Marvel’s got to impress audiences with Phase 5, and Empire is helping them come out swinging with some very cool stuff: exclusive images and tantalizing information on the first pair of films from the new chapter of the MCU. (You can see some info on Adam Warlock from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 here.) The centerpiece is next month’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which begins Phase 5 with an inter-dimensional trip to the Quantum Realm and the introduction of the new evil overlord, Kang the Conqueror (unless you count Loki, but that’s just being mean).
Kang is highlighted first, with an image and some quotes from Kevin Feige about where we’ll find the longstanding Marvel villain, whom Empire clarifies is “trapped in the Quantum Realm, ” in Quantumania:
“He is the obvious choice as you’re dealing with the Multiverse… Kang allowed us to do a new kind of Big Bad. He’s a different type of villain, warring amongst themselves as much as he’s warring with our heroes… Kang’s a very powerful person, but when we meet him he’s in a position where he needs to get that power back… He has a ship and a device that would allow him to go anywhere, and anywhen he wants if he can get it online. If only he had access to genius scientists with Pym particles.”
Having multiple versions of Kang at war with each other is interesting and would set him apart from Thanos and other MCU villains. Presumably, there’ll have to be a “Kang Prime” so we can have some focus, but having that Kang face different versions of himself in his quest for power would be a neat way of replicating what they did with Thanos in Infinity War – casting him as one of the protagonists along with the heroes like Thanos, but giving him a unique journey instead of collecting more MacGuffins.
Jonathan Majors, the actor who plays Kang, also gave some insight into the type of villain the Marvel heroes will be facing in Phase 5:
“I met with the Loki team first. Then Peyton came on and we had our chat for the film… He gave me a few reference points – Alexander The Great, things like that… Kang adds tonal diversity, real conflict and real friction… You’re being introduced to a new vibration in the MCU. There’s conflict – not just mano-a-mano, not just hero and villain, but ‘your way of life’ and ‘my way of life’. I’m coming for it. We’re in battle here.”
This sounds great, too, and, again, sets him apart from his MCU forebears. Kang sounds like he’ll be living up to his “conqueror” moniker if they’re invoking figures like Alexander the Great. I also like the philosophical conflict Majors is teasing. That was part of what made Thanos so fascinating; he was ideologically opposed to the Avengers, committed to imposing his will on the universe because he was convinced he knew better. The final battle was as much about the individualist vs. the collectivist or the common man vs. the self-appointed expert (and how relevant has that become since Endgame’s theatrical run?) as it was the good guys vs. the bad guy. (“Yup, we’re all kinds of stubborn.”) What will Kang’s philosophy be? I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out when he makes his big-screen debut.
Feige then talked about the significance of beginning Phase 5 with an Ant-Man movie:
“We wanted to kick off Phase Five with Ant-Man because he’d earned that position… To not simply be the back-up or the comic relief, but to take his position at the front of the podium of the MCU.”
That’s fair. Marvel doesn’t have as many quivers in its arrow as it once did, and with the biggest remaining guns – Spider-Man, Thor, and Doctor Strange – making their post-Endgame returns during Season 4, Ant-Man is who was left. I wonder if this is a bit of an olive branch to people who are getting tired of the all-new, all-different stuff, like they’re acknowledging that the older characters are still good and popular. There have been a couple of reshufflings, so who knows if Quantumania was always intended to be the start of Phase 5? But unless there was massive restructuring, it was probably intended to be Kang’s debut, so it would have been big no matter what.
Jeff Loveness, writer of Quantumania and Avengers: The Kang Dynasty (as well as some outstanding Rick and Morty episodes – and the dragon one, to be fair), talked a bit about why they decided to up the ante so drastically from the previous Ant-Man movies:
“The first discussion we had was, ‘What if Ant-Man is accidentally in an Avengers movie by himself?’”
Director Peyton Reed further explained:
“We’re not running around the streets of San Francisco anymore. We’re fighting one of the most powerful villains in Marvel history, and maybe these are the most unlikely Avengers to be the first to go up against this guy.”
It’s very cool in that way; take the guy who’s almost a joke, who had to remind Captain America and Black Widow of who he was in Endgame, and put him against a villain so out of his league that he requires the Avengers to stand a chance against him. That brings instant stakes to Quantumania and makes Phase 5 seem important right away, as opposed to the meandering, unfocused Phase 4, which had to invent an overarching theme on the fly to try to convince audiences it wasn’t a mess. (It didn’t work.) Having Scott Lang be the first guy to face Kang instills a sense of hopelessness in the battle against the new mega-villain just in terms of the contrast between the two.
Next up is an exclusive image of Quaz, a character played by William Jackson Harper:
Empire says that Marvel is keeping Quaz a mystery, which is leading fans to speculate that he could be an established character ready to make his MCU debut, the most prominent guess being Reed Richards. I don’t think that’s likely. They’re playing around with names like Adam Driver for Reed; it would be a little anticlimactic to say, “Nevermind, we’re going with the nerdy guy from that show with Veronica Mars and Sam Malone that maybe three people remember.” Just the fact that they’re testing Driver and other actors means he can’t be Reed, anyway. So, there’s not a lot here outside of the picture.
Finally, Empire has an exclusive image of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet Van Dyne in, presumably, the Quantum Realm, and some quotes about her role in the film and what the alternate universe will look like on-screen.
Jeff Loveness makes a bold comparison:
“It’s a fun place… It’s a limitless place of creation and diversity and alien life… It’s Jodorowsky’s Dune within Marvel.”
Loveness is referring to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed attempt to adapt Dune in the 70s, the concept art from which is ambitious and imaginative. I’ve certainly liked everything I’ve seen in the trailers; some have been saying that it looks the same as every other Marvel movie, but I disagree. I don’t see how this looks like Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor, or any of the other cosmic stuff.
As far as Janet goes, Pfeiffer gave some insight into where the bug family matriarch is and where she has been:
“She does have a very rich history with Kang, and unresolved issues… The Quantum Realm can change a person, and you can have a whole other life down there. It’s something that she hasn’t wanted to get into.”
And Kevin Feige added:
“It’s about how these five family members deal with this environment and the new reality of what their mother/grandmother has been through, and that she’s a very, very well-known, very powerful freedom fighter in the Quantum Realm. Which none of them had any idea about until they get down there.”
I’m hoping Janet will have a big part in this one. As much as I like Scott and Hope in the movies, they kind of leapfrogged over her and Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man and the Wasp. Hank has at least gotten to play a big role in the previous two films, but Janet was off-screen until the end of the second one. Recounting her time in the Quantum Realm and giving her insight into Kang and his plans is a good way to bring her to the forefront and make up for lost time.
This all sounds great, and I’m hopeful for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. I don’t think I’ve been in a rush to see a Marvel movie since Spider-Man: No Way Home, and I had a lot of fears about that one (which turned out to be unwarranted, thankfully), but I’ll be there opening night for this one.
Thanks again to Empire for the images and quotes!