Review: New Ant-Man movie an uneven but fun film experience

Paul Rudd and Jonathan Majors in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (Marvel Studios)

“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” likely won’t be anyone’s favorite Marvel movie.

It’s certainly not going on any critic’s Oscar list for next year, and I doubt many movie buffs would put it on their Top 10 list either.

It’s too big, sprawling, silly, and messy of a production for that.

That said, it’s a fun time at the movie if you are of the mind to let it be.

It’s a spectacle without much rhyme or reason that boasts homages to Star Wars and Shakespeare. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, so there is absolutely no reason fans or critics should do so either.

The tone of the film reminds of the 1980 cult-classic version of “Flash Gordon,” a schlocky but fun favorite from my childhood. I knew it was bad when I saw it at age 12, but it was still gloriously entertaining. Too big, bold, and bright to ever be boring.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is a bigger-budgeted, better-acted modern-day, spiritual ancestor of that film.

Producer Kevin Feige, director Peyton Reed, and screenwriter Jeff Loveness were probably shooting for something more, but as a movie fan, sometimes a big, dumb popcorn film is enough.

The plot is simple. The Ant Family — Scott/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Cassie/Stature (Kathryn Newton), Hope/Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), and Hank (Micheal Douglas) — are sucked into the Quantum Realm by a device Cassie made where the quintet are split up and become embroiled in a war against the multidimensional super-powered despot known as Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), whom Janet had a relationship with when she was lost in the Quantum Realm for three decades. Kang still wants her even though their relationship didn’t end on friendly terms.

The movie is wild, more akin to the middle Star Wars trilogy than anything Marvel has produced. I laughed throughout the movie particularly at a character inspired by a villain in Marvel comics called M.O.D.O.K. I won’t mention who plays the squat and creepy robotic creature to maintain the fun for those who see the movie, but the character’s quite gross and hilarious. I laughed out loud every time he popped on the screen.

Majors’ Kang is perhaps the highlight of the movie. He plays him with an air of Shakespeare that’s at once scary but also kind of hilarious. The arrogance drips off his every sentence, and he is the best over-the-top, monologuing villain since the 1966 Batman TV series. His not that arch, but it’s close.

Katy M. O’Brian in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (Marvel Studios)

The overall tone of the film flits here and there. It’s not quite irreverent, but it dances to the edge, and I have a feeling that’s why many critics did not enjoy the movie, which is flirting with the lowest “Rotten Tomatoes” score of any Marvel movie.

The film is kooky and all over the place, but I found that appealing for some reason. It has some drama, but it lacks the verisimilitude of the earliest Marvel movies, which again is probably part of the reason for the dissatisfaction of some.

I also liked the chemistry and relationship between the core five characters a great deal. The story is basically about Scott and Cassie coming to terms with each other after he missed five years of her childhood and adolescence when Thanos “dusted” half the universe with a snap of his fingers in “Avengers: Infinity War.” Rudd and Newton have excellent chemistry together as father and daughter.

Lily’s Hope is more of a supporting character in Cassie, Scott, and Janet’s stories. Pfeiffer, looking great might I add, works well both with the Ant family and with Majors’ Kang.

The movie is packed with way-out CGI land- and space-scapes and Alamos as many whacky characters as a Muppet movie. It’s not the norm for Marvel movies.

The scale is grand, something I would equate more to the Fantastic Four than I would Ant-Man from my comics-reading background. Some found too much of the CGI muddy and off-kilter. This no doubt will bug some. I noticed it, but it didn’t bother me that much.

I personally think M.O.D.O.K. was designed to be that way, but I could be wrong.

Fans of fantasy and sci-fi will note little nods to various properties, novels, and films throughout the movie. That can be bothersome to some.

The film has a mid-credit scene that will probably excite comic-book fans, particularly old-timers like me. There is also an end credit scene that works as a set-up for one of Disney +’s streaming shows.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” was a great deal of fun for me, but its flighty tone, CGI missteps, and general over-the-top nature might leave many wondering what they got themselves into.

(PG-13) 2 hr. 5 min.
Grade: C

New in Local Theaters – Feb. 17, 2023

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (PG-13) 2 hr. 5 min. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight)
Marlowe (R) 1 hr. 50 min. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Towne)
The Amazing Maurice (PG) 1 hr. 33 min. (trailer)(Malco Razorback)
Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey (R) 1 hr. 30 min. (trailer)(Malco Pinnacle)

Classic Corner – Red River

John Wayne and Joanne Dru in Red River (MGM Studios)

John Ford and John Wayne are tied at the hip in the minds of many Western movie fans, and no doubt, the two teamed to make some great ones from “Stagecoach,” in their first outing together in 1939, to “The Searchers” in 1956, a film considered by many as the best Western of all time, and onto “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” in 1962, another classic.

However, Wayne’s best performance may have come under the guidance of Howard Hawks in the 1948 Western “Red River,” which co-starred Montgomery Clift and Walter Brennan.

While the film isn’t as relevant today as Ford’s dark exploration of racism in “The Searchers,” it could be argued that “The Searchers” would never have been made if Hawks and Wayne hadn’t have fashioned such a complex and bitter character as Tom Dunson, the ruthless cattleman as the center of Red River.

Ford reportedly commented, “I didn’t know the big S.O.B, could act,” in reference to Wayne’s performance in “Red River.”

Wayne carried a bit of Dunson with him in all his Westerns that followed “Red River.”

Dunson is a harsh, ruthless man leading a make-or-break cattle drive on the Chisholm Trail. Dunson’s adopted son Matt (Clift) aides in leading the cattle drive, but they find themselves at odds when Matt interferes with Tom’s brutal brand of discipline with a cowhand.

Backed by the other cowboys, Matt takes over the cattle drive, forcing his adoptive father out. Before Tom leaves, he warns Matt, “Every time you turn around, expect to see me, because one time when you turn around, I’ll be there.”

Sure enough, the two do meet in one of the better showdowns in film history.

Clift’s performance is cool, while Wayne burns hot. The contrast is compelling. Brennan offers just the right amount of sarcasm and comic relief. It’s a great movie, not just a great Western.

“Red River” can be streamed on Tubi, The Roku Channel, Paramount Plus and Prime Video among others.