" And then she sat on my face, constable "
— Katrin Cartlidge, Career Girls

MRQE Top Critic

Freaky Friday

Good comedic performances and an above-average script make this an entertaining movie —Andrea Birgers (DVD review...)

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Even with all its CGI candy, Quantumania is one of the MCU’s less-involving episodes.

Antipathy

Cassie and Scott
Cassie and Scott

Back in 2008, Robert Downey Jr. launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the immortal line, “I am Iron Man.” Crowds cheered.

Cut to 2023. The 31st episode, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, kicks off Phase 5 of the MCU with a line that’s decidedly less inspirational as one character offers this redemptive proclamation: “I am not a dick!” Crowds snickered.

That sums it all up. The MCU has, at this point, lost all its inspirational mojo, the secret sauce of A-list characters like Captain America and Thor, who were able to forge a strong bond with a giant global fanbase.

The first Ant-Man standalone adventure, which capped Phase 2, was a playful pleasure, an inventive and whimsical adventure that countered the massive scale and drama of Avengers: Age of Ultron. With each subsequent Ant-Man episode, though, the charm and wit keep shrinking while the budget and effects keep getting bigger.

What’s more troubling is those special effects are an unconvincing visual component. They are CGI that is just that: computer generated imagery. The effects lack a sensation of weight, a sense of physical space. Even if it’s a microcosmic setting like the quantum realm, or the multiverse. No matter how Dali-esque the designs or how much the vibe channels Star Wars, it’s not enough to command interest.

Antagonist

Consider it CGI fatigue, knowing virtually everything on the screen is nothing more than bits and bytes on a hard drive somewhere.

The best of the MCU can overcome that CGI-heavy burden with a compelling story, a generous dose of humor, some great action — the best of the best offer all three.

But on those terms, Quantumania offers only small servings. Maybe the problem is this episode has only one screenwriter — fairly uncommon in the MCU — and this marks his feature debut. Jeff Loveness prior claims to fame include Rick and Morty and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, which makes the movie’s relatively lackluster sense of humor and lack of inventiveness all the more surprising.

Sure, there’s some funny stuff involving a blobby character — “Drink the ooze!” — but even Bill Murray (as an obscure character named Krylar) doesn’t really gel or add much energy.

So, given even the once-reliable family dynamics of the Van Dynes (Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer and Evangeline Lilly) and the Langs (Paul Rudd and now Kathryn Newton as Scott’s daughter, Cassie) also fall flat and feel forced this time around, it’s up to Jonathan Majors to generate some sparks as Kang the Conqueror.┬áThink of Kang as the next Thanos, but with a much more interesting personality (and it doesn’t hurt it is Majors who is seen on-screen rather than yet another CGI villain). Having already been introduced in the Loki streaming series, Kang’s the villain who’ll be a major fixture in upcoming installments.

Anticipation

Kang
Kang

Kang is interesting, without question; even his look is multi-faceted, with a couple facial scars that bear a striking resemblance to tears streaming from his eyes.

There are loads of possibilities for this character and where his stunning power — which includes a fascinating capability of wiping out not only trillions of people, but entire timelines — will take the MCU. Who knows, put Kang and the multiverse together and maybe Downey will be back as Iron Man and maybe Chris Evans will return as Captain America.

Maybe. After all, that type of thing is in fashion now; both Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck will return as Batman in The Flash this summer.

Or maybe not.

As it stands, the story still follows the Marvel formula and resorts to another boss battle for the climax, this time involving the Langs, the Van Dynes, Kang and a whole army of ants. But at least there’s one novel idea this time: a probability storm features a multitude of Scott Langs representing every single choice he could possibly ever make (including that ill-fated stint at Baskin-Robbins). That makes for a nifty scene of the multiplicity of Langs forming a tiny-human ant hill.

And, yeah, following another MCU staple, there are two teasers during the end credits. The first one is cool, but the second one — after all the credits have rolled — is a doozie.