movies today. Then a movie will come out that is a critic darling and garners massive success, and suddenly the film industry is alive and thriving. Over time, this back and forth has created a dichotomy of movies either having to be absolutely amazing, or complete rubbish, with no room in-between. It's frustrating for me as a movie goer, because some of my favorite movies from my childhood and onward were in that middle ground between greatness and shite: movies that were entertaining, but you shouldn't think too hard about them, cause they weren't always the most sensible.
That's where I feel Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania falls. Is it absolute garbage, as some say? No. Is it the greatest movie since Paddington 2? Also, no. It's a solid B movie, and sometimes...that's all we need!
The Sexiest Villain x2
For years I (and hopefully many other people) considered Michelle Pfeiffer's turn as Catwoman in Batman Returns to be one of the sexiest villain performances ever captured on film. She makes her return in this movie as Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp, and her mission is two fold. Firstly, to give the strongest performance in the movie with some actual substance that she was sorely lacking in the previous sequel. She effortlessly embodies the PTSD of someone who has basically been imprisoned away from her family, while adding a world-weary sense of mystery to her character.
Secondly, I feel like she is there to pass off the title of "Hollywood's Sexiest Villain" to Johnathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror. Majors is one of the standouts of this film, making his Kang both alarmingly threatening and ruthlessly cunning, while capturing a completely different take from his more ancient turn as a variant (alternate version of Kang) named "He Who Remains" in Loki season 1. The scenes he shares with Pfeiffer are clear stand outs as both actors confidently tackle the material given to them.
Some Shrinking Roles...
The rest of the cast give fine performances; Kathryn Newton is a welcome addition to the cast, and I'm excited to see where her character Cassie (the titular Ant-Man's daughter) shows up next, especially given her character's comic book history. Paul Rudd is good, but seems to be lacking some of the Rudd charm that we're so used to. His humor doesn't come off as self-abashing as usual, and feels a touch more pompous. Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly are both there, but aren't really given much to do, other than serve as deus ex machina, which is a shame.
Corey Stoll returns as first Ant-Man film's villain, Darren Cross, only now he's been transformed into the evil and camp robo-villain MODOK (Mechanical Organism Designed Only for Killing). While I found his addition fun, I think the CGI and character design for him could've been a bit more inventive. I think the character designs of plenty of the other Quantum Realm denizens were really imaginative, and I wish they had taken some of that into his character design, since he comes off just a bit too silly.
...And Some Growing Problems
The movie falters in two key aspects. The first big one is that while the character designs are really interesting, the actual world designs of the Quantum Realm felt a little drab, amorphous and not fully fleshed out. I was never blown away by the visuals in the Quantum Realm as I had been in previous installments of the MCU.
The second issue is that the script feels oddly paced, and lacking some information. The beginning felt like a rush to get us immediately in the Quantum Realm, without giving us anytime to understand how Soctt and Cassie's relationship has changed or grown in the past five years. They also never explain where Cassie's mom and step-dad are (and I'm not just saying this as a member of the Judy Greer/Bobby Canavale fan club). My understanding was that she had full custody of Cassie, but has that changed? Was that explained? Cassie has been on her own (or atleast without her Dad and the extended bug-themed heroes) for five years...but we don't get to see how her life has really changed.
Once in the Quantum Realm, the pace just picks up, introducing us to a ton of new characters and mythos, but without giving us any time to fully comprehend what is going on there until about two-thirds into the movie. Once you're able to sit and think about the plot of the movie, it makes sense, but the film rarely gives you the time to put the pieces together while you're in it.
A Quantum Conclusion
Pacing and slight story problems aside, I overall enjoyed the ride of Quantumania. I left the theatre saying, "that was fun" and honestly, sometimes that's an okay reaction to have after a movie. Does it break new ground in cinema, hell, even within the MCU? No. Is it still an alright film with a decent plot, some good performances and fun characters? Yes. With how shitty day-to-day life can be, sometimes its okay to just have a little fun escapism.
Also, Jonathan Majors is the current reigning sexiest villain. And although he may be playing "the Conqueror," I think we can agree the sexy title is his to take freely. If you have complaints about that, take them to someone else.