"Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" is a tough beat for Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). Just when his life has finally settled down — the threat of Thanos long-defeated and his criminal lifestyle officially in the past — he gets sucked into the extremely dangerous Quantum Realm with all the people he loves most in the world. And that's not even the worst part.
Despite the fact that his name is in the title, and he's the biggest figure on the poster, Ant-Man ends up having a pretty small role in his own movie. Poor Paul Rudd has stiff competition when it comes to the spotlight, and it certainly doesn't help that "Quantumania" suffers from one of the worst late-phase Marvel flaws: being wildly overstuffed with setup for future projects.
I'm of the opinion that Quantumania is surprisingly fun. I laughed a lot, enjoyed the Ant-based antics, and much like everyone else in the world, am absolutely enamored with the performance that Jonathan Majors gives as Kang (and by enamored, I mean petrified, because he radiates Big Bad energy like a pro). But all the highlights aside, this isn't exactly the most coherent movie, especially when it comes to arc of the two titular characters.
As another /Film writer has already pointed out, the best dynamic in "Quantumania" is between Kang and Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), who absolutely steal the show. The actors wield power and charisma, while the characters have tension rippling between them at all times. As for Ant-Man and The Wasp? They're the same as always: Scott is charming and Hope is a badass. But that's about as deep as it goes in "Quantumania," a movie that seems, at best, only vaguely interested in them.
Scott Gets Lost In The Quantum Shuffle
When we catch up with the Lang/van Dyne clan, Scott is no longer interested in being a superhero. Unless the Avengers come a-calling, he's happy to just coast off of his post-Blip fame. He's written a book about his grand heroics, no longer has to worry about the law keeping him under house arrest, and just wants to settle into dad mode to father his rebellious teen daughter. Hope, he acknowledges via his book reading, is the real hero because she's using her family tech for the greater good.
The problem with the simple life that Scott envisions is that Cassie (Kathryn Newton) has taken his many years of heroics to heart. She wants to help "the little guy," even if that means being arrested … multiple times. She's a political activist, has her own suit, and built the Quantum beacon that kicks off the action! All of this creates some really interesting tension between the father-daughter duo: Scott, as usual, has the single goal of keeping his daughter safe, but Cassie wants him to be the hero that she still sees him as. It's the start of a beautiful character arc. And it goes absolutely nowhere.
For a moment, the stage is perfectly set for something big: after they meet the Quantum people, drink some ooze, and start to understand what's going on, Scott wants to leave. He's not apathetic to the Quantum rebels or their suffering, but as he never lets us forget, Cassie will always be his top priority. If it comes down to saving the world or his daughter, what will Scott do? He never has to find out, because Kang decides to take both Cassie and the power core. There's no need for Scott to reckon with altruistic heroism, because his daughter needs saving!
Hope Is Also Here! Sort Of!
And then there's Hope van Dye, who owns even less of the movie than Scott. At least he has the very thin fragments of a potential character arc. Hope's role in "Quantumania" boils down to disgusted expressions when her parents talk about their sex lives and swooping in to save Scott from the probability storm's falling tower of Ant-Men. Her post-Quantum Realm haircut is the closest she gets to character development.
Weirdly, there isn't a lack of opportunity. Hope spends the movie surrounded by her parents — the father she was estranged from, and the mother she grew up missing. She wants to reconnect with her mom, who has a bad habit of keeping secrets, but that tension only exists to add depth to Janet. Meanwhile, Hope is shuttled around like a passenger to the plot, only reminding us that she's the titular Wasp when her wings come in handy.
Watching the Wasp airlift Ant-Man out of a bad situation is nothing new and that's fine; what makes their team dynamic so great is their different skill sets and how they complement each other. But it works in "Ant-Man and the Wasp" because it's reflected back on a story level, not just when they're suited up for battle. In "Quantumania," their relationship is as one-dimensional as can be.
Whose Movie Is It, Anyway?
There's not a lot going on for these individuals, in this movie that's named after them, nor is there much time spent on their relationship. They spend most of the movie separated and when it finally seems like we're getting a meaningful interaction — Hope jumping through the portal to fight Kang with Scott — the tension immediately disappears. There was no risk in her coming back for him, because Cassie simply reopens the portal a second later so they can hop through like nothing happened.
The argument has been made that "Quantumania" is barely an Ant-Man movie because it shifts away from all the defining aspects of the trilogy so far (where's Luis?!) but I think the bigger problem is that there isn't enough of Ant-Man (or the Wasp). The movie is an introduction to Kang, a fun trip through the Quantum Realm, and a commercial for the rest of Phase Five. But it's not remotely interested in who Scott Lang has become since his journey began. And what about Hope, who owns half the title, and has a completely different life than when we first met her? Shouldn't they be the emotional center of this movie? Instead, it's scattered, half-heartedly invested in the Quantum rebels, but really anchored by Kang the Conqueror (whose backstory we never really learn, because the movie assumes you've already watched "Loki") and Janet van Dyne (who isn't the Wasp that the title promises to center).
I get it, The Marvel Cinematic
Universe Multiverse will keep expanding, there's no stopping that now. We'll always be building up to a Next Big Thing. But that only works if it's held together by individual stories and characters to keep us emotionally grounded, and "Quantumania" makes the mistake of forgetting that.
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