Friday, February 17, 2023


Opening this weekend:

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania--Paul Rudd, aka Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, is taking a little hiatus from front line superhero duty. On inactive status with The Avengers, he's written a book, so he's giving readings, and hanging out with family, and smugly basking in celebrity. That's the set-up, in a few quick scenes in San Francisco, for this third eponymous Ant-Man feature.

Then, thanks to science experiments by his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) gone wrong, Scott and Hope Van Dyne, aka The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) get swept into the "Quantum Realm," along with Cassie, Hope's Mom Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) and dad Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). The Quantum Realm is a subatomic micro-verse teeming with life in which Janet was stranded for decades.

Thus Janet knows the turf, and she knows that the people there are ruled over by the tyrannical Kang (Jonathan Majors), a dimensional conqueror who she marooned in QR before she escaped. Kang would like very much to be reunited with Janet. Far-out fantasy adventures ensue.

Director Peyton Reed seems to pays heavy homage to the original 1977 Star Wars; the Quantum Realm is full of cousins of Tusken Raiders and Jawas. There are also strong echoes of the Avatar flicks, of Zardoz, and of Dr. Who, and maybe a thematic hint of Horton Hears a Who.

This is yet another Marvel entry featuring alternate universes; it has a somewhat similar look to Sam Raimi's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness from last year. As with that film, I went in with the feeling that the This-That-Or-The-Other-verse conceit that the Marvels have leaned on so hard in recent years is of limited sustainability, as it has a tendency to dilute the dramatic stakes.

On the other hand, also as with Multiverse of Madness, taken on its own terms Quantumania is perfectly enjoyable. The visuals, however derivative, are elegant, witty and well-executed, and the glamorous cast is in pleasant form. Rudd's sly, subtle clowning is always good company, and he carries the movie effortlessly.

The best performance, however, is by Jonathan Majors, from The Last Black Man in San Francisco. His Kang is quiet, subdued, even sad, as if haunted by the joyless drive to conquer and rule. As with Christian Bale's Gorr in last year's Thor: Love and Thunder, Majors brings a needed edge of serious, almost tragic menace that helps to ground this silly sci-fi spoof.

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