I saw Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania Monday afternoon. After the pieces of garbage that were Love & Thunder and She-Hulk, I was unsure that I’d see it at all, much less in the theater. But I did, on opening weekend, no less. And despite the terrible critical reviews, I very much liked it. Here are a few reasons why:
Love & Thunder and She-Hulk made fun of me. They treated these movies as if they had heard the criticism of “serious” auteurs and wanted to sit at the cool table, too, so they ridiculed those of us who found ourselves entertained and stimulated by their work. Before those 2 stinkers (and less so the output of the last few years), I made the argument that these movies were the mythology of our generation. Certainly not just sugary snacks for fanboys alone, they explored social and cultural issues through the lens of extraordinary people. The psychology of the characters (and all of us) were on display and gave us all more substance than we were prepared for, if only we had eyes to see and ears to hear. They were never Pulp Fiction or The Godfather, but to lazily write-off these movies as spandex daydreams for teenage boys was an offensively grievous error. Quantumania didn’t make fun of me. It wasn’t The Winter Soldier or Civil War, but it was a stand alone story that did not patronize (or at least, I did not feel patronized.) That’s 1.
The second is its wild visual unreality. Now, this was precisely the reason The Angel did not like it, but we are very different people. If our pop cultural preferences met at a party, not only would they not talk, mine would probably ask hers to leave immediately. Usually, our imaginations are drummed out of us as we age, we are encouraged to leave them behind and focus only on the world that we can see, touch, feel, and prove. When an artist remembers that we have been made to be fantastically creative beings, as in the Star Wars cantina (for example) or the Quantum Realm, we see our original imaging bursting through into an increasingly monochromatic landscape. There were no limits on colors, characters, no restraints on what could be possible. Of course, some of it didn’t work, but that’s what happens with shooting; sometimes, you miss. But I really love the risk of shooting. I hadn’t seen anything quite like it, and that’s inspiring to me.
But that’s enough about the actual movie (not that I don’t have anything else to say about it, I do). I’m wondering how much of my appreciation of Quantumania had to do with the steaming pile that was Love & Thunder. I think I’m sort of out on the MCU. Obviously, I’ll see the movies as they come out, I’ll watch the streaming shows, but they no longer captivate me. It was a beautiful time that I shared with my sons, we saw every one together as they were released. (Quantumania was the first one we didn’t, and don’t even get me started on the heartbreak of that.) Thor convinced me that those movies were of a time that had passed. Thor showed me what I already knew, everything changes. The movies change, we change, our reaction, our connection to them changes. With one swing of his hammer, Thor broke any idea of corporate trust or loyalty. I know, I know, the studios (including Marvel/Disney) care about me only as long as I’m buying tickets and paying for their streaming service, but the delusion is one I would have liked to keep. I took Love & Thunder and She-Hulk like a personal affront, like an act of disrespect. Why? They don’t care at all about me, they care about worldwide grosses and merchandising deals.
And on one hand, that stinks. But on the other, it’s pretty liberating. If I want to see the next one, I’ll see it. If not, I won’t. I don’t owe Disney anything. I’m a product, but so are they. (If it’s seems embarrassing for such an old man to come to such elementary conclusions this late, it’s not for me. I understand/understood perfectly, but I just didn’t want that to be the last word. I want to let my imagination run and dream, too.) I have no more expectations for quality – She-Hulk smashed that into tiny little pieces – so when something is good, like Quantumania, I enjoy myself. I don’t expect greatness, I don’t expect anything. I am free!