Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania review: A wrestler's entrance for MCU's new big baddie

The film is a vehicle to introduce Kang the Conqueror, the bad guy in phase five of the MCU

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Despite all his contributions to the Avengers and his role in saving the world from Thanos’s genocidal bend, Ant-Man’s own films have been largely trivial in the grand scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The villains and storylines of Ant-Man (2015) and Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) have been essentially insular, with fewer repercussions to the broader MCU when compared to the films of his peers in the Avengers.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For all the delights and excesses that come with tying together several plot lines across a menagerie of feature films and TV shows, the first two Ant-Man films presented a comic relief and goofiness that was a respite from the crocheted stories of the MCU.

Some of that light-heartedness is sacrificed in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. The film retains some of that awkward, quippy comedy that Paul Rudd is known for, but in making the latest Ant-Man offering more significant to Marvel’s gameplan for the next year, the humour has been pruned to serve the blockbuster engine.

Michelle Pfeiffer reprises her role as Janet van Dyne in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Photo: Disney / Marvel Studios

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania signals the start of the fifth phase of the MCU. The story begins when the family of microscopic heroes — which include Scott Lang (Rudd), Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) — get unwillingly sucked into the Quantum Realm. This minute universe within ours is rendered with breathtaking splendour, comparable to James Cameron’s Pandora in Avatar. The Quantum Realm has its own indigenous flora and fauna, from tardigrades and mammoth-sized single-cell organisms to entire civilisations with their own customs and political allegiances.

However, the deeper we venture into the story, and the Quantum Realm, it becomes clear that the film is less about Ant-Man, than it is a vehicle to introduce the big baddie of phase five of the MCU: Kang the Conqueror.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the first film to feature the Marvel Cinematic Universe's new big villain: Kang the Conqueror, played by Jonathan Majors. Photo: Disney / Marvel Studios via AP

Though Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania marks the debut of Kang, we first saw Jonathan Majors take up the character — or, at least, a variant of him — in the series Loki. There Kang went by He Who Remains, the secret head of the Time Variance Authority, or TVA. He was the villain in Loki, but as it turns out, he was a more benevolent version of Kang and aimed to ensure a single timeline to keep other versions of himself from appearing.

The death of He Who Remains at the end of Loki marked the splintering of one timeline and another start to the multiverse.

It is from this act that the Kang in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania springs. Exiled by unknown forces into the Quantum Realm, Kang’s first encounter was with Janet van Dyne while she herself was trapped in the minute universe.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Director: Peyton Reed

Stars: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors

Rating: 2/5

As we learn from the beginning of the film, Janet has been largely guarded about her experiences in the Quantum Realm when she was stranded for 30 years, but as she and her family are forcibly pulled back in, she has little choice but to delve into those details.

Despite strong performances by the main cast, particularly from Pfeiffer and Majors, it is the supporting characters that put the breath of life in the show. There is a wonderful cameo by Bill Murray, who takes on the role of Lord Kylar that fits snugly in his catalogue of eccentric characters. The Good Place actor William Jackson Harper gives a gleeful performance as the telepath Quaz. But the most surprising and humorous is, perhaps, Corey Stoll’s return. Not so much as Darren Cross, the cruel businessman who dons the Yellowjacket suit in the first Ant-Man, but as a deranged remanant of his former self, a giant bob-head like figure known as Modok, who will be a familiar face for those who have seen the eponymous 2021 animated series.

The fight scenes are spectacular, although a smidge shyer than the MCU’s more epic blockbuster offerings, including Avengers: Infinity Wars. But for those who recall the warnings He Who Remains gave in Loki (or even simply take a look at the titles the MCU has slated for the next year), it becomes quite clear how the film will end even before it begins.

In Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Kang the Conqueror is one of the variants that He Who Remains wanted to stifle out of existence, warning of the mayhem that would ensue if his more belligerent counterparts were allowed to exist. Whether or not Ant-Man and Wasp manage to defeat him by the end of the film, it is already clear from the beginning that there will be more Kangs to reckon with, as Majors is already confirmed to reprise the role in Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars.

As such, the stakes are not so high in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. If it isn’t this Kang that will break out of the Quantum Realm, there will be others to fight — a whole council of them, in fact. Don’t let the film’s title deceive you, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a prelude to the saga of Kang, served in excessive MCU-fashion to hype up the year ahead.

Updated: February 16, 2023, 6:32 AM
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Director: Peyton Reed

Stars: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors

Rating: 2/5