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Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Today I am reviewing the first film of Marvelís Phase Five: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

How does the next phase of the MCU kickoff? Hot like a fire ant or is it squashed upon arrival?

Letís take a closer look!

Also major SPOILER WARNING for anyone reading this who hasnít seen the film yet!!

The Heroes:
The film once again follows Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne as well as a new addition to the team of Scottís daughter, Cassie. Now 18 years old, Cassie has acquired her own suit and is looking to follow in her fatherís footsteps.

The Heroís Journey:
Since the events of Avengers: Endgame, Scott Lang has become a successful author with the release of his book Look Out For The Little Guy and lives a peaceful life with his girlfriend, Hope, and daughter, Cassie. Cassie, now a teenager, has become an activist which lands her in jail. After bailing her out, her and Scott visit Hopeís parents Hank and Janet. During this visit, Cassie reveals she has created a device that can communicate with the Quantum Realm. Janet panics upon hearing this and tries to shut down the device but they all end up getting transported to the Quantum Realm and separated. Scott and Cassie are found by locals while Hope, Hank, and Janet make their way through the realm in search of help and answers, while Janet herself has her own secrets.

Throughout the film, Scott and Cassie are at odds with each other over when to fight and not to fight. Cassieís activist mindset makes her want to help out anyone who needs help while Scott argues not to get involved when it isnít their fight. Cassie even calls on him to match the title of his book and fight for the little guy. When they come upon the locals, Cassieís first instinct is to help them in their rebellion, while Scott is more concerned about getting themselves home and keeping Cassie safe. They are attacked by M.O.D.O.K. who is revealed to be Scottís former rival, Darren Cross, and taken to Kang.

Meanwhile, Janet, Hope, and Hank traverse the Quantum Realm looking for someone who can help them track Scott and Cassie. They encounter an old friend who reveals to Hope and Hank that Janet is hiding something from them about her time in the Quantum Realm. They are ambushed by Kangís forces but are able to escape. Janet finally confesses her secret to Hope and Hank and tells them about her encounter with Kang and how she unintentionally caused his uprising and eventual conquest of the Quantum Realm.
Now in Kangís custody, Scott is given an ultimatum by Kang to either help him retrieve the power core he needs to escape the Quantum Realm or he will kill Cassie. In a scene that I will go into further later, is forced by Kang to choose between his daughter or the rest of the universe and while it is a tough decision to make, he ultimately chooses his daughter. Since the first film, Scottís driving force in everything he does is his daughter and even now that she is older and packing her own Ant suit, he is still a protective father. While he doesnít want to help Kang, he knows he has no other option.

Scott nearly loses his mind in completing the mission but with help from Cassie and Hope, he is able to retrieve the power core. However, Kang reneges on the deal and captures Janet, and nearly kills Hank. With help from the local rebels, Cassieís inspiring activism, unexpected help from M.O.D.O.K., and some intelligent ants, Scott and Hope launch a full-scale attack on Kangís fortress and stop him from escaping the Quantum Realm. In the end, Scott and Hope defeat Kang, and the family returns home.

The film ends with Scott reflecting on the weirdness that is his life but he has learned to embrace the weirdness. However, that moment of self-reflection is interrupted when Scott starts to ponder the consequences of Kangís death as he had been warned by Kang and wonders if his actions have put the universe in far more danger. But then he nonchalantly brushes it off and walks along and goes out to celebrate with his family.

While the ending is the typical happy ending, that moment of doubt and fear is a nice detail that reminded me of the angst that Tony Stark carried with him after the battle in New York in the Avengers. I am interested to see if these fears will affect Scott Lang in a similar fashion. Scott Lang ends the film as having accepted his odd life and embracing the love of his newfound family while also being cautious about what future danger may be lurking.

The Villain:
Kang the Conqueror was first introduced in the first season of Loki as He Who Remains.
He is an alternate-timeline variant of He Who Remains who discovered the existence of the Multiverse and his alternative selves. He started the Multiversal War seeking to conquer as many worlds as possible. He was ultimately defeated by the Council of Kangs and banished to the Quantum Realm.

While in the Quantum Realm, he met and befriended Janet van Dyne and the two attempted to rebuild his Time Chair to escape. They are almost successful until Janet betrays him upon discovering his evil plans. She used Pym technology to enlarge his Multiversal Power Core beyond use and kept him trapped in the Quantum Realm. During that time, Kang conquered the Quantum Realm and built an empire.

