Opening 16 Feb 2023
Writing credits: Jack Kirby, Jeff Loveness
Principal actors: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors, Kathryn Newton, Michelle Pfeiffer
Resurrecting Marvel Comics' small insects, in a jaunty opening sequence Marvel Studios sets up the initial 2015 Ant-Man backstory and characters followed by Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018). Paul Rudd returns as Scott Lang/Ant-Man and Evangeline Lilly as Hope Pym/Wasp, joined by Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer (Hope’s parents Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne) and Kathryn Newton as Cassie (Scott’s daughter); they were last seen in the 2019 superhero film, Avengers: Endgame. With its 31st film Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) expands and, leaps into the mysterious, sometimes maleficent Quantum Realm (QR), one of nine dimensions existing in Marvel Comics.
Time-out for some orientation: Humans need subatomic particles to enter the QR’s minuscule dimension. QR is a vortex through which other Marvel Studio superhero groups also travel to alternate universes, and where Janet van Dyne was rescued after 30-years, and Scot was stuck for five-years. So, what does quantum meeting -mania—denoting a specified type of mental abnormality or obsession (New Oxford American Dictionary)—head-on look like? Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). And is he ever mania personified.
Director Peyton Reed—who already signed on for a follow-up film—wanted an unsurpassed formidable foe, and Jeff Loveness admits the 2021-22 coronavirus-forced breaks caused Marvel to "do something new and weird," albeit his screenplay incorporates the wit and humor audiences enjoy. Nevertheless, “People still need help dad,” Cassie tells Scott after he bails her out of trouble. They join an impromptu family meal ensuing with Cassie’s show-and-tell and a gander at Hank’s ant science. Seems Cassie got pointers from him during her father’s absence, and one thing led to—Pym Particles are impressive—a subtonic telescope. Still on the learning curve, Janet is the first to grasp the peril but too late, as they are pulled “outside time and space…[into] “a secret universe beneath ours.” So begins their initiation into Quantum, this space between universes that is as revealing as it is troubling, both beautiful and horridly ugly, and the only path to freedom is the one that calls for unified lock-step timing.
The great cast includes Corey Stoll as salty mutated M.O.D.O.K., Bill Murray as Lord Krylar, the Freedom Fighter Jentorra (Katy O'Brian) and telepathic Quaz (William Jackson Harpe). Production values are stellar: cinematographer Bill Pope, co-editors Adam Gerstel and Laura Jennings, Christophe Beck’s score, and visual effects supervisor Jesse James Chisholm.
The phenomenal creativity and imagination within the Marvel Comics is breathtaking. Written in the 1960s, that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby knew and understood the quantum theory enough to employ it in such a visionary, conceptual realm within a sub-universe is impressive. According to a 2021 article in Space.com by Alexander Hadzaman: “As long as you don’t nitpick every little detail about how the mechanics work, the science of Ant-Man does seem to hold up.” Add to that a mix of “underdog,” hero dad, the feel-good father-daughter angle and nonstop action MCU jumpstarts Phase Five. Truly a real family-style adventure and, “There’s always room to grow.” (Marinell Haegelin)