Director – Peyton Reed, Screenplay – Jeff Loveness, Producers – Stephen Broussard & Kevin Feige, Photography – Bill Pope, Music – Christophe Beck, Visual Effects Supervisor – Jesse James Chisholm, Visual Effects/Animation – Digital Domain 3.0 (Supervisor – Dave Hodgins), Fin Design + Effects (Supervisor – Roy Malhi), Industrial Light and Magic (Supervisors – Russell Earl & Malcolm Humphreys), MPC Adelaide (Supervisor – Malte Sarnes), MPC Montreal (Supervisor – Alex Bonami, Animation Supervisors – Christop Paradis & Kaven Ruintan) & Sony Pictures Imageworks (Supervisor – Jason Greenblum, Animation Supervisor – Craig McPherson), Visual Effects – Atomic Arts (Supervisor – Justin Cornish), Barnstorm VFX, Base FX (Supervisors – Tang Bingbing & Habib Zargarpour), Folks VFX (Supervisor – Phil Prates), Luma Pictures, Monsters Aliens Robots Zombies (Supervisor – Cristian Cameroschi), Perception, Pixomondo (Supervisor – Max Riess), Rising Sun Pictures (Supervisor – Jamie MacDougall), Spin FX (Supervisors – Jeff Campbell & Wesley Sewell) & Territory Studio, Special Effects Supervisor – Paul Corbould, Creature Effects Design – Cnor O’Sullivan, Production Design – Will Htay. Production Company – Marvel Studios.
Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-Man), Evangeline Lilly (Hope Van Dyne/The Wasp), Michelle Pfeiffer (Janet Van Dyne), Michael Douglas (Dr Hank Pym), Katryn Newton (Cassie Lang), Jonathan Majors (Kang the Conqueror), Corey Stoll (M.O.D.O.K.), Bill Murray (Lord Krylar), Katy O’Brian (Jentorra), William Jackson Harper (Quaz), David Dastmalchian (Veb), James Cutler (Xolum), Ruben Rubasa (Cafe Owner), Gregg Turkington (Dale)
Scott Lang is enjoying the accolades of having saved the world and has written a book about being Ant-Man. His now teenage daughter Cassie reveals that she has developed a device that can map out and communicate with the Quantum Realm. As she demonstrates it to them, Janet becomes fearful and shuts it down – only for the device to reactivate and suck Scott, Hope, Hank and Janet down into the Quantum Realm. Separated, they explore the strange world there and encounter its denizens but Janet, who was trapped there for thirty years, becomes fearful at their being discovered. This occurs as they are captured by Kang, a scientist from the 31st Century, who has been exiled to the Quantum Realm. Back when she was trapped there, Janet befriended Kang and helped him rebuild his ship. However, when she discovered that he was an incredibly powerful being who had conquered his way across the multiverse, destroying numerous other realities, she instead sabotaged the ship. Having gone on to conquer the Quantum Realm, Kang now sees them as a means to escape.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the third of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Ant-Man films. The first film Ant-Man (2015) appeared after a troubled production history, which ended with original director Edgar Wright being dumped over creative differences. His replacement Peyton Reed made an enjoyably lightweight entry. This was followed by Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), reuniting Reed and most of the cast, but this befell an overly comedic playing. In between these, Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man joined The Avengers in Captain America: Civil War (2016) and Avengers: Endgame (2019).
The Ant-Man films were lightweight entries in the MCU so I had no great expectations for Quantumania. The film was meant to be one of the key entries in Phase 5 of the MCU but received fairy ho-hum reviews. This may well be the gradual evaporating of interest in the MCU from product burnout that many people are starting to feel – seven Marvel tv series alone in 2021-2 alone.
It is important to remember when talking about the Quantum Realm that this bears about as much in common with what the quantum realm means in physics as the MCU’s use of the term ‘multiverse’ has any resemblance to the Many Worlds Hypothesis. For physicists, the quantum realm is where the smallest components of matter we know exist – atoms which are in turn made up of protons, neutrons, electrons and at their smallest point quarks. Beginning with Ray Cummings’ The Girl in the Golden Atom (1921), pulp science-fiction latched onto the scientifically inaccurate idea of an electron orbiting a nucleus as analogous to very small planets orbiting one another, whereas physicists regard the issue more as one of charge and that particles exist in terms of probability more so than physical space. The notion of an entire world and peoples living down at a subatomic level is one that must be placed in the arena of Bad Science.
Peyton Reed and co seem to have no concern for this and the Quantum Realm simply becomes another colourfully absurd world filled with strange denizens, cultures and creatures. You get the impression that Peyton Reed took the opportunity to essentially create his own equivalent of the Star Wars universe. Although given the more light-hearted tone of the Ant-Man films, this is less Star Wars than the MCU’s own more colourfully, light-hearted take on it that we see in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and sequels. What we get is a world filled with bizarre alien lifeforms, robots, people flying about in exotic craft, and lots of action fighting the guards of the evil black cape Big Bad who runs the place. There are a range of interestingly exotic creations, including asparagus-headed beings, others that are like ambulatory AA batteries and a cute blobby creature.
For some time, The MCU seems to have had difficulty in creating decent Super-Villains. There is the cultish following that Loki has developed but by now he has become more a cuddly anti-hero. Up until we received Thanos in the Avengers films, the only decent offerings were Vincent D’Onofrio’s magnificent Kingpin in tv’s Daredevil (2015-8) and David Tennant’s turn as Killgrave in the first season of Jessica Jones (2015-9) (although it is not entirely clear if these series remain part of official MCU continuity any longer). Everyone else to turn up has been forgettably run of the mill.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania has largely been intended to introduce Kang the Conqueror. Kang first appeared in Fantastic Four #19 (1963) as the Pharaoh Rama-Tut who was revealed to be a time-travelling descendant of Reed Richards. Subsequent appearances retconned Rama-Tut to be Kang and created a mind-boggling array of Kang’s personas throughout time and the multiverse that have fought mostly against The Avengers, with Kang at one point even marrying Mantis.
We also get an appearance of M.O.D.O.K., a regular Captain America villain. In the comics, M.O.D.O.K. was George Tartleton who underwent a transformation to become a vast brain with enhanced mental abilities and psychic powers. On the other hand, M.O.D.O.K. here is rewritten as a transformed Darren Cross from the first film and simply becomes a comic villain’s sidekick with a banal redemption arc. (A more comic-book accurate version of M.O.D.O.K. appeared around the same time in the stop-motion animated tv series M.O.D.O.K. (2021- ) with Patton Oswalt voicing Tartleton).
Where most of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a riff on Star Wars-styled Planetary Adventure (although I am not quite sure if you could still call a series of adventures down at the quantum level planetary adventures any longer), it does work well when it comes to the introduction of the next big new super-villain. The conception of Kang – the villain who has laid a great trail of conquest across the multiverse, collapsing entire timelines, and has had multiple incarnations across time to the extent he cannot even remember whether Ant-Man is an Avenger he has fought and killed before – is a great one. And Jonathan Majors rises to the fore with a playing where he gives the part a quiet softness that makes the character all the more absorbing and distinctive.
What with the film’s great super-villain and a plethora of mad ideas about ants evolving their own culture, not to mention an enjoyable city-destroying dust up and climax, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania proved far more enjoyable than expected. It was certainly a better offering than the lightweight and more overly comedic Ant-Man and the Wasp.