Peyton Reed's latest MCU epic has been described as laying the groundwork for this next era of Marvel Studios storytelling, setting up what is being called an "all-timer antagonist" in Jonathan Majors' Kang the Conqueror.
Fans were riding high on the idea of Quantumania getting the franchise back on track after a feeling of waywardness over the last couple of years; however, after middling reactions out of the film's premiere, that enthusiasm has been slightly dampened.
MCU's Phase 5 Off to a Rough Start
Coming off the up-and-down Phase 4, it looks as though Phase 5 of the MCU is not off to a good start.
The first film in Marvel Studios' next chapter of super-powered storytelling, Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, received fairly negative reactions from critics, making it the second MCU movie to earn the 'Rotten' designation on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
The Ant-Man threequel currently sits at 51% critic approval rating on the site, making it the second lowest-rated Marvel Studios project ever.
It is also the lowest Phase-starting project in the history of the franchise by a wide margin, coming in a whopping 25 percentage points lower than the second-lowest Phase-opener, Iron Man 3.
Even Phase 4 - which was considered a miss by many - had a debut in WandaVision that earned a 91%:
- Iron Man - 94%
- Iron Man 3 - 79%
- Captain America: Civil War - 90%
- WandaVision - 91%
- Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania - 53%
This negative reaction to Quantumania could spell doom for Phase 5 and the Multiverse Saga, seeing as it serves as the proper introduction for the Saga-defining MCU villain in Jonathan Majors' Kang the Conqueror.
Slant called the Ant-Man film "less the start of a new phase" than it is "a tired retread of adventures we’ve already been on."
The Denver Post noted that the movie is a "visually inspired subatomic set piece" but is held back by "the MCU's accelerating sprawl:"
"There's so much to sift through and occasionally like: a visually inspired subatomic set piece, bits of the roiling family tension among actors who are much better than their scripts. But there's nowhere to hide from the MCU's accelerating sprawl."
Quantumania is "a filler episode" in the "TV-ification of the MCU" according to Entertainment.ie's review:
"It's not actively awful in any kind of meaningful way, because it's not remarkable enough to be that. Instead, it's a filler episode in the TV-ification of the MCU. It's fine if you miss it, because the next episode / movie will catch you up on it."
Other descriptors like "a slog" (Little White Lies) and "lifeless" (VitalThrills.com) were used by outlets who saw the movie early, with ButteredPopcorn going as far as to call the film "dull" and "a flop:"
"'Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania' starts Phase 5 off with a flop as a dull story and questionable execution causes the film to be a wildly worthless miss."
Does the MCU Have a Problem on Its Hands?
The negative word-of-mouth surrounding Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania is going to be concerning for fans who were hoping Paul Rudd and co. could get the franchise back on track after the middling Phase 4.
However, that does not look like it is the case. So, one has to wonder, is the MCU in trouble?
While it doesn't seem that Quantumania will be the narrative tent-pole some may have thought it would be, it is probably good that if the film is as bad a miss as the reviews are saying, it sits in that "filler episode" category of Marvel project.
If it was a tentpole for which the next decade of MCU storytelling stands (like it was teased to be), then there might be a bigger problem. But according to critics, it wasn't, and now all this does is put added pressure on the rest of the announced MCU slate.
This is a franchise that has prided itself on not just an unparalleled narrative tapestry being woven with each title but a fairly consistent level of quality as well.
Marvel Studios publicly addressed its mishandling of Phase 4, with a re-evaluation process taking place within the super-powered franchise.
The MCU brain trust mentioned bringing in "preventative [measures] to assure quality control" for projects moving forward, but Quantumania was almost surely too far along in the pipeline for it to be a part of this.
Proof of these widespread changes and focus on quality will not be seen for some time, but it is important for Marvel to course correct. This is especially true as it sits at the bottom of a whole new narrative mountain, leading into the eventual Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars.
Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania hits theaters on Friday, February 17.