Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania: A grand endeavour with too many missing links
Deccan Chronicle.| Ajit Andhare
Paul Rudd might be the headliner for the franchise, but in reality, the movie belonged to Michelle Pfiffer as Janet Pym
Marvel has set its bar so high, most of its own content fails to meet those standards.
Director: Peyton Reed
Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfieffer, Evangeline Lilly, Kathryn Newton, Jonathan Majors
Following the events of the "blip" and saving the planet from certain destruction, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has made a successful transition into a career as an inspirational author and leads an idyllic life with his girlfriend Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). Lang’s daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) is a troublemaker who has to be bailed out of jail by her disappointed father. The trio goes to visit Hope’s parents, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfiffer) where Cassie reveals that she and Hank have been working on a device that can establish contact with the Quantum Realm. Janet catches on too late to the implications and by the time she shuts the device, the message has already been sent.
The movie really begins in the aftermath of this event as Ant Man is thrown into the Quantum Realm along with the others and the group is separated into different parties with Hope, Janet and Hank looking for answers in a sprawling city while Scott and Cassie are found by the rebels leading an uprising against Kang the Conqueror, the ruthless ruler of the land whose uprising was an indirect result of Janet’s actions in the Quantum Realm.
The first film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Five makes some interesting choices that may be an indicator of the trend future offerings might be expected to make. Given that the MCU has grown increasingly demanding of its audiences in terms of consumption of its own content to understand its self-referential plotlines, ‘Quantumania’ may be its most confusing movie to date for new audiences. Before that, let’s address a more pressing concern - the character of Ant Man as played by Rudd.
Ant Man became a Marvel staple by pure accident, propelled by Paul Rudd’s star and likeable persona. The earlier movies too, benefited from the lack of expectation as the storylines played up Scott Lang’s inability to take himself too seriously as he struggles to fit into the mould of a traditional superhero who is driven purely by the values of heroic justice. Scott Lang, as the everyman who learns the ropes by goofing up more than often delivered a relatable emotional core to the pumped-up action backdrop that is a fixture in every big-budget superhero blockbuster these days. Unfortunately, ‘Quantamania’ trades in all the fun and humour associated with Ant Man in a bid to make it more age-appropriate to the character’s real-world timeline that it loses all the charm of the original treatment that escalated the character to fame in the first place. Rudd, too, in his efforts to deliver a restrained performance ends up delivering an uninspiring, bland depiction of Lang in its latest edition of the character. Evangeline Lilly, unfortunately, has been relegated to a set piece in this narrative, with her only purpose in the movie devolved to being the one character everyone else more important to the narrative is related to.
Paul Rudd might be the headliner for the franchise, but in reality, the movie belonged to Michelle Pfiffer as Janet Pym. As resplendent as ever, Michelle Pfiffer’s graceful presence on screen absolves the movie of any narrative sins throughout her run time. The chemistry between her and Douglas is palpable, made even more poignant by the understanding of the relationship their superhero personas had shared in the canon narrative of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Jonathan Majors hits all the right notes with his portrayal of Kang - a "time-travelling, multiversal adversary" - to establish himself as a threat potentially even greater than Thanos if he were to succeed. However, despite looming large as a threat of "apocalyptic" proportions, perhaps the audience has itself tired of all the stakes and implications of the world ending yet again within the MCU; resulting in a conflict that falls short every time Kang were to leave the narrative for even momentarily. Kathryn Newton makes an impression as the doe-eyed idealist and daughter eager to do the right thing, restless to eke her own path away from the shadow of her more famous parents. However, she is limited by the mould of the character written for her.
Western audiences and critics have made a note of the worrying trend within the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the beginning of Phase Four, with too many timelines and story plots to juggle within its own expansive universe, quality control might not be the studio’s top priority as they roll out shows and movies one after another simply for the sake of meeting deadlines over genuinely being invested in the fate of the characters as the audiences would expect to see them develop.
Marvel has set its bar so high, most of its own content fails to meet those standards. Entirely too dependent on its own conviction of its place in the overall franchise, and rarely offering anything more than drab action sequences, this is the weakest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet. However, it is engaging enough as a visual spectacle offering up familiar plotlines and gags for the hardcore fans of the MCU with a justified fear of missing out.