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Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)

Wherein my featured image is a comic book because none of the film posters will export.

I just saw Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and it was surprisingly enjoyable. It’s getting a lot of nasty reviews and I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m out of the loop with what people expect from a comic book film, but this one provided me with just about what I was hoping for. The story is that Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), his partner the Wasp, and their family (including Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer) are transported to “the quantum realm”, a world outside time and space where a tyrant called Kang the Conquerer (Jonathan Majors) is trying to escape so he can continue his genocidal shenanigans across the multiverse.

All of this is told in a light and breezy and ultimately inconsequential fashion, much like, well, a comic book. I’m not a huge fan of the whole superhero thing in its current incarnation and honestly find it a little fascist. I can’t even remember what film this was now, but there was one where Captain America was playing on a TV to some school kids and it kept reminding me of the parodic fascist advertisements in Starship Troopers, with troops encouraging kids to sign up to kill the Arachnids.

There’s a bit of that here, with cringe-worthy dialogue about how a man’s word is his bond and Ant-Man inspiring kids. But overall the script is functional and moves at a fair clip, never growing tiresome. (Except in its climax, though I always find those tiring in Marvel movies. Do they ALWAYS have to end with an extended punch-up?) There’s also a good amount of humour, which I appreciate in these movies as someone with no emotional attachment to them.

The acting’s all fine, although the only standout is Jonathan Majors, who brings real personality and menace to Apocalyptic Big Boy #36198. At the other end of the spectrum is Bill Murray, appearing in a cameo much like the one that he “contributed” to the Ghostbusters reboot. By which I mean he shows up, immediately sits down, and mumbles nonsense for 10 minutes before getting dispatched. But I guess you’ve earned that level of laziness when you’re Bill Murray.

The design of the quantum realm is a lot of fun, as are the creatures that the characters find there, and there are sci-fi set pieces that are genuinely intriguing, such as a probability paradox spawning a whirlpool of alternate reality Ant-Men in a black void. I also liked how much of an important role Pfeiffer played in the plot. It’s good to see an older actress presented as an active protagonist in one of these movies and not just relegated to a supporting role.

None of this is life-changing, of course, and it’s not anything like as stylish or memorable as Sam Raimi’s recent Doctor Strange film. But it’s an absolutely fine slab of populist entertainment and eye candy. I’m not sure what, for example, the critic who gave it 1/5 in The Times wants from a film with a plot like the one I described above. Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal? Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey?

All I really wanted was picturesque visuals and Paul Rudd looking sexy-but-unthreatening. (He may be the only man who can look both #Daddy and adorkable in a Baskin Robbins uniform.) And I got that, so it was a good Friday night out.


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