In the enjoyable opening to the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, sometime Ant-Man Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) reveals he has written a memoir entitled Look Out for the Little Guy. Fair warning. It may have cost a squidillion dollars, but Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, at least at first, feels like welcome relief from Marvel at its most pompously grandiose. It is the little guy in the MCU.
Scott ambles about San Francisco. He joshes with his wife Hope “The Wasp” van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). Hugely overqualified personnel – it’s Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer again – turn up as his dimension-surfing in-laws. A sitcom with these people would not be an appalling idea.
That doesn’t last. Before too long, they are sucked into the nauseatingly lurid parallel universe we are obliged to call the Quantum Realm. We are still (and will be for some time) processing material made during the height of the pandemic.
So, we shouldn’t blame the filmmakers for creating 90 per cent of AMATW: Q in a barn outside Slough. But it does irk a little that the environment looks so like every second cover to science-fiction paperbacks from the 1950s. Have no new worlds occurred since?
Anyway, hectic and not overlong, Quantumania does bumble along amiably enough for the succeeding 90 minutes. Jonathan Majors, among the best actors of the rising generation, treats the role of Kang the Conqueror with the unnecessary seriousness that Orson Welles and Lord Olivier once brought to their own slumming-it villains.
Douglas keeps a straight face while piloting a semi-sentient spaceship by ramming his arms up two damp orifices in the style of a country vet checking for intestinal abnormalities. Imagine a Roger Corman film made with the combined budgets of every Roger Corman film and you are halfway there.
No doubt grad students at Marvel University will detect pointers to whatever will soon happen in whatever “phase” we have reached (five? twelve? 126?). If you seek political allegories there is – as there was in DC’s absurd Black Adam – something here about a cruel regime building on the bones of an oppressed people’s dead. But the thing works best as a largely unpretentious diversion that makes no demands on any part of the brain yet to evolve when humans were still worshipping trees.
We’ll take that for now.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is in cinemas from Friday, February 17th