Now he seeks to retrieve his power core and escape the Quantum Realm and fulfill his destiny as a conqueror.

The Filmís Pros:
Jonathan Majors as Kang
With the hype behind Kang as the new universal threat to the MCU, Jonathan Majors delivers on all fronts. This is not Majorsí first MCU appearance as he debuted in the season finale of Loki, and his performance as He Who Remains was also very good but also very different from Kang. His character in Loki alludes to the existence of other and more dangerous variants of himself, setting the stage for the likes of Kang to emerge.

Majors has been given a huge task of having to portray different variants of the same character which means he has to add a different edge to each variant for them to stand out. As He Who Remains, Majors was more humorous and boastful yet still seemed like someone to be taken seriously. As Kang, Majors plays a much more ruthless and threatening presence. When we see him with Janet in flashbacks, Kang at first seems likable and sympathetic. He shows empathy to Janet given their situation and makes a promise to her to help her escape the Quantum Realm and return her to her daughter, Hope. On the surface, he seems like a well-meaning person. But when Janet learns the truth about Kang and his plans, he becomes more cold and ruthless. He is driven by the fact that he can see what is going to happen and sees it as his destiny to be a conqueror, no matter whose lives he destroys in the process. He sees those he destroys as a means to an end, similar to Thanos. However, unlike Thanos, he doesnít do what he does because he thinks it is what is best for the universe, he does it because he is driven by anger and rage against those who wish to stop him from achieving his destiny. While at times he can be calm and collected, his true colors show when he lets his temper and rage out when he does not get his way which makes for an intimidating and threatening villain.

Kang establishes himself as a great threat in his first encounter with Scott Lang. At first, he is calm and collected and tries to appeal to Scottís desire to return home. But when Scott resists his demands, he unleashes his ruthless side and threatens Scott to either give him what he wants or he will kill Cassie and make Scott relive it over and over again. Watching this scene gave me chills and showed me right away that this guy meant business. This level of cruelty and ruthlessness perfectly establishes that Kang is a threat to be taken seriously and it shows if he is capable of this, that you do not wish to know what else he is capable of.

Majorsí performance as Kang is excellent because he comes across as cold, calculated, and intimidating. For a universal villain to follow Thanos, there is a lot of pressure to create a character that can add a different kind of threat to the Avengers and Kang has proven in this outing that he is ready to take on that challenge and be that threat. With another season of Loki set to come out this year along with Avengers: The Kang Dynasty scheduled for 2025, Kang is a presence that I welcome to the MCU and look forward to seeing in the future projects to come.

Michelle Pfiefferís Performance
Having only returned at the end of the last Antman film, Michelle Pfieffer was not given as much screen time. This time around, she takes full advantage of the time she has on screen. Given the time she had spent trapped in the Quantum Realm, it makes sense for Janet to know her way around. The film shows early on that Janet has been affected by her time in the Quantum Realm and her reaction when Cassie reveals her device shows that it still triggers her. When Cassie reveals her device can contact the Quantum Realm, Janet is the first one to object and demand they shut it down.

Pfiefferís performance is great as she captures a person who has experienced a lot of traumas and carries a lot of guilt with her while also not letting anyone know what she is thinking or feeling. One of the best scenes in the film is where she is recounting her experience with Kang and why it left her feeling great guilt and fear. I grew more attached to her as the film progressed and at many times feared for her well-being. I was very convinced that she was going to be killed off trying to stop Kang but thankfully they didnít go that route.

Michelle Pfieffer as Janet van Dyne has established herself as a solid character has gone from being the long-lost mother to a valuable member of the MCU and one that I look forward to seeing in future films.

Big Film Feel
Quantumania feels like the first Marvel film since Spider-Man: No Way Home where not only the fate of the heroís world but the entire MCU is at stake. The biggest criticism of Phase Four was that the MCU didnít feel like it was leading in a clear direction as it had with the Infinity Saga. After Kangís introduction in Loki, I was hoping that the Multiversal War would get more attention in other films but it really didnít. Films like Thor: Love and Thunder, Black Widow, Eternals, and Shang-Chi felt like self-contained stories rather than pieces of a bigger picture taking form. While the Multiverse was a major factor in films like No Way Home and Multiverse of Madness, even those films still felt self-contained and not as big pieces that would have a ripple effect on the entire Marvel universe.

Another key part that makes this film a bigger feel is that it does a great job of establishing the Quantum Realm as its own world. While the previous films have mentioned the Quantum Realm and given us a small glimpse, this film explores the Quantum Realm further and reveals a world within our universe that is so small that we cannot even see it. That concept is very intriguing and they do a good job of making the world feel like something out of the MCUís regular world.

