Review by Daniel Blackaby February 17, 2023
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (Christian Movie Review)
Verdict: Unfortunetly, the decision to “go big” with the smallest Avenger results in a giant-sized mess that leans into all the worst tendencies of the MCU.
About The Movie
Ant-Man is a delightfully silly and simplistic character. He’s just a dude who can shrink down into the size of an ant. His initial entries into the Marvel storyline largely reflected this playful spirit, paving the way for some fun Honey, I Shrunk the Kids hijinks, and providing a refreshing contrast from the more cosmic powers and scope of Marvel’s other super-powered heroes. Along the way, Ant-Man eventually gained the ability to change his size in the other direction, growing into a towering giant. If the original two Ant-Man films were reflective of his shrinking power, then Quantumania attempts to channel this newfound growing ability, thrusting its bug-inspired hero into a massive, cranked-to-eleven, otherworldly conflict with immense stakes for not just the world, but for the entire multiverse and countless timelines. The movie certainly goes big, but sadly, the result is an equally giant-sized mess.
Personal tastes will vary, but Quantumania leans hard into all the worst tendencies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—a bombardment of empty CGI spectacle, a convoluted plot that primarily exists to set up future movies and shows, a surprisingly joyless and sarcastic tone, and a “more is more” approach that mistakes “bizarre” for “fun.” Even the endlessly fun potential of Ant-Man’s “shrinking” ability is uninspired and lacks any sense of invention or cleverness (in an unintentionally meta moment, Rudd essentially explains to his daughter that it’s just a matter of shrink-grow-punch-repeat).
It is not all bad. A few positive elements from the original films still faintly echo up from the distant Quantum realm. Paul Rudd continues to be overpoweringly charismatic, almost single-handedly making the film watchable. The film has issues, but Rudd is never one of them. He is joined by Jonathan Majors in the role of Kang the Conqueror (Thanos’ successor as the new “Big Baddie” in the overarching Marvel narrative). Majors is a superb actor, and there are moments that hint toward some interesting layers in his character. But the apparent need to save the exploration of those layers for future films prevents him from being as captivating as he might have been.
Unfortunately, outside of Rudd, the hinted potential of Kang’s character, and some occasional humor, almost nothing else works. The relentless “more is more” approach muddies the story into an unappetizing stew of disconnected ideas and distracting subplots. An over-reliance on unimpressive CGI makes the Quantum Realm feel more like a green screen soundstage than a cohesive or believable place. The movie constantly introduces new characters, only to quickly abandon them. Bill Murray shows up for an extended scene that adds nothing to the story (other than getting Bill Murray into the movie). The heroes also meet an interesting cast of Quantum Realm natives, who are then quickly sidelined for the next hour until finally called upon again at the end to have soldiers for a climactic battle against an army of (literally) faceless bad guys. Most egregiously, despite getting her name in the title, Evangeline Lilly’s “Wasp” is entirely inconsequential, left to do little more than emote as other characters shower her with exposition-heavy monologues.
Speaking of exposition, this movie is filled to the brim with it. There is so much explaining going on. Any time the plot starts inching forward, it immediately screeches to a hault to have characters fill the audience in on necessary information. Kang gets a flashback backstory. Michelle Pfeiffer’s character gives multiple long exposition dumps about her first time in the Quantum Realm. A previous MCU character makes a return as a big, floating head…and gets a flashback backstory. Even a bunch of ants suddenly enter the plot in the third act for no real reason other than it being an Ant-Man movie and to add to the spectacle in the climax…and, yes, even they get a backstory exposition dump and flashback! Despite so much plot, the movie itself feels directionless. There are no clear themes, or character arcs, or cohesion between scenes and set pieces. Instead, the entire story feels like an excuse to introduce Kang and foreshadow his involvement in future movies.
In the end, with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the MCU feels like it is at a crossroads. The overarching narrative that once gave deeper meaning and purpose to the individual stories now seems to suck the life out of them, making each entry feel like homework or a chore that exists only in service to an increasingly burdensome larger narrative. The film is lesson that often “less is more,” and sometimes it’s better to go smaller rather than bigger; a lesson that perhaps a movie about diminutive ants should have understand all along.
On the Surface
Language: Frequent minor profanities (“H—,” “Sh—”, “D—”). There are also multiple uses of “OMG” and “My G—.” There is a gag where characters repeatedly use a crude word for male genitals (“d—k”). Another repeated gag has a goo-like alien fascinated by how many “holes” humans have.
Violence: Typical Marvel violence, with the extent being characters who get their faces bloodied in a fist fight.
Sexuality: A married couple who spent 30 years separated in different dimensions talk openly about their sexual encounters during that time, both seemingly okay with the extramarital sexual acts since they “had needs.”
Spirituality: The bad guy is accused of elevating himself to the position of “a god.” Upon arriving in the Quantum Realm, Hank Pym remarks how the dimension could hold answers to life and evolution.
Beneath The Surface
Engage The Film
Perhaps the one consistent theme is time, and how different characters view and relate to it. For some, it is a blessing; for others, it is a burden. At the start of the film, Scott Lang (aka Ant-Man) is living in the past, coasting on the glory of his accomplishments of saving the universe. His activist-driven daughter reprimands him for not living in the moment, and not concerning himself with the present needs around him. Scott has lived well but is not current living well (in the eyes of his daughter, at least).
There is also a motif of “lost” time. This is explored in the relationships between Lang and his daughter, Cassie; Hank Pym and Janet (due to her 30 years spend trapped in the Quantum Realm); and Janet and her daughter, Hope (aka The Wasp). Each has regret, hurt, or disappointment from these missed opportunities.
Similarly, Kang is at war with time in both a literal and figurative sense. His abilities are not fully explained, but he possesses the power (or, at least, the technology) to “step outside” of time, and speaks about coming to understand time for the “small prison” it really is. Yet, it becomes evident that by not experiencing time as intended, the knowledge is not a blessing, but a curse.
Kang is accused of trying to elevate himself into the role of a god. In some ways, he reflects the plight of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, who eat the forbidden fruit in order to “be like God,” and yet their prize of knowledge and understanding brings pain rather than enlightenment or liberty. Kang often alludes to his knowledge of “how it all ends,” and is driven toward his obsessive and violent acts of conquering because of this knowledge. His cosmic view of existence, outside of time, prevents him from appreciating the good, smaller things in life.
By the end, the film presents a message that we are all “at war” with time. The Bible also speaks frequently about the importance time, and the need to live well the precious years allotted to us (Ephesians 5:15-16, Colossians 4:5, Ecclesiastes 3:1). There is a touching scene at the end of the movie where the victorious heroes celebrate Cassie’s birthday, despite it not actually being her birthday. Life is intended to be lived with forward motion, and while lost time may steal some opportunities that cannot be recovered, the beauty of time is that it also provides new opportunities to change, grow, and invest in the things that really matter.