ANT-MAN AND THE WASP:
Marking the beginning of Marvel Studios' Phase V, Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania aims to end the Ant-Man trilogy on a high note while formally introducing us to new Avengers antagonist Kang the Conqueror, played by Jonathan Majors.
This is, without a doubt, one of Marvel's most ambitious projects to date as most of it is set not in a parallel dimension or even in space but in the equally vast Quantum Realm: a very tiny universe where pretty much anything could exist or happen. And a lot of it does here. The creativity involved in bringing this fantasy world to life is genuinely impressive as it delivers the right amount of flashy, surreal visuals and bizarre characters. Director Peyton Reed understood that this Quantum Realm had to feel like nothing else in the MCU and his mission is somewhat accomplished.
Unfortunately, this universe has the bad luck of feeling rather similar to the "space between universes" we saw recently in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, especially since it also involves a bunch of confused actors running on treadmills in front of green screens, which appears to be the norm now over at Marvel headquarters. They throw a bit of wind in there, to make it feel like something, but these are hollow, textureless places you never believe for one second.
This third Ant-Man movie is a perfect example of everything that's charming yet also disappointing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For all the inventive stuff you see in this film, there's just as many things that take you out of the experience entirely. The cast, for one, mostly seems lost in this wild and wacky story. Framing the film in a tongue-in-cheek way with Paul Rudd's hero flat-out claiming his life "makes no sense", thereby warning you about what's to come, was a good move as it assures us that the film is in on the joke. However, the tonal shifts throughout the film both underlines its comedic framing and clumsily bumps headfirst against it.
Paul Rudd, when he's given a chance to let loose and troll the film a little bit, looks like he's having a great time. But as Ant-Man he is criminally bland. Rudd ends up feeling miscast as a character that badly needed to be fleshed-out since his first film but wasn't. I want to like and "get" Scott Lang but he is such a void that all I end up seeing is a very uncomfortable Paul Rudd who wishes he was literally anywhere else but is doing his best regardless. In fact, everyone in this film does try very hard, I'll give them credit. As Lang's daughter Cassie, Kathryn Newton has a big role and, despite the often dire lines she's given to work with, she tries to deliver each of them with the earnestness and energy needed. Same goes for Jonathan Majors.
Majors clearly worked hard on trying to give this bad guy role a bit more weight and eccentricity - something to make Marvel's frankly odd investment in the character feel worthwhile. Yet even his genuine efforts can't make Kang interesting or intimidating in any way. The villain finds himself desperately clawing at every scene he's in in the hope of moving or shocking the audience in some way but he is completely overshadowed by the hilariously misguided yet captivating M.O.D.O.K. (a returning Corey Stoll) who makes his live-action debut here. Obviously, this was always going to be a tough character to make happen convincingly in a film like this but, even though his design is ugly as sin and nowhere near as creepy and repulsive as he could/should have been, he remains a lot of fun and the effect is impossible to look at without smiling.
Michelle Pfeiffer, Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas seem tragically baffled in this movie as their main contribution involves a lot of exposition spouting and pretending to look around at their green screen surroundings like they're seeing something truly amazing or walking through an Alice In Wonderland-style forest. Everyone's reaction to M.O.D.O.K. is priceless, however, so they at least nailed this part! Oh, and the less said about Bill Murray's awkward cameo the better - though, admittedly, his exit from the movie is funny.
And, really, that's what saves Quantumania: it's funny. A lot of the time on purpose, a lot of the time accidentally. But, you know, sometimes funny is just... funny. And I'll take that over this movie's horrible attempts at conveying real emotions and tackling serious themes while there's a dude with a BROCCOLI HEAD just walking around saying stuff. There's that tone shift again! This is, to be completely honest, one of the most ludicrous films ever made and, for that reason, you gotta watch it. The visuals are a trip, the mess of it all is a beautiful trainwreck, yet it's also actually good sometimes: the "drink the ooze" sequence is worthy of a Rick & Morty episode, crossed with something Taika Waititi would come up with (which might annoy some viewers further, granted).
Like I said: you gotta watch this movie. It set out to be an unapologetically wild experience and it definitely is that. Part-Star Wars spoof, part-Fantastic Voyage, there's still heist stuff in there somehow, the Baskin Robbins guy is back, characters multiply like cells... it is relentlessly ridiculous, occasionally awful/brilliant and, though some will hate it with a passion, some will no doubt appreciate its refusal to make any sense at all for the sake of pure, brainless entertainment.
A really fun bit of weirdness.