While a lot of elements of the Quantum Realm arenít entirely original and feel like settings that I have seen in the likes of Star Wars, the film gives small touches that still make the world feel unique. One concept I found hilariously clever is when Scott and Cassie are captured by locals and forced to drink an unknown ooze. One would think the ooze is some type of poison but once Scott finally drinks it, he learns that the ooze helps him to understand and communicate with the locals. Itís a small touch that makes for solid world-building and a funny punchline. Having the buildings be living creatures is also a clever and humorous touch that makes the Quantum Realm feel more alive.

With Kang being introduced and establishing himself immediately as a threat, Quantumania feels like the real starting point for the Multiversal Saga. The world itself felt alive and is a fun addition to the MCU. Both made this film feel bigger and more fun. At the end of this film, I had that feeling that I had not felt since before Endgame that something grander was on the horizon.

The Filmís Cons:
Confusing for Newcomers
While I thoroughly enjoyed this film, I also see how the MCU is continuing in a direction where it is becoming harder for newcomers to jump on board. Whereas with the first Avengers film, even if one had not seen Iron Man, Thor, or Captain America beforehand, the story was still simple enough for common moviegoers to follow and the characters were intriguing enough to make them want to come back for more and also go back and check out what they missed.

However, with every new MCU installment, I see more instances where the Multiverse plot has common moviegoers confused and the only way for them to get clarity is to go back and watch either a previous film or one of the series on Disney+. For many, the MCU has become too much for them to keep up with because of the number of shows and films being released each year. Quantumania is sadly another film that can leave one confused with the plot if they have not seen any of the previous Antman films and the Disney+ series, Loki.

Going into this film, I made sure to show my girlfriend Loki beforehand so she would have an understanding of Kang and his backstory. After watching Quantumania, both my girlfriend and my roommate agreed that watching Loki did help them to follow and enjoy the film more.
So my big recommendation to anyone who hasnít seen this film yet is to make sure to at least watch Loki before seeing this not only will help you enjoy the film more but Loki is also a great show featuring one of the MCUís most beloved antagonists and is worth watching on its own merit.

But if oneís enjoyment of a film is based around having to watch another film or property in order for them to get the full experience, that is a problem that can severely damper one's enjoyment of what is a very good film. I hope Marvel sees the issue arising and does some proper course correction with their future films.

Not Enough of the Wasp
Despite being titled Antman and the Wasp, The Wasp aka Hope van Dyneís presence feels overshadowed by everyone else. Given that this film has to establish a new villain in Kang, a new hero in Cassie Lang, and incorporate the backstory of Janet into the plot, among other things, someone was bound to get lost in the shuffle and sadly it was The Wasp.

While Hope is given plenty of screen time with her parents, the focus of those scenes is on Janet and we see merely Hopeís reaction to her mother rather than her adding anything that moves the plot forward. She does play a bigger role in the final third of the film by helping Scott from nearly losing his mind, and also coming back to help him defeat Kang. However, for the first two-thirds of the film, she feels like more a supporting role rather than an equal to Antman. Itís a real shame because Evangeline Lily is great at the role and her presence in the previous film was a great example of Marvel creating an empowering female hero organically.

I like to chalk it up to her having to share the spotlight with her mother and hopefully, she will get more time to shine in future films.

Final Thoughts:
With an amazing villain, a solid world for our heroes to traverse, and more stakes, Quantumania kicks off the next phase of Marvel with another fun film packed with humor and action.

Thankfully, unlike Thor: Love and Thunder, the humor is balanced great and doesnít get in the way of the plot. Jonathan Majors makes a huge impact in his arrival into the MCU in this film and has created a new universal threat that I am looking forward to seeing more of as this Phase continues. The film also has the big feel that has sorely been missed in the MCU since Spider-Man: No Way Home. It creates a world that is fun to be in and has enough stakes to keep viewers invested and wanting to see how it turns out. Although the end seems the standard superhero happy ending, the mid and post-credits prove that things are only just getting started.

Although the film suffers from the recent MCU trend of being too tied down to the rest of the MCU properties that could be potentially alienating to newcomers. However, this is still a film that I do highly recommend but I also must recommend that you watch the Disney+ series, Loki to get the full experience. In his third installment, Antman comes in hot like a fire ant and kicks off the next Phase in a very fun way.