The world of quantum mechanics is fascinating for comfortably straddling the metaphysical with the glittering cold truth of physics. Throw in the vibrations of string theory and one is tripping the light fantastic with packets of energy and relativity.
With most of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which kicks off Phase 5 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, set in the quantum realm, there was every chance for one hell of a ride. The Ant-Man films, Quantumania is the third following Ant-Man(2015) and Ant-Man and the Wasp(2018), were also different from their bigger, noisier MCU counterparts by looking out for the little guy. The films are about family — the scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), was the original Ant-Man; his wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), or the Wasp, was lost in the quantum realm for a good bit of time; his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) used good science to heal the world when she was not the next-gen Wasp or on a romantic date with Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd); Lang’s daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton), wants to do her bit for the world, and if her activism gets her in jail, well that was par for the course.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (English)
And then there is the lightness of spirit that marked the Ant-Man films. Quantumania, though set mainly in the quantum realm, a place which looks like an off-the-rails acid trip, is surprisingly not much fun. Though there are little jokes about a telepath (William Jackson Harper) which negates the need for torture and a creature (David Dastmalchian) with an absurd fixation on holes, on the whole, Quantumania is a bit of a grim slog.
Post the blip, Scott is tasting success having written his memoir. Hank encourages Cassie’s scientific curiosity and she builds a device that can beam a signal to the quantum realm. Janet, who does not speak about her time in that space, is horrified at the machine and tries to turn it off, but the damage is done, and the five intrepid travellers are sucked into a psychedelic wonderland minus the Cheshire Cat.
Things have changed since Janet was down there — what with a rebellion led by Jentorra (Katy O’Brian). Janet hopes her old friend Lord Krylar (Bill Murray) might be able to help, but is disappointed. A lot of the movie is spent moving from one place to the other against neon-drenched backgrounds. There is even a scene where Janet goes to a bar, which could well have been that cantina on Mos Eisley looking for information.
Apart from random quasi-philosophical nuggets on the nature and elasticity of time, the probability storm (reminiscent of Douglas Adams’ Infinite Improbability Drive) and a guest appearance by Schrodinger’s Cat, the only thing that elevates Quantumania to some level of watchability is the antagonist, Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). He is mighty, mild and just that little bit lost as he channels Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Julius Caesar into this iteration of the villainous time traveller. If Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’s only raison d’etre is as a show-reel for this mind-bending antagonist, then it is a depressingly diminutive one.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is currently running in theatres