Review of Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

He’s always been Marvel’s tiniest superhero. Ant-Man could shrink to microscopic size, but most of the time he didn’t save the universe, but “just” solved small family problems. His new adventure takes place entirely in a realm where atoms are the size of galaxies, and somewhat betrays the poetics of the previous installments.

Right at the beginning of the film Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which has been shown in Czech cinemas since Thursday, the creators return to the time when the heroine Janet Van Dyneová was stuck in the quantum world. And they show what it looks like here. Extremely strange. For example, strange horses with snail antennae instead of heads graze here, which are still one of the less amazing creatures.

Peyton Reed, the director of the two previous Ant-Man films from 2015 and 2018, did not make a detour from the epic battles of the Avengers team for the fate of the universe this time. Previously, when building tension, he was content with, for example, the fact that the hero is under house arrest all the time, and focused mainly on the protagonist’s relationship with his daughter and other loved ones.

It’s similar now, it’s still about keeping the family together. But besides that, the fifth phase of the world begins with the current Ant-Man Marvel Cinematic Universe. And the creators seem to urgently need to come up with something new. Which is quite difficult after almost thirty films, in which almost all known genres have been mixed, and in the last ones, it was joined by limitless operation with the concept of parallel universes.

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Unlike recent films like Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania doesn’t lose sight of the possibility that there are infinitely many versions of familiar superheroes. Instead, it all takes place somewhere where anything is possible.

At first it seems sympathetic: the authors return to the naive optics of the visions of early science fiction writers from the first half of the last century and invent fantastic creatures combining many things from the known fauna and flora. And so when the heroes are sucked into the quantum realm, they come across strange jellyfish or a man with a broccoli instead of a head. But the fantasy doesn’t end there, there’s a jelly-like doll that talks but has no holes on its body.

“Are yours dead?” asks the inhabitant of the quantum realm about the nature of buildings and architecture “up” on Earth. Because local architecture is alive. Which is not the end of the weirdness.

The screenplay shows that Jeff Loveness wrote the script. Although he has not yet created a feature film, he is behind many episodes of the animated series Rick and Morty. Light echoes of his biting humor can be felt in Ant-Man.

But then there is also a plot in the film. Or something that should remind him. Plots are never among the strongest moments of Marvel’s superhero pictures, but here, all forward movement boils down to one. Ant-Man, his daughter Cassie, partner Wasp and her parents, scientists Hank Pym with Janet Van Dyne, find themselves in the world where Janet was once stuck. And they find out what she put in there and what she kept from them.

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The only tension or emotion comes from the fact that circumstances have separated the heroes, who are now trying to find the rest of the family. A villain gets in their way, who has allegedly done more than all the galactic conquerors and plunderers from the so-called pulp science fiction of the Emperor Ming type from the Flash Gordon movie put together. But Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror is mysterious, stoic for most of the film, it’s hard to tell what is reflected in his face.

The whole picture is similarly torn. From time to time, he surprises with a funny or visual idea using the fact that realism is not the goal here. But no matter how hard the experienced actors like Michael Douglas or Michelle Pfeiffer try, it is not possible to connect with the characters. Kang is not the new Thanos, that is, the villain from the Avengers, whose actions made a certain sense and even though he wanted to destroy half the universe, it was possible to understand his motives.

Try as it might, Ant-Man lacks that fatality and melancholy. And he is not imaginative or crazy enough to entertain the audience with his playfulness until the end. Let alone make it personal, like the previous two parts.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania opens in cinemas from Thursday. | Video: Falcon

Moreover, the very inventiveness of the design of the local creatures is often brought down by the fact that it is a slightly sterile product of computer animation. Which goes against the spirit of ideas belonging to the times of mechanical tricks, puppets or manual animation.

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Movies from Marvel have often been able to disguise themselves as a successful thriller or a funny comedy. In recent years, they have been struggling a lot, where to go next. The only one who brilliantly combined fresh and contemporary optics and style with old-world charm last year was director Ryan Coogler with Black Panther: Long Live Wakanda.

If Ant-Man is the beginning of a new phase of Marvel, one can only wonder where things will go from there. Because the attempt to graft ordinary, slightly outsider heroes into the realm of quantum fantasy through partial originality fails wherever feelings and relationships with the characters are concerned.

A lot can be forgiven for a crazy universe in which socialist ants move with an advanced hi-tech civilization. But not all. Neither an epic adventure nor a more intimate family picture was created, just a hybrid stumbling through a boundless landscape woven from delightfully bizarre details.


Ant-Man a Wasp: Quantumania
Directed by Peyton Reed
Falcon, Czech premiere on February 16.

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