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Ant-Man and The Wasp Quantumania

"Swiss Family Ant-Man"

Marvel-Disney 2023

I would prefer to say that Quantumania is a good, fast 90 minute superhero action film with a balance of humor and a good cast, and like the best of pop culture, it gets in, says what it has to say with style and power, then gets back out. Reality, though, is that Quantumania is a two-hour-five-minute overwritten, bloated production that throws together Ant-Man, Ant-Daughter, Ant-Man Sr., The Wasp Sr., the regular Wasp plus villains MODOK (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing) and Kang the Conqueror creating something like Disney's Swiss Family Robinson, a cornucopia of family issues, secrets, conflicts, and then, of course, reunification through crisis, just like the 1960 Disney film.

Is this Marvel trying (in vain in my opinion) to force superhero movies to carry themes considered by Hollywood as more "adult" or is it further proof of the contamination caused by Disney to the original comic book ideas (and ideals) that Marvel brought with them when they were purchased by Disney back in 2012? Because, like that 1960 Disney adventure film, though it was called Swiss Family Robinson, it took huge liberties with the source novel, not unlike how the recent Marvel films are getting further and further away from the original comic book source material, becoming more chaotic and "Hollywood," committing the worst crime a Hollywood adaptation can make: "improving" the source material.

Not that the cast of Quantumania doesn't try to make the script work in every moment of their screen time. Jonathan Majors as villain Kang the Conqueror is understated and he quietly radiates something like the gravitas of the great actor Paul Robeson, using silence and facial expressions, something that makes his early scenes probably the best thing in this movie. But, this space given to Majors to decorate Quantumania with a smooth and easy style doesn't last long, and by the time we get to act III, Majors, like the rest of the cast of Quantumania, is in a frenzy of activity, shouting, running, tumbling and posing as CGI power blasts are hurled back and forth across the screen in what seems like an endless repetition, reminding me of the same note on a piano being hit over and over too many times. It is in these these drawn-out action sequences toward the end, with the actors surrounded by CGI like they're trapped in a wind tunnel, shouting their lines into a void, that Quantumania is its most bland. In a Marvel film, you expect there to be stupendous and overwhelming displays of CGI pyrotechnics, but somehow in Quantumania it's too much and reduces the little characters of Ant-Man & Ant-Family into even smaller characters.

A lot of money went into making Quantumania and it shows up in many good ways. There are some nice "inside jokes" such as the aventurers entering the Quantum Realm in variously colored suits just like the mini-explorers in the 1966 Fantastic Voyage. There is excellent character design in this film, for example, but this is only up to a point. At first it looks organic to the strange world of the Quantum Realm, it is clever and eye-interesting, but then it becomes rather familiar, as if we're watching a parody version of Guardians of the Galaxy with the Freedom Fighter Revolutionaries costumed like they're from that other film, and the movements in-and-out of the Quantum Realm look a lot like the way Doctor Strange and the Sorcerer Supreme move between "realities" in their films.

In the story, we see Ant-Man, The Wasp, Ant-Man Sr., The Wasp Sr., and Ant-daughter get lost down inside the Quantum Realm. They come up against Kang the Conqueror, a man who has a shared back history with the original Wasp. We see that there is a revolution in the offing in this sub-particle realm where Kang rules. But the problem here is the same as the thousands of Atlanteens in the first Aquaman movie. What I mean to say is that we see them all over the screen by the thousands but we never get to know even one of them in even the smallest way. What does it look like inside of one of their homes? Do they eat dinner together? Do they use the bathroom? Do they have families? Somehow this overlong movie cannot take time to sketch out the Revolutionaries in any meaningful way except to be attacked, blown up and fought against by Kang's equally anonymous armies of soldiers.

To summarize, Quantumania starts off with the same light and refreshing spirit of the first two successful Ant-Man movies: we see Scott Lang, who is Ant-Man, strolling down the street with a big smile being politely greeted by admiring citizens, which is handled in a funny way by the film makers, and then later Quantumania ends the same manner, but now smiling Scott, disturbed by his foray into the Quantum Realm, is strolling down the same street but no longer certain about the status of the appearance of the peaceful world that surrounds him, and his facial expression tell us he is rapidly becoming more and more paranoid that Kang has not truly been beaten, and then the end credits roll.

At its best Quantumania is able to balance a large main cast and to pull off the drama, action and comedy that has marked the formula of so many successful Marvel films. But at its worse, Quantumania turns into Terms of Endearment, with the cast sitting or standing with each other talking about their feelings instead of showing us feelings, speaking dialogue that tells us the obvious because we're looking right at it on screen, and the worst of the worst is taking Bill Murray's "special guest star" scenes and rendering them blah by giving Murray cliché dialogue. Murray is a master riffer in other films, but here he is so boxed in by the writing he is left to saying predictable stuff that just speeds the predictable plot along. It's like using a Cheverolet V8 Corvette to deliver the mail.

I saw Quantumania in a theatre that looked three-quarters full, and in some of the long dragged out scenes, especially during the third act climax, audience members were talking to each other and doing other things. I was seated on one side by the Beautiful Blind Chick that I go to see movies with, and on the other side by a stranger who, during the preview trailers and commercials, was purling yarn into some sort of garment. As Quantumania ran through its 125 minutes, the stranger began purling again and watched the film less and less until the last ten or so minutes which gathered most of her attention again. That is probably the best analysis of the film's qualities as I can muster, its good enough in places to pull you away from something more worthwhile, but though Quantumania cost a reported $200 million to cast, create the CGI and write the script, Quantumania cannot keep you entirely occupied when you could be knitting.

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The Cast of Ant-Man and The Wasp Quantumania


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Ant-Man facts:

The first appearance of the comic book character Ant-Man was in Tales to Astonish #27 which was published by Marvel Comics in January 1962. The character was created by writer Stan Lee, artist Jack Kirby, and writer/artist Larry Lieber.

Scientist Hank Pym discovers a formula that allows him to shrink down to the size of an ant, and he uses his newfound abilities to become a superhero known as Ant-Man. The character proved popular with readers, and went on to become a founding member of the Avengers in Avengers #1, which was published later in 1963.

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Original page March 4, 2023