Home > Reviews > ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA – Christophe Beck


February 21, 2023 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the first of the three planned Marvel films for 2023, is the second sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man, and is the 31st film overall in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It builds on events from both Avengers: Endgame and Ant-Man and the Wasp, as well as the TV series Loki, and sees the titular characters Scott Lang (Ant-Man) and Hope Van Dyne (The Wasp) being accidentally drawn back into the so-called quantum realm – a sub-atomic universe that exists beneath our ‘real world’ – where they encounter an entire civilization of humans and aliens. This civilization is under the despotic control of Kang the Conqueror, a multi-dimensional being who can travel between parallel universes and across different timelines, but who has been trapped in the quantum realm, and is desperate to escape its confines. Before long Scott and Hope are drawn into a rebellion against Kang, with the fate of not only the quantum realm, but the universe as a whole, at stake. The film is again directed by Peyton Reed, and stars Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly as the titular duo, with Jonathan Majors as Kang, plus Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Kathryn Newton.

The two previous Ant-Man movies had largely been more personal super hero stories, with smaller stakes and a more grounded reality, and I had worried that with the new pan-dimensional galactic scale of Quantumania it would lose some of its charm. However, I actually found Quantumania to be a hugely entertaining film that retains its singular humor and focus on family dynamics, while introducing a new and interesting alien culture, and engaging in some excellent sci-fi action set pieces. The design of the quantum realm and its primary city, Axia, is really superb, and fascinating on a number of levels – I especially appreciated that one of the world’s main construction materials was jelly – and the look of the environment was visually spectacular, from its flora and fauna to its geography, and even something as simple as the look of the sky. Paul Rudd was his usual affable and charismatic self, Jonathan Majors at times came close to having a Shakespearean gravitas as Kang, and it was wonderful to see 80s icons like Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer having the time of their lives, firing ray guns and beating up bad guys. There were also a few fun cameos and throwbacks to earlier Marvel films that I appreciated.

Returning to score Quantumania is Canadian composer Christophe Beck, who scored the previous two Ant-Man films, as well as the TV series Hawkeye, and is now an established musical voice in the Marvel family. I have always maintained that Beck’s main Ant-Man theme is one of the best of the entire MCU; it’s certainly one of my favorites. I love how, in the original film, it adopted the 1960s-style spy caper stylistics of composers like Lalo Schifrin and Henry Mancini, and even took on an upbeat surf-rock personality, referencing classic artists like Dick Dale and groups like The Ventures, and I have since appreciated how he has developed the theme over the course of the Ant-Man series. Thankfully, this main theme is at the core of the score for Quantumania too, although yet again Beck has allowed it to develop in a number of interesting directions that acknowledge the film’s new alien setting.

Not only that, Beck maintains the series’s internal thematic consistency by also referencing Hope Van Dyne’s Wasp theme, and the more cerebral identity for Michael Douglas’s character Hank Pym, while introducing brand new themes representing the new characters of Kang and MODOK, as well as a broader musical style that represents Axia, and the quantum realm as a whole. These themes are then regularly embedded into a battalion of superb sci-fi action sequences that make use of a mighty full orchestra, and a large choir, augmented by fascinating electronic textures and synthetic sound design.

The opening cue, “Theme from Quantumania,” is actually the first part of the end credits, and offers a bold concert arrangement of the main Ant-Man theme that showcases its two primary characteristics: the rhythmic Ant-Man ostinato, and the more heroic Ant-Man fanfare. I have always appreciated how these two elements of the theme can play both together and separately, and I especially like how much Beck uses the Ant-Man Ostinato to subliminally underpin a lot of the film’s tension and drama here; it is everywhere in the score, sometimes little more than a hidden pulse, but it helps keep the thematic identity of the music in check. Where the “Theme from Quantumania” differs from other Ant-Man themes is in its more extensive use of elaborate bubbling electronic textures, which allude to the alien setting of the film and give it a vibrant and modern edge, as well as some fanciful orchestral adornments for darting woodwinds that give it an effervescent, lively feel.

The lyrical, magical sounds of “We Should Be Dead” give the protagonists’ first entry into the quantum realm a sense of wonderment, and introduces the slow ascending theme for Axia, before heading off into some dangerous-sounding electro-acoustic textures that hint at the perils that lie ahead. Later, “Skies of Axia” takes this theme to the next level with a huge brass statement that accompanies the wondrous establishing shots of the locale – a mass of skyscrapers, teeming with life and bustling with energy.

The theme for Kang – a bank of incessant drums and raging, howling electronics – is introduced in “What Is This Place,” a cue that underscores the flashback scene where Kang and Michelle Pfeiffer’s character Janet Van Dyne meet for the first time. “The Hunter” then offers the first appearance of the related theme for the MODOK character, a genetically-enhanced super-weapon subservient to Kang, whose ominous presence is usually accompanied by a screaming, intentionally obnoxious electronic texture and an array of cacophonous drums. These two themes for the primary antagonists anchor a great deal of the score’s middle section as the stakes are raised and the heroes learn about the history of Axia and how its people were subjugated; cues like “Fifty Shades of Kang” and “The Conqueror” are especially notable in this regard. Also interesting is the fact that the former of these also incorporates some quieter moments where Kang’s music cleverly combines with the ‘legacy wasp’ theme related to Janet.

