Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a 120-minute funeral for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even after the embarrassments of Eternals and Thor: Love and Thunder, Marvel has now lowered the bar to seemingly unreachable depths, miles beneath their once consistent — and now entirely nonexistent — standard for quality. Any shred of my inner twelve-year-old who grew up watching these movies has long disappeared.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a tiny bit impressed that we’ve arrived here. It requires great skill to take a series of fun and low-stakes films about a guy turning small, only to then transform it into an incomprehensible and boring — or perhaps incomprehensibly boring — appetizer for future Marvel movies.
Remember the charming ensemble cast from the previous Ant-Man movies? Don’t worry, we’ve substituted them for CGI creatures you couldn’t care less about. Remember the visually inventive action scenes revolving around Ant-Man turning small in his environment? Don’t worry, we’ve substituted them for battles with massive armies, all of which contain less tension than a youth flag football game. Remember when these movies had grounded emotional stakes? Remember when these movies gave their cast something to do? Remember when these movies were filmed with actors in the same room on actual sets? Remember when these movies… yeah, you get the point.
But then, as a bright light in a sea of darkness, is Jonathan Majors. Credit where credit is due: the actor playing Marvel’s new big bad is the best part of a movie desperate for anything salvageable. In any scene Majors appears, his presence dominates, and this should be entirely attributed to Majors instead of the character Kang himself.
The reality is that Kang is a bland villain: he lacks the interesting motivations or worldview of Thanos, he lacks the memorable personality of Loki, and he really offers nothing beyond being a conqueror who — well, you guessed it — conquers things. Although the role doesn’t leverage the charisma of Majors or offer him anything meaty to chew on, the actor does all he can to supply life to a movie without any sort of pulse. Still, there’s only so much movie that can somebody carry on their back, and the character’s sinister tone and massive implications feel at odds with the fun Ant-Man movie this should have been. But, hey, I guess they have to set up movies years down the line, even if the ones we’re watching right now aren’t any good.
This has not been the most flattering review, but I want to emphasize this is not the review I wanted to write. I like superheroes; they played an important part in my childhood, and central to this was watching Marvel movies on opening night. To me, this was a ritual where I could watch entertaining, satisfying movies with characters that I care about, all of which connected within a larger universe in an exciting way.
This has made it particularly depressing to now see Marvel increase output at the expense of quality. Marvel has descended from a triumph of interconnected storytelling to a chore of endless content, and in an age where we’re getting blockbusters like The Batman and Top Gun: Maverick, Marvel’s recent output is simply unacceptable. It’s time to stop excusing bad movies under the premise that they’re setting up future (presumably bad) movies; right now, I’m really wishing we lived in a universe where this whole thing ended after Endgame.