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Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania review - Marvel head into infinity and beyond | reviews, news & interviews

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania review - Marvel head into infinity and beyond

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania review - Marvel head into infinity and beyond

Solid if shrinking returns as superheroes go subatomic

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly)Marvel Studios/Disney

We’ve now reached film 31 and Phase Five of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s increasingly baroque franchise. Four years after Avengers: Endgame’s false finale, Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) is still basking in his role in reversing Thanos’s genocidal Blip, and reacting to the MCU’s version of the pandemic by semi-retiring from Avenging for some Me time.

Until, that is, his wife the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), their now adult daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) and original Ant-Man Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) ill-advisedly contact the Quantum Realm, and the whole Ant-family are sucked into its subatomic cosmos, where the next Avengers arch-villain, Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors, pictured right with Rudd), awaits.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Kang (Jonathan Majors)Kang is first glimpsed in flashback as an apparent fellow outcast befriending original Wasp Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) during her 30-year Quantum exile, only to be revealed as a vicious, time-bending Genghis Khan. Majors’ mournful and dreamy presence is matched by Pfeiffer’s feline, almost feral inscrutability as her long, dirty war as an anti-Kang rebel (“Or terrorist…” she accepts) is confessed. Pfeiffer’s glamorous potency has only grown, and van Dyne and Kang feel like the film’s true antagonists, van Dyne hardly able to keep her hands off him to finish their duel. Rudd’s affable everyman, Lily’s uncompromisingly tough Wasp, Douglas’s borderline hippie Boomer (“Now, socialism’s a loaded term…” he enthuses of his ants’ communal skills) and Newton’s fresh, fearless Gen Z idealist complete a likeable gang as they navigate Kang’s kingdom.

Gauzily beautiful CGI world-building has become commonplace, but the Quantum Realm, with its Dune and Star Wars-like vistas and insectile vehicle wing scything through rock, is more appealing than Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness’s prosaic acid visions, or Avatar’s pedestrian eco-wonders. Marvel’s recent penchant for surrealism meanwhile finds Lang claustrophobically buried beneath a pile of split personalities, a nightmare resolved by him topping a tottering Ant-Men hill. The true eeriness of cinema’s first subatomic flirtation, as the hero of The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) finally fell beyond our ken, isn’t touched.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd)In Alan Moore’s savagely funny comics industry roman a clef What We Can Know About Thunderman, a disillusioned ex-comics writer compares comics fans to junkies, reaching back to “the angelic purity of that first hit” with diminishing returns. “What make the comics fan’s dilemma’s worse,” he continues, “is that the “first hit” they hope to recreate with each month’s issue is the irretrievable, lost rush of their own childhoods.” In MCU terms, you only need to consider Shane Black’s slyly subversive Iron Man 3 (2013), the airy comedy and operatic gravitas of Joss Whedon’s Avengers Assemble (2012) and the Russos’ final Avengers Gotterdammerung to acknowledge the fading buzz.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is, though, a solid kids’ s.f. adventure film, recalling Fantastic Voyage (1966) or The Time Machine (1960) as its suburban super-family explores weird new worlds. Tentatively pushing into broader fantasy cinema, it retains frissons for those of us who did grow up having our imaginations blown open by Jack Kirby. One incredible bit of shrinking does offend. The film is “based on Marvel comics”, with individual creators such as Kirby, Lee and Larry Lieber, prominently credited in the past, now reduced to corporate small print.

Marvel’s penchant for surrealism finds Lang claustrophobically buried beneath a pile of split personalities

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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