The aforementioned “What Is This Place” cue is also the first of several powerful sequences featuring Beck’s rousing action music; intense string ostinatos, low brass, complicated percussion patterns. Several of the subsequent ones stand out too, many of which offer especially notable performances of the hero themes. There is a fantastic statement of Hope’s Wasp theme around the 2:50 mark of “The Hunter” that is supremely satisfying. The scampering, pizzicato ‘ant’ textures that have featured in each of the scores to date appear throughout the unusual, sometimes quite abstract, “Quantum Nexus”. There are some excellent outbursts of brassy grandeur in “Sting Operation,” there’s a wonderfully stately and soaring performance of the Ant-Man theme in “Honey, I Shrunk the Energy Core,” and then there are some dramatic, aspirational crescendos in “Look Out for the Little Guy” that allow Cassie’s call to arms – inspiring the citizens of Axia to rise up and overthrow Kang – to have real weight and dramatic import.

The last twenty minutes or so of the score – from “He’s Kang, He Saw, He Conquered” through to the end of “Don’t Let Go” – is essentially one extended action extravaganza, underscoring the uprising against Kang, and the battle between Ant-Man and his allies, and Kang and MODOK and their faceless minions. All the score’s main themes come into play here – both the main Ant-Man theme and the Ant-Man ostinato, the Wasp theme, Kang’s theme, MODOK’s theme, and probably some others that I’m overlooking – in a variety of settings and impressive action arrangements that mirror the narrative flow of the story and offer some interesting contrapuntal thematic combinations, as different characters face off against each other at different times. There are immense orchestral forces in play here, and Beck often combines them with electronics and a choir to enhance the scale even further.

There are some superb, complicated string runs all the way through “Sting Low, Sweet Variant,” which often combine with bold and heroic brass phrases and notably outstanding statements of the Wasp theme. The trumpet writing in the grandiose “Alien Ant Harm” is notably sensational. The mano-a-mano confrontation in “Lang vs. Kang” pits the growling, dissonant Kang theme against Ant-Man’s theme and is at times quite brutally effective, and then “Don’t Let Go” offers soaring, emotional statements of both the Ant-Man theme and the Wasp theme filled with relief and pathos. It’s all terrifically exciting and entertaining. There’s even an unexpected moment of emotional catharsis in “Threnody for a Reformed Dick,” which is somewhat played for laughs in context, but is actually a surprisingly beautiful elegy for a formerly evil character who is redeemed and gets to go out in a blaze of glory and die a heroic death.

The conclusive “Hymenoptera” features a rolling, classical piano solo underpinning a jazzy but unexpectedly dramatic variation of the Ant-Man theme, which ends the score on a thoughtful and anticipatory note. The one oddity is the bonus track tacked on at the end, “Holes,” which is a piece of amusing beat poetry performed by actor David Dastmalchian in character as Veb, a slime-like creature that lives in the quantum realm and has an obsession with human orifices. It’s funny, but it shouldn’t have been on the album.

Overall, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is an engaging score that will make fans of superior Marvel superhero scores very happy indeed. The intelligent use of the legacy Ant Man and Wasp themes in combination with the new themes for Kang and MODOK is well-balanced, and the scope and range of the action material is energetic and entertaining. Beck’s use of orchestra, choir, and electronics is generally excellent, and there are numerous highlight moments of heroism and grandeur that are very satisfying. For the third time, Christophe Beck’s music for Ant-Man hits the sweet spot, and for me this sub-franchise within the Marvel universe remains among its musical best.

Buy the Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Theme from Quantumania (2:33)
  • We Should Be Dead (2:21)
  • What Is This Place? (1:48)
  • Skies of Axia (2:44)
  • The Hunter (4:24)
  • Fifty Shades of Kang (3:23)
  • Quantum Nexus (3:16)
  • The Conqueror (6:17)
  • Through the Storm (3:14)
  • Sting Operation (2:17)
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Energy Core (3:02)
  • Look Out for the Little Guy (2:11)
  • He’s Kang, He Saw, He Conquered (1:23)
  • Sting Low, Sweet Variant (3:41)
  • Like Father Like Daughter (1:09)
  • Kang Bang (3:19)
  • Alien Ant Harm (2:29)
  • Threnody for a Reformed Dick (2:21)
  • Lang vs. Kang (2:49)
  • Don’t Let Go (2:17)
  • Hymenoptera (2:32)
  • Holes (featuring David Dastmalchian) (0:44)

Running Time: 60 minutes 14 seconds

Hollywood Records/Marvel Music (2023)

Music composed by Christophe Beck. Conducted by Tim Davies and Anthony Weeden. Orchestrations by Tim Davies, Jeremy Levy, Jordan Siegel, Lorenzo Carrano and Ryan Humphrey. Additional music by Michael Paraskevas and Carlos Garcia. Recorded and mixed by Casey Stone. Edited by Stephanie McNally and Gordon Fordyce. Album produced by Christophe Beck.

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