It doesn’t happen often, but there’s something paradoxical about seeing Hollywood’s huge means grappling with the infinitely small.
Once upon a time, the solution was to make scenery, objects and creatures larger than normal, so that humans seemed tiny in comparison (think Hallucinatory Journey or Radiation BX: Man Destruction , but even Honey I shrunk the boys ).
The effects were astonishing thanks to the skilful craftsmanship of the set designers, which distorted the proportions of the world in which we live. The case of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumaniahowever it is different, not only because it is a child of the digital age: here it is in fact a question of exploring a real universe that exists at a subatomic level, and which in the comics is called the Microverse , while in the Marvel Cinematic Universe it has been renamed the Quantum Kingdom . In other words, director Peyton Reed and Marvel Studios had to imagine an “other” reality, imperceptible to our experience, which recalls that idea of infinity already contained in Three millimeters a day by Richard Matheson (the novel from which the aforementioned BX radiation ). While the MCUexpands its borders, in short, it seems that everywhere there is a universe to discover: beyond the limits of the solar system, in the ocean depths, in alternate timelines, and now even in the shadow of atoms.
Obviously Scott Lang ( Paul Rudd ) has visited the Quantum Realm before, and the extended family he’s a part of are well aware of his existence. After saving the universe with the Avengers in Endgame , our Ant-Man is enjoying his popularity in San Francisco: people greet him on the street, coffee shops offer him drinks, and the public flocks to the bookstores where he presents his autobiography of him. The relationship with Hope Van Dyne ( Evangeline Lilly ) is going swimmingly, but his daughter is Cassie ( Kathryn Newton) to cause him headaches: as a social activist, the girl often gets into trouble with the law, and moreover she has already learned to use Pym particles. With her grandfather Hank ( Michael Douglas ), Cassie has even built a satellite to study the Quantum Realm, sending out signals which then come back. Janet ( Michelle Pfeiffer ) senses the danger, but that’s not enough: suddenly sucked into the subatomic universe, Scott and the others are forced to face a tyrant who just wants to escape from there, the powerful Kang the Conqueror ( Jonathan Majors ).
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania confirms a trend that is now quite common in the MCU , whose adventures take place less and less in the “world outside the window” that Stan Lee spoke of , and more and more in imaginary dimensions. There is no doubt that Peyton Reed and his team drew inspiration from microphotography to create the Quantum Realm, but most of the references come from space opera and the science fantasy genre, of which the film remedies many visual and narrative dynamics : impossible not to think of John Carter (with the hero catapulted into a world he doesn’t know, where he finds people to help and a tyrant to fight) and toStar Wars (the resistance against oppression, the subatomic melting pot instead of the intergalactic one).
Obviously Quantumania strives to develop these models in its own way, especially in the functioning of technologies and in the design of creatures. We are facing one of the most stylistically bizarre chapters of the MCU , and the fun lies above all in discovering the most colorful details of this new world. It is also the Marvel Studios film that comes closest to the Rick and Morty register , both for humor (but only at times) and for the extravagant characters: it is certainly no coincidence that the screenwriter is Jeff Loveness, author of six episodes of the series. Sadly, the script is also one of his main limitations. In the first part there is no shortage of scenes and situations that are combined in a forced or hurried way, perhaps due to the continuous rewriting during filming: in this sense, the impression of watching a somewhat artificial show is evident, also for the dialogues unnatural and the CGI backgrounds are not always impeccable. Humor itself is short of breath, now exhausted after years of repeating gags with little variation. An example is the case of Veb , a character voiced by David Dastmalchian , probably more amusing on paper than in practice.
On the other hand, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania gives its best in dramatic moments, a pleasant paradox for a franchise that has always focused heavily on irony. The credit goes largely to Jonathan Majors in the role of Kang : completely distancing himself from the playfulness of The One Who Remains , Majors instills in the tyrant a melancholy and introspective nuance, typical of those who already know the whole story and live every moment of their life with disenchantment . Even Paul Rudd has the space to express the more anguished sides of Scott (especially thanks to the love for his daughter Cassie), along with a physical commitment that was not present in the other films. Similarly, it’s nice that Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer are more involved in the action: the dedication of both is evident, they really believe in their respective characters, but sometimes get caught up in not very memorable dialogue.
However, the lack of courage in the narrative developments shows that Quantumania is above all a passing chapter, functional to the macro-story of the MCU , as well as the true beginning of the Multiverse Saga after the hints of Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness and Loki . We are somewhere between the naïveté of science fantasy and the self-awareness of postmodern blockbusters, which take the psychedelic dreams of magazines like Métal Hurlant or Heavy Metal and expand them into lavish production. The authenticity of those publications is far off, but the entertainment is not lacking.