“And Kevin Feige wept, for there were no more worlds left to conqueror”.
That’s about where the MCU is at now. It may be hard to imagine that there was once a time where Marvel and the MCU were considered the underdogs. Back when Marvel was struggling to stay afloat, selling out their characters to the highest bidder, the MCU was a huge gamble that soon set out to do what hadn’t really been done before: create a huge, intertwined cinematic universe full of iconic characters and connected storylines. This mission saw them topping the box office again and again while holding a chokehold on the pop culture zeitgeist. But that was years ago, and I don’t think it’s controversial to say that the MCU has been on a steady decline since Avengers: Endgame, with a few decent showings here and there. Phase 4 of the MCU wasn’t the best, so I was hoping Phase 5 would see the MCU acknowledge what didn’t work beforehand and try something new and unique to put the Marvel Universe back on top. But, Quantumania doesn’t do that. In fact, it’s probably my least favorite MCU film to date.
It’s just more of the same with very little innovation or engagement in the story, characters or visuals. Everything feels incredibly lazy for a $200 million mega corporation, and if this is supposed to be indicative of the future Phase 5, well we might be in trouble.
Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, is living the good life after helping save the world from Thanos, even if its a bit of a meandering life. His daughter Cassie pressures him to continue to be a hero while also wanting to be one herself. Cassie’s studying of the Quantum Realm inadvertently pulls her and her, Scott and the Pym family into the realm, where they are forced to contend with a new, otherworldly landscape, and an interdimensional despot looking to escape.
I’m not really a huge fan of the Ant-Man movies, but I can admit they have some elements to them that I like. The comedy is often pretty decent and the films lend themselves to some cool sequences when it comes to size manipulation, making big things small, small things big, you so on and so forth. Quantumania kind of abandons this style, both intentionally and unintentionally. Having the film set in a whole new world definitely changes the backdrop for the character, I just don’t really think it fits for the character. We get less of what makes Ant-Man unique, with this setting feeling more akin to something found in Guardians of the Galaxy, which doesn’t always lend itself to interesting uses of Ant-Man’s powers. This was definitely an intentional change, but what may not have been intentional is the change in comedy, or lack thereof. This has got to be one of the least funny MCU films that’s actually trying to be funny since Thor: Love and Thunder. I can think of one joke about holes that got a chuckle out of me, but man is the writing here just bottom of the barrel, even by MCU’s standards. This extends to the story and dialogue as well, which are riddled with cliches and generic lines and story beats that feel more like placeholders than final copies. There’s a ton of telling over showing at play here, which is a bit annoying considering this is perhaps the most visually complex Ant-Man film to date.
But, like many of Marvel’s other recent films, the visuals can be very hit or miss. A lot of thought and creativity obviously went into the design of the environments and species found in the Quantum Realm, and artists should be commended for that. Yet I couldn’t help but feel as though everything felt randomly thrown together at times. There’s not a lot of consistency to the people and creatures we come across, feeling a hodgepodge of ideas that don’t really make narrative sense. It’s never addressed if all of the species we come across are from the Quantum Realm initially or not, and the world is sold as so unknown and difficult to access that I find it hard to believe multiple species could just migrate here ala Star Wars. Then there’s the environments and backgrounds, which look nice and well crafted, but as soon as you stick an actor in front of it, it really starts to look wonky. It all looks so staged with the characters often having little presence in the world, looking cropped in with unsuitable lighting. Avatar: Way of Water has set the standard, and the MCU is struggling to keep up. Once again, begging for Marvel to actually give their VFX teams time to work on these things.
Let’s talk characters and actors. Look, I love Paul Rudd just like any true American, but they’re really giving him, and to an extent everyone else here, absolutely nothing to work with. Scott Lang’s minor conflict with Cassie is inconsequential and doesn’t lead to anything impactful or emotional. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne, aka The Wasp, really seems to get shoved into the back this time around, which is nuts considering her name is also in the title. The same can be said for Michael Douglas’s Hank Pym, though Michelle Pfifer’s Janet van Dyne does get a lot of play here, even if she’s being fed some truly heinous surface level dialogue. The film’s two villains seem to be the most heavily discussed aspect of this film, so let’s talk about them. MODOK, who is actually the villain from the first Ant-Man film, has been drawing a lot of comparisons to George Lopez in Sharkboy and Lava Girl. And yeah, it’s not the absolute best looking, but I truthfully didn’t mind him. I think he gets some decent action sequences and one-liners, even if he’s not completely accurate to how he is in the comics, I think he’s fine. But the big bad of the film, and also the future of the MCU, is Kang, portrayed by Johnathan Majors. So, Kang is the aspect of this film that has been getting the most praise, and I totally get where some people are coming from. He’s intimidating and has a certain gravitas to him, which certainly comes from the talent of Majors. But if we compare him to the last big bad, Thanos, he still has a ways to go if I’m going to be taking him remotely seriously. The character still feels so vague in his motivations and plans, never explicitly clear on what his endgame is. Sure this could be saved for future films down the line, but it hinders him as a villain in this movie because we never really feel the impending doom a character like this should impose. Majors takes the character in a very galactic Shakespearean route, playing into his thespian inspirations. The problem with this is he doesn’t have an actual poet behind him feeding him monologues or prose that fits the performance. He’s good in the film, don’t get me wrong, but he’s certainly far from Thanos in both depth, complexity and uniqueness.
Hate to say it but this may be a new low for the MCU. While these newer films have strayed from being absolutely offensive in their quality, their blandness is growing aggravating. I have a theory on this, circling back to what I said at the very beginning of the review. No more world’s left to conqueror. They’ve topped the box office, dominated the pop culture zeitgeist, and created a new wave generation of cinema, for better or for worse. Back then Marvel was fighting, building towards something that had never really been done before. They more or less succeeded, but now, what do they have to work towards?
More money. That’s it. Make as much money as they can with as little effort as possible. Pump out the most lazy, cliché ridden scripts they can, spend half the budget on the stars who probably wish they could be doing anything else by now, and stuff in as many references and winks to the source material and hope that will be enough to satisfy people.
We could be at the end of an era here, and I hate to say it, but it’s for the best.
Kang is the next big bad of the MCU post-Thanos, so it’s only fitting that the universe trekking warmonger has a cocktail made in his image. This cocktail borrows from Kang’s color palette of green, purple and blue, with a balance of different flavors to make this a truly complex drink. You’ll find tastes of melon, elderflower, blackberry and citrus in this cocktail, and if you’re careful enough with your layering, you’ll be able to craft a striking, multicolored cocktail fit for a conqueror!
- 1.5oz gin
- 1oz Midori melon liqueur
- 3/4oz lime juice
- 1/2oz elderflower liqueur
- 3/4oz blackberry liqueur
- Blue curacao
- Top: Club Soda
- Add gin, Midori, lime juice, and elderflower liqueur to a shaker and shake with ice.
- In a Collins glass, add the blackberry liqueur to the bottom of the glass, then add small amounts of blue curacao until the color becomes more purple.
- Add ice to the glass and strain cocktail, making sure to leave about 1/4 of the glass empty.
- Take your club soda and add small drops of blue curacao to it until it turns blue. Be careful not to use to much, as this will make the club soda too heavy.
- Gently pour the blue club soda over the back of a spoon on top of your cocktail to create your blue layer.