By George Bate & Josh Reilly B.
Flashback to 2015 with the first Ant-Man movie. Scott Lang is released from prison, picked up in his friend’s truck (with that hilarious horn), and he tries to lead a life free of crime for the sake of his young daughter Cassie. Eventually, after being fired from his job at Baskin Robbins, Scott goes back to a life of crime as he tries to rob a vault in a San Francisco home.
Flash forward eight years and Scott has saved the world from Thanos, fought aliens, and now finds himself trapped in the sprawling Quantum Realm full of unusual creatures and strange environments. It’s clear – with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the Ant-Man franchise has grown leaps and bounds from its humble, heist film roots. But, despite growing in stature, the latest Ant-Man film hasn’t lost its sense of fun, witty sense of humor, or the touching father-daughter relationship at the series’ core.
The 31st (!!!) Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania follows Scott Lang (played once again by the one and only Paul Rudd) in the aftermath of the events of Avengers: Endgame. Scott has become an Avenger and, with this association, become a celebrity, one who is recognized on the street, gets his coffee for free, and even has his own autobiography on sale. Enjoyment of this new life is fleeting, however, when an experiment with Quantum Realm technology sees Scott, his daughter Cassie (now played by Kathryn Newton, taking over the role from Abby Ryder Fortson in the previous Ant-Man films and Emma Fuhrmann in Avengers: Endgame), his girlfriend Hope (played by Evangeline Lily), and her parents Hank and Janet (played by Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer respectively) trapped in this miniscule, subatomic universe that is far bigger and more dangerous than one could ever expect.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania marks the start of the MCU’s Phase 5 and a continuation of the Multiverse Saga that started with Phase 4. While the post-Avengers: Endgame era has had plenty of engaging stories, from Moon Knight to Spider-Man: No Way Home to Loki, Phase 4 lacked a sense of cohesion, a change from the franchise’s previous, interconnected phases. This speaks to a larger debate related to the MCU regarding the balance between contained and interconnected stories. Phase 4 included a slew of entertaining and emotionally rich contained stories, but it was difficult to get a firm grasp on where this mew saga was heading, unlike the Infinity Saga, which was clearly converging on Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. With Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, it seems the MCU is starting its latest phase on the right foot – crafting a film that works as a standalone adventure, while also serving as a small piece of a larger story. And it’s when the MCU embraces its serialized television type of storytelling, while still tending to the quality and entertainment of a given film or episode, as evidenced in this latest project, that the franchise has excelled the most.
In this sense, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania isn’t labored by attempts setting up subsequent films and villains, but, instead, enhanced by its balance of contained and serialized storytelling. Peyton Reed’s film unfolds like a Star Wars film, filled with wild creatures, colorful production design, and even a cantina scene. Reed, who previously directed two episodes of The Mandalorian, clearly embraces the Star Wars influences here, which makes for an Ant-Man feature that is firmly situated in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, unlike the previous films’ focus on its low-level heist elements. And, like a Star Wars film, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania propels at an extraordinary, yet never overwhelming pace from start to finish. It takes seemingly mere moments for Scott and the others to find themselves trapped in the Quantum Realm and, in turn, for the meat of the movie to kick into gear.
In being the first appearance of Scott Lang after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania also allows for an exploration of the aftermath of Endgame that feels unique and distinct from other projects. The likes of Spider-Man: Far From Home and WandaVision were grounded in themes of loss, whereas the likes of Hawkeye touched on what it was like when a person was without their family for so long and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier addressed changing roles and stepping into someone else’s shoes. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’s approach to Endgame’s aftermath is decidedly different. Scott has become a celebrity after defeating Thanos and, with this newfound status, has become a tad full of himself (going so far as to listen to his own autobiography while driving in his car). This creates for some interesting conflict between Scott and his daughter Cassie, whose incredible intelligence is only matched by an intrinsic and altruistic need to do the right thing for others.
Like its predecessors, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is firmly grounded in the father-daughter relationship between Scott and Cassie. At a recent press conference, director Peyton Reed discussed how this relationship lies at the core of the Ant-Man trilogy and how important it was to show new sides to this relationship as Cassie has aged and Scott has come out on the other side of things after Endgame. Reed and company largely succeed in this area, providing a nice arc for Scott to reevaluate his arrogance and reprioritize what’s important in life. Kathryn Newton makes for a great Cassie, naturally sliding in the role after replacing Abby Ryder Fortson and Emma Fuhrmann; although it is, at times, somewhat difficult to grasp that this is the same character who witnessed her father fight a tiny Darren Cross on her Thomas the Tank Engine train set in the first Ant-Man film.
Newton, alongside the other members of the ensemble cast, deliver in their respective roles, but make no mistake about it – Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is Jonathan Majors’ movie. Adding menace to the MCU’s new big bad, Majors doesn’t appear in the film right away. His character, Kang, isn’t even referred to by name for a long time, with many simply using his pronouns or the moniker “The Conqueror.” But when Majors eventually comes into the film, he completely takes over and makes the film his own. Majors portrays a captivating villain, one whose meticulousness, calmness, and calculated manner make for an antagonist starkly different from anything seen in the MCU to date. Indeed, Majors’ Kang is nothing like Thanos, proving to be more ominous as a man who relies on his intellect and foreknowledge over his brute strength and determination. The MCU has bolstered some fantastic casting over the years, and Majors, having made just two appearances so far, is already up there with some of the best casting in the franchise.
It’s with Majors’ Kang the Conqueror that the plot of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania drives forward. Although the story hangs together somewhat nicely with Loki, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Spider-Man: No Way Home for particularly attentive MCU fans, it does require some mental gymnastics to understand the intricacy of the multiversal story and Kang’s complicated history. Again though, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania feels like the start of a new season of television and, as such, it’s okay that everything about Kang, his motivations, and his history aren’t revealed quite yet.
Scene-stealing along with Majors is Michelle Pfeiffer, who plays a far more significant role this time around. Her character’s connection to Kang is integral to the story, and it’s nice to see unexpected characters like Janet or Sylvie (from Loki) have such large implications for the broader Multiverse Saga. Another scene-stealer is Gregg Turkington, reprising his role from the first Ant-Man film as the infamous manager of Baskin Robbins. For anyone who has seen On Cinema at the Cinema, Turkington is a comedic genius and is able to apply some of his talents to his brief appearance in this latest MCU film by providing the movie’s strongest joke.
Finally, it wouldn’t be an MCU movie without a post-credits scene or two, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania most certainly delivers on this front. To go into the nature of these scenes would obviously entail some pretty significant spoilers, but just know that the MCU’s Multiverse Saga is finally coming together in some really intriguing ways.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania starts the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 5 with a bang. Playing out like a Star Wars-esque epic space opera, the latest MCU film ameliorates some of the issues with Phase 4’s disconnectivity in providing a standalone story with plenty of intriguing connections and teases for what’s to come. Although understanding the nuances of the plot requires a bit of mental gymnastics, Quantumania overcomes these issues with its fast paced sci-fi adventure, witty sense of humor, and a true scene-stealing performance from Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror. With plenty more of Majors and Kang to come in the MCU, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania nicely lays the foundation for Phase 5 and will likely reignite viewers’ interest in the franchise.