Marvel woes continue with “Quantumania”

Noah Grabianski, Editor in Chief

It’s safe to say that Marvel has been in something of a slump recently. Their three 2022 releases weren’t very well received, with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Thor: Love and Thunder being critically panned and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever getting a lukewarm reception. It seemed to both audiences and critics as though the behemoth franchise had begun cutting corners, putting out half-baked films with shoddy visual effects and lazy, formulaic writing despite their budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars – a far cry from the films that made them popular. It seems as though these problems will continue to be persistent, as can be seen in Marvel’s first film of the new year, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania – a film which has instantly proved itself to be the studio’s worst output yet.

The Quantum Realm is a rather hard place to grasp on paper (and visually too, apparently). It’s a vast, endless, “subatomic” universe in which Ant-Man Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and his family have found themselves stranded after his daughter’s experiment goes awry. If this concept seems vague and undeveloped, that’s because it absolutely is. The entire script and its many issues revolve around the heavy usage of purposefully incomprehensible sci-fi nonsense. 

A lot of the concepts needed to understand what exactly is going on are either really weak and unexplained, or just ripped straight from some other science fiction property. The constant appearance of Star Wars adjacent references – like Kang the Conqueror being comparable to the Emperor and the Stormtrooper-eque faceless foot soldiers go beyond homages and into rip-off territory.

Quantumania carries a sense of filmmakers phoning it in, and nowhere can that be seen more than in the visuals. The film relies heavily on CGI to create the quantum realm, to absolutely horrid results. It seems as though any scene that takes place there was filmed with nearly zero practical effects, just actors traipsing around in front of green screens. The world is sludgy and never quite in focus, and the characters never interact with their environment because, well, it simply isn’t there. As a result, the quantum realm doesn’t feel tangible in the slightest – it’s just a background slapped into each shot haphazardly, and therefore doesn’t evoke any sort of emotion in the slightest. It’s just there, being an eyesore at every moment.

Ant-Man is a character who has largely shown up in the Marvel franchise as a source of comic relief, and his personality is what frequently gets in the way of this movie. It feels like every other line is some cheap one-liner, and the tone shifts from scene to scene are frequently jarring and feel inappropriate. Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror is just about the only bright spot in this movie, and even then he struggles around his character’s constant sinister cookie-cutter dialogue. The audience barely takes away any information about Kang by the end of it, because most of the time he’s on screen is spent trying to convince them that he’s really bad, but the movie doesn’t seem to know why.

It seems like Marvel thinks that by using recognizable characters or making constant references and pulls from other sci-fi material, they can evoke some sort of emotion from their audience, but by doing so they ignore the places where it really counts. By keeping the tone appropriately serious, making the stakes feel real, giving us a movie we want to look AT instead of away from, Marvel could succeed in getting people to care. Instead, every movie seems like just another set up for the next one. At this pace, just using their characters to fill theaters isn’t going to keep working for much longer.