Welcome to Phase Five
The hot topic right now in Hollywood is superhero fatigue. We’ve had nearly 15 years worth of Marvel projects now, not to mention all the DC blunders, misfires and surprising hits along the way. But is it really superhero fatigue or is it bad movie fatigue? We’ve seen from titles like Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar 2 that there’s still an appetite for bombastic action flicks, while the success of The Boys on the small screen seems to imply that superheroes are still very much prevalent.
After a tepid Phase 4, which saw Marvel spamming content on both Disney+ and in movie theatres (with little regard for quality control or an overarching story I may add), Marvel’s current architect, Kevin Feige, recently said that they’ve now come up with a plan for Phase 5. Well, Phase 5 starts with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Within this movie, we’re introduced to the new big bad, Kang The Conqueror, as well as several other intriguing concepts new to the MCU.
The story is much more an Ant family title than a solo Antman movie though, as we pick up with Scott Lang butting heads with his teenage daughter Cassie. She’s recently been arrested for fighting with the police, using her father’s tech to shrink police cars in an effort to stave off peaceful protests regarding homelessness and rising rent. However, she’s also something of a scientist herself, as she’s worked with Hank to create a device that will allow them to map the Quantum Realm.
With Janet having recently returned from said Quantum Realm, she and Hope attempt to rekindle their severed relationship. Hope is now a bigshot philanthropist, winning awards while doing what she can to try and provide affordable housing for everyone. The savvy among you may have noticed this completely contradicts the issues in the previous paragraph, an annoying recurrence in this movie which regularly struggles to keep up with its own tonal worldbuilding.
Despite these narrative woes, the family end up getting sucked into the Quantum Realm, where they learn there’s more than a dull, murky brown wasteland and an array of freedom fighters before them. There are also whispers of Kang the Conqueror, a maniacal being that intends to take over the multiverse. Only… he’s not all that dangerous.
With any film you need high stakes and you need something drastic to show the villain is a serious threat. In Gladiator, Commodus comes across as weak but we know he’s a real threat because of his unhinged persona, killing without a second thought and keeping Rome choked in his grasp.
Similarly, The Joker is completely unhinged and that unpredictability makes for a dangerous antagonist. Meanwhile, Thanos is morally reprehensible in his actions but you know he’s doing what he thinks is right, making for an interesting antagonistic threat.
As for Kang? Well, there’s lots of him and he wants to take over… except at no point do you feel like any of the characters here are in mortal danger. The closest any of these players come to being even slightly damaged are a couple of gut punches to Antman, or Cassie held up by the throat to force Scott into doing Kang’s biding. Beyond that though, there’s nothing in the way of stakes or threats to really see Kang as a dangerous adversary.
The concept of Kang himself, and the way this movie ends, makes a mockery of the source material and honestly, by the time the credits roll and you sit through the first post-credit scene, there’s absolutely no reason to really fear this big bad – not really. It completely diminishes any sort of danger in future films, which is perhaps fitting given the multiversal idea itself takes away said stakes when you know another variant can just take over.
This lack of threat is something that’s only undermined further by the usual Marvel humour. Any fans of MODOK should absolutely look away from this one, as the character is played off for laughs and has absolutely no redeeming features. This is Mandarin levels of bad. Even at the end, during a scene that should be relatively dramatic, there are extra jokes thrown in for the sake of it. In fact, the most shocking part here is that the writers didn’t throw in a fart joke for extra effect.
Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention the characters themselves, who do get some nice moments. Cassie at least levels out a bit from her annoying introduction, but she’s yet another “sassy girl genius” in a world that’s increasingly being filled with these cookie cutter characters. Ironheart, Echo, America Chavez and Ms Marvel; it’s a lazy archetypal trend that doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon.
The editing is another point of contention here and there’s a 45 minute segment of the movie when our characters first arrive in the Quantum Realm that’s really rough around the edges. The momentum grinds to a halt as the screenplay whiplashes back and forth between two groups, cutting at the absolute worst moments.
In any other realm, Quantumania would be a forgettable Marvel movie to overlook before the next heavy hitting title. As the start of Phase 5 and the movie that’s supposed to get us all geared up and excited for what’s to come, Quantumania is a disaster. It’s a poorly written, clunkily edited, dramatically flat-lined film that does absolutely nothing to prop up Kang as the big bad villain or even get excited about what Marvel has in store for us. If this is a sign of things to come in Phase 5, the MCU might as well pack things up now and call it a day.
Read More: Quantumania Ending Explained
Verdict - 3.5/10