After spending the last two blog posts talking about Marvel’s Phase 4 movies, I finally managed to get out and see the first movie to kick off Phase 5: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. While the Phase 4 movies and shows gave us glimpses of where (when?) we might be heading… it is here that the big storyline for the MCU really kicks into gear.
It’s an interesting choice to use an Ant-Man movie for this purpose as the first and second movies were really elaborate “caper” movies. They played things more for the laughs. And yes, while Marvel movies love their comedy bits, I feel like the Ant-Man movies lean into the full comedy with a touch of science fiction. So if you were to tell me which Marvel character would be best suited to provide us with Kang the Conqueror, I would have probably leaned more toward a Thor movie or Guardians of the Galaxy or even The Eternals (if you had to). In the comics, Kang is traditionally a full Avengers team opponent, so no matter who had first contact with him, it should potentially leave us with the idea of “We’re going to need the whole Avengers team to deal with this.”
Ant-Man 3 then has to really pivot from those first two movies. The sidekick friends are missing from the film to instead focus on the surrogate Pym/Lang family which has developed in the time since End Game. Really, there is no opportunity to spend much time with anyone else, as we quickly find our heroes all trapped in the Quantum Realm doing their best to navigate this alien world and find their way back to each other.
All the while, the threat of Kang the Conqueror hangs over them (and the world).
This is very much a superhero movie with BIG STAKES.
Michelle Pfiefer’s Janet Pym is effectively a co-lead within the movie. She is the only one of the five who has any real idea of what might be in store within this world, and therefore literally takes the lead trying to reunite the family and find a way home. Which works well for the most part… however, her character does the trope of not telling her family about Kang and the danger he represents for nearly half the movie. This isn’t a case of a story where maybe the character with “knowledge” doesn’t know whether she can trust the people she is with… no, she’s with her husband and daughter. But instead of taking ten minutes to let them in on the big problem they have, she instead dodges the question.
Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man also gets to play the big hero in this movie. It’s another place where you can really see where this character has started back in Ant-Man 1, and where he’s ended up. He’s someone who is content to not play hero. He’s someone who lost 5 years with his daughter. Someone who also was directly responsible for saving everyone who were Blipped. He’s an Avenger. And while they play that bit for laughs, with that designation, he’s someone who has to help others (or, at least he should).
I really liked the various alien creatures ont he world. Many of them had very cool and unique looks to them that I almost wondered what a Quantum Realm tv show should look like. There was an oddity to some (much) of it and while many of those characters offered some humor, for the most part I thought it worked.
However, what didn’t work for me was MODOK. Without getting to in the weeds (and spoilery), MODOK is a character that comes off as a complete joke. Everything is played for laughs, which makes little to no sense considering he is a Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing. Leading up to his appearance he is called the Hunter. Someone who is not only dangerous, but is basically death for those who encounter him.
Yet, that is never shown. Instead it is one character making fun of him after the next. There is a never a moment I really feel like he should be taken seriously. And while I’m not a big fan of the character in the comics, there might have been a way to do him justice… this wasn’t it.
So does this work as the launch of Phase 5? Does this movie start the ball rolling for the Kang saga?
Yes. I think that Kang is shown as a very credible threat. Someone who is not only powerful, but he’s powerful on a scale completely different from Thanos. Where Thanos sought to change the fundamental nature of the universe, Kang is someone who snuffs out timelines. He arrives and he conquers. Because that is who he is. It isn’t for some misguided attempt at a noble reason. It is because he can.
And that is someone who the Avengers (and Fantastic Four and maybe the X-Men) will need to be brought back together to stop.
John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.
He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!
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His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.
He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com