Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania sees Marvel go full Rick & Morty
Paul Rudd returns as the MCU's smallest Avenger (or, sometimes, the biggest) this weekend.
Before Avengers: Infinity War, there were some questions around the validity of the threat of Thanos within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That purple guy who mostly just sat in his throne and made vague threats about wanting to own a golden glove? How much trouble could he really be? As we all know now, Thanos ended up being one of the best and most memorable blockbuster villains of recent years, and his defeat in Avengers: Endgame did create something of a power vacuum.
Between the events of Loki and now Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Marvel are setting up Kang The Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) as that next Thanos-level threat. Where the purple guy wanted to wipe out half of all life in the universe for what he believed to be the greater good, Kang intends on destroying entire timelines and alternate realities across the Multiverse that do not align with his personal preferences, resulting in trillions or quadrillions or some really high number of deaths. Not even deaths, simply no longer existing, because he has decided they aren't worth being a part of reality in the first place.
It is quite the threat, and quite the jump for the Avenger who previously had to deal with a crooked businessman (in the first movie), and a misunderstood victim of a science accident (in the second movie). Quantumania gets right to business too, quickly reintroducing us to Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), his partner Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), and Hope's father Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and mother Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer).
With the opening credits barely over, they're all dumped into the Quantum Realm, having been brought there by Kang, who has been left imprisoned there for decades by Janet after she discovered his plans for mass destruction. Along the way we'll meet some other characters, good and bad - played by the likes of Bill Murray, William Jackson Harper, Katy O'Brian and Corey Stoll - but they're all there as part of The Kang Show, to constantly remind the audience that they're absolutely terrified of Kang and that we should be, too.
Once again directed by Peyton Reed, the script is provided by Jeff Loveness, who was also a regular writer for Rick & Morty, and while Reed's influence is the same light touch he brought to the first two movies, the plot has Loveness' fingerprints all over it. Anyone who is familiar with the one overarching plot of Rick & Morty will know that across the infinite timelines, Rick is the one man who is all-seeing, all-knowing, all-creating, all-destroying, changing the courses of time and reality on a whim, and with Quantumania, that plot has basically swapped out Rick for Kang.
Even parts of the Quantum Realm has some visual similarities to some of the worlds from that animated comedy, including gloopy background characters and buildings that are actually alive. None of that is bad, but it sometimes grinds hard against the usually-very-affable comedic nature of the Ant-Man movies, which does work on a lower gear here, but still pops its head up to diffuse an otherwise enjoyably tense situation.
In fact, full respect to Jonathan Majors, who does help skew Kang in a new direction for the MCU. His full motivations aren't 100% revealed here, but there is enough shading added to both differentiate him from the variant we met at the end of Loki Season One, and to set-up a very interesting future for his character over the next two Phases of the Marvel movies. We already know that his story will likely culminate with 2025's Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, and we've got eight more MCU entries between now and then, but we couldn't be in safer hands thanks to Majors' magnetic performance(s).
But between now and then, let us hope they drop him into a more appropriate movie, because by pitting him against just Ant-Man, it actively feels like it undercuts his threat level, while also undercutting what we loved about the previous solo Ant-Man movies so far. Paul Rudd being a superhero is a very entertaining concept. Paul Rudd being savagely beaten by the bad guy and having the future of the world rest solely on his shoulders, not so much.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is available to watch in cinemas right now.