One of the oddest objections to Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the notion that its visuals are somehow bad. Or, at least, noticeably worse than those of other Marvel movies. If, indeed, Marvel Studios did pull effects people from it to work on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, they didn’t get their money’s worth. Wakanda Forever frequently features out-of-focus backdrops that might hide a lack of detail, while Quantumania soars through a wondrous array of sci-fi book cover-inspired fantasias and micro-scapes. There are many ways to find fault with the movie, but on the Quantumania 4K disc, appearance ain’t it. Whether you choose to watch the Blu-ray, with brighter primary colors and blurrier edges, or the UHD disc with more muted tones but razor-sharp deep focus, it’s eye candy ahoy.
The story is where the problems lie. Like a student twisting an assigned essay topic to the one he actually wants to do, Peyton Reed evidently wanted to make a space fantasy, inspired, as he admits on the commentary, by his direction of The Mandalorian season 2 finale. He even brought over some of the same cast and crew, notably Katy M. O’Brian. Unfortunately, it comes at the cost of an Ant-Man movie. Almost any superhero in the Marvel universe could be plugged into this story with few major changes.
Gone are the frequent shrinking/growing sight gags, since scale is now entirely relative. Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) does grow to kaiju size for the finale, but we now know Groot can do the same. And after having spent the last two movies as a toxic narcissist who inevitably creates his own arch-enemies by unnecessarily being a dick when he doesn’t have to be, original Ant-Man Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is suddenly a super-competent badass. The implication — that finding his true love Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) has somehow “fixed” him — is a whole heap of problematic.
There’s also the absolute inconsistency of the Quantum Realm, movie to movie. In the first one, Scott escapes it simply by growing big again. In the second, after Janet’s saved, she raises no alarm bells whatsoever when Scott goes down there again to gather energy. Scott’s down there for five years afterwards and MODOK and Kang never show up to grab him. If the movie follows the comics, and if the Quantum Realm they’ve previously been in is merely a portal to a different universe one cannot “grow out of,” and if the portal area has different rules…say so! This is never explained, partly because the movie can’t legally mention the “Microverse,” a trademark tied to Paramount’s movie rights for Micronauts.
Characters and Commentary
All that aside, it’s a visually appealing adventure story in and of itself. The thoroughly non-canonical take on MODOK (Corey Stoll) is consistently entertaining, if never as scary as he maybe should be. Jonathan Majors‘ Kang, however, plays even more terrifying now after the soft-spoken demeanor so easily broken by dramatic flashes of anger is something the actor has been accused of in real life. And Kathryn Newton’s Cassie believably reminds us that superheroes are meant to be aspirational. She could become an appealing part of any Young Avengers moving forward.
Reed and screenwriter Jeff Loveness provide a commentary track on the Quantumania 4K release that’s perhaps a little too self-deprecating. You may want to scream at them, periodically, “Dudes! That’s an actual problem you maybe should have fixed!” Loveness, a first-time feature screenwriter, comes from Rick and Morty, and Reed even calls out the scenes that most recall that show’s own wacky aliens and dimensional hijinks. Even Rick and Morty, though, can generally explain even its most contorted multiverse logic in less than 30 minutes, while Reed and Loveness seem content to handwave.
They do explain the recasting of Cassie — in short, Newton’s background as both a lead and a pro athlete made her well-placed to hold her own with Rudd. They emphasize the mother-daughter dynamic between Janet and Hope (Evangeline Lilly) as something movies don’t show often enough (true).
The Quantumania 4K commentary makes clear Reed really wanted to do an epic fantasy — those thwarted Fantastic Four dreams again? — and got it in the way he knew he could. Revealing Sonny Burch’s secret benefactor from the last film would have made more sense trilogy capper-wise, but Reed wanted Ant-Man to fight the next major (pun intended) bad guy and used his clout to make it happen. They mention which characters are from comics, however obscure, and which aren’t.
This may be unintentionally revealing, but the other extras feel like an outright sleight of hand — in a good way. Marvel Studios has a pretty predictable formula for their standard extras, but again, Reed feels like the student twisting the assignment.
The two “deleted” scenes, for example … aren’t. They’re scenes from the movie featuring David Dastmalchian’s ooze-based character Veb minus the Veb animations, so we just see Dastmalchian pantomiming and mugging in a mo-cap suit. It’s not just hilarious; it’s close enough to the Polka-Dot Man costume that it borders on a crossover.
Sneaking in Like Scott Lang
As for the gag reel, the usual montage of actors doing dance moves isn’t what’s relevant. It’s that you can see, throughout, what was a practical set and what wasn’t, what was Volume vs. bluescreen, and so on. Here’s a hint: many of those viewers who claim they could tell what was “obviously” fake … couldn’t. It plays almost as a subtle rebuke.
Two featurettes alternately focus on the heroes and the villains. Again, showing off the sets seems like the point of the first. Getting in some bonus Bill Murray ad-libbing and showing Corey Stoll’s mo-cap acting with the other actors seems the main thrust of the second. Focusing extras on those specific moments is something other movies would do. Here, it feels snuck in under false headlines. And all to the good.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania 4K looks great, and delivers non-stop eye candy which somewhat mitigates the fact that it never feels like the natural Ant-Man threequel we deserve. New and newly evolved characters like MODOK and Cassie are better served than the old. The extras aren’t plentiful, but amusingly subversive if you know what to look for.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania arrives on Blu-ray and 4K on May 16.
Critic received a copy from the publisher for our Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania 4K review.