Wednesday, June 12, 2024

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Marvel Studios’ Latest ‘Ant-Man’ Sequel Is An Underappreciated Addition to the MCU

Audiences got some bad news this week when it was announced that the Hollywood Screenwriters Guild went on strike.  The strike started at midnight Tuesday, and as of Thursday, there seems to be no end to the strike as of yet in the near future.  The strike means what writers for the late-night talk show circuit have quit working, along with writers for television shows in general and for movies.  How long the strike will go on is anyone’s guess, but luckily there is still some new content for audiences to take in while they wait for the strike to end.  Some of that content will come May 16 in the form of the new home release of Marvel Studios’ latest entry in the Ant-Man franchise, Ant-Man & The WaspQuantumania.  The movie made its digital debut late last month and will be released separately this month on 4K UHD/BD combo pack, Blu-ray, and DVD.  The movie has received very mixed reviews from audiences and critics alike since making its theatrical debut Feb. 17.  The reasonings for the mixed reviews (especially the criticisms) have been across the board, but the movie really is not that bad.  Is it perfect or memorable?  No.  However, it is still engaging and entertaining.  That is due in no small part to its story, which will be addressed shortly.  The story’s pacing ties directly into the engagement and entertainment generated through the story.  It will be examined a little later.  The cast’s work on screen rounds out the most important of the movie’s elements and will also be examined later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie.  All things considered these elements make Ant-Man & The WaspQantumania a surprisingly enjoyable addition to the Marcel Cinematic Universe.

Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania, the third installment in the MCU’s Ant Man franchise, is a surprisingly enjoyable presentation.  The movie’s enjoyment comes in part through its featured story.  The story is relatively simple.  It picks up after the events of the Infinity War.  The world loves Scott Lang/Ant-Man, knowing he took part in the war, fighting alongside the Avengers. He is even being honored by hi former boss and co-workers at Baskin-Robbins.  Just as everything seems to be going right, he finds out that his daughter Cassie has crated a link to the Quantum Realm – he, Hank Pym (the original ant-Man) and Hank’s daughter Hope have already been in order to rescue Hank’s wife Janet.  The whole group gets sucked back into the Quantum Realm thanks to what Cassie has been doing while Scott was “away”.  As a result of the group returning to the Quan Realm, a revolution breaks out, with the realm’s peace-loving inhabitants rising up against the evil ruler Kang The Conqueror, who had been exiled there by other Kangs for his evil deeds.  The revolution happens because even before Scott, Hank and Hope originally went into the Quantum Realm, Kang had been establishing his empire, as is revealed by Janet.  The final showdown comes as the group faces off against Kang, returning peace to the Quantum Realm.  So really the story here is, in the simplest terms, sort of a war story.  It is a story of revolution.  At first the fact that Cassie was to blame for the group getting sucked into the Quantum Realm kind of makes the story a bit silly, kind of like how Tony Stark was really to blame for the whole story in AvengersAge of Ultron (interestingly enough, the original Ultron story in the comics involved Hank Pym, not Tony Stark.  How’s that for a “6-degrees of separation”?).

Writer Jeff Loveness wastes no time setting the stage for the story to come.  On the same note, he also makes sure to stick right to the focus of each act throughout the course of the story, not allowing the movie to get bogged down in any unnecessary exposition and other drama that could have so easily sidetracked the story.  This plays directly into the movie’s pacing.  Considering that the movie runs just over two hours (which is quite shorter than most of Marvel Studios’ existing blockbusters) the pacing keeps the story moving forward so fluidly from beginning to end and in turn makes the story all the more engaging and entertaining.  The group gets sucked into the Quantum Realm in the first act.  In the second act, Kang and his history are revealed, leading up to the huge, climactic battle in the third act.  There is nothing there that is unnecessary at any point.  Maybe this is what so many people who disliked the movie had qualms with, considering how so many of Marvel’s movies have otherwise allowed themselves to become so gluttonously overdone with their stories and pacing.  People, perhaps, wanted more of that and when they didn’t get that over-the-top presentation here, it caused them some sort of discomfort.  If that is the case, then that is their problem.  The pacing works so well without feeling too short at any point throughout the story, ensuring the movie’s enjoyment all the more.

As much as the movie’s story and its pacing do to make the story engaging and entertaining, they are just part of what makes Ant-Man & The WaspQuantumania worth watching.  The cast’s work throughout the movie makes for its own share of enjoyment, too, and there are plenty of moments in which that work shines.  Case in point when Scott is first “captured” by the realm’s natives.  Veb (David Dastmalchian – The Dark KnightThe Suicide SquadDune), the little blob-like character who first talks to Scott, is so loveable even in this moment.  That is a credit to Dastmalchian and his work.  The simple approach that he takes as he brings Veb to life, trying to interpret for the people makes for such a fun, lighthearted moment.  In that same scene, Scott also has to interact with the mind-reader, Quaz (William Jackson Harper – The Good PlaceDark WatersMidsommar) as Quaz scans Scott’s thoughts to find out his true intentions.  The back and forth between the pair makes for so many laughs as Quaz keeps asking Scott to stop thinking whatever he is thinking.  It is another small moment, but makes for so many laughs.  Perhaps this and so many other lighter moments also turned off so many audiences.  Unlike so many of the “heavier” movies that Marvel (and DC) have churned out in recent year, the Ant-man movies have all been much lighter in their mood, and this movie is no exception to that rule as this and so many other scenes show.  The cast’s work in each scene adds so much to that enjoyment.

Perhaps the most notable work from the cast comes from embattled star Jonathan Majors, who plays the role of Kang The Conqueror.  Majors gives Kang such a cold, calculating demeanor throughout his performance.  He has no concern for anyone.  In the sequence in which he is confronting Scott and Cassie in their cells, for instance, his total disregard for Cassie’s well-being is so completely disturbing.  It is almost sociopathic for lack of better wording.  He presents this almost Darth Vader persona as he simply waves a couple fingers, throwing the pair against their cells’ walls, and even M.O.D.O.K. (yes, M.O.D.O.K. is introduced in this story) against another wall.  His anger as he faces off against the natives is just as powerful, considering how cool, cold, and calculating he had been throughout the story.  Seeing the race in his face and hearing it in his scream as he blasts the crowd is shocking.  That is because it shows so well, Kang’s true power, his anger.  Even early on as Janet recalls Kang’s nature as he offers to return her to her home, his persona is almost scary in how calm he is.  That is because audiences know deep down how devious he clearly is, thanks to Janet’s recollection.  Majors is to be applauded for his work throughout the movie.  Needless to say, if Marvel drops him on the assault charge for the incident which he is accused of committing, it will be interesting to see how he is replaced, especially considering all of the credits and post credits content he already filmed for the movie and for Disney+’s Loki series.  Needless to say it would be a huge loss if they drop him, considering how impressive he was in his role throughout the movie.  He really stole the show, even as enjoyable as it is to watch Paul Rudd and company once again.  He was the movie’s real star.

When the work of Ant-Man & The WaspQuantumania’s cast is considered alongside the work put in to bring the movie’s story to life, and with the story’s pacing, the whole make this movie a surprisingly enjoyable presentation that is honestly underappreciated just as its predecessors, Ant-Man and Ant-Man & The Wasp.  It likely won’t be one of the MCU’s most memorable entries years down the road, but is still worth watching.

Ant-Man & The WaspQuantumania is available digitally now.  It is scheduled for physical release May 16 on 4k UHD/Blu-ray combo pack, Blu-ray, and DVD.  More information on this and other movies from Marvel Studios is available at: