*Please be advised that this review does contain mild spoilers.*
It’s no surprise that Disney, the same company that owns Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios, was on board with injecting its intellectual property of Star Wars references in its latest project, Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania.
The first film to kick off Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe takes us to a place that is otherworldly. Tonally the film is also less humorous than its predecessors. This time the superhero power couple Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) are navigating their lives as powerful beings just trying to fit in with the rest of society.
Scott has written a book aptly titled Look Out for the Little Guy, which is a national bestseller. His daughter Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton), has developed a brain like Lunella Lafayette and has found a new hobby in science and technology. This newfound interest in tech, leads to her attraction to the Quantum Realm — a place where Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) was stuck and was later rescued from in the sequel Ant-Man and The Wasp.
Apparently Janet knows more than she’s let on about this subatomic world, but sadly it’s too late when Cassie unleashes a portal opening to the Quantum Realm. As a result, everyone is sucked in, including Cassie, Janet, Hope, Scott, and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). It’s just a coincidence that they all happen to be in the same room when the incident takes place of course.
The story jumps off as a landing point for Janet’s origin story attached to the Quantum Realm and how it relates to her relationship with Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). And from there we learn a bit about who he is and how he came to power.
While we’re learning about Kang, he poses a threat to the group because while they are trying to get out, he wants to get out as well. And this is obviously a big problem. During this time the group is also split up, so this becomes a search and rescue mission for Scott to find his daughter Cassie.
And the idea that this takes place in a vast intergalactic world with strange new creatures feels very “Star Wars-like.” In fact, there are travel instruments and devices that look straight out of The Mandalorian at times. And while I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, the ode to the popular Disney+ series was quite cheeky.
It doesn’t stop there. Scott and some of the crew stop by at a local bar/restaurant to search for information, and the resemblance to Oga’s Cantina (whether you’re at Disneyland or Disney World) is uncanny. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the same production designers were the architects behind both structures.
Another interesting parallel I noticed was the secondary villain who appears in the film — none other than Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from the first Ant-Man film returns as an odd looking character quite different in appearance from when we first saw him. He serves as Kang’s right hand man in the story. Comic book fans who are familiar with the character of MODOK — which is an actual acronym meaning “mobile organism designed only for killing” — know exactly why he looks that way.
MODOK’s story as explained has some similar parallels to Darth Vadar aka Anakin Skywalker. And while I enjoyed the Star Wars references, at times the movie got just a bit too heavy-handed with them.
Tonally this film is different from the other Ant-Man films. A bit uneven, it feels like Jeff Loveness’ script wasn’t sure what genre this movie wanted to be. The first two Ant-Man films were straightforward with their comedy and pretty on the nose about it. However, Quantumania tries to dig in deeper to make this more of a sci-fi action film (much like Star Wars) with bits of drama. Yes, there was comedy, and Bill Murray as Lord Krylar as well as William Jackson Harper as Quaz each gave scene-stealing moments in the film, which brought the most levity and humor to the movie.
And although the film runs a bit longer than it needed to be and could have used some cutting to give it a more succinct and clear story, who carried the film and it’s overall narrative was the character of Kang the Conqueror. Jonathan Majors, who is having a stellar year already playing a new big bad villain as Kang, getting critical acclaim at Sundance with Magazine Dreams, and fans buzzing everywhere about his impending appearance in Creed III, is the reason this movie has a compelling story arc.
Kang is intimidating and frightening, yet he is disarming and seems trustworthy as well. He’s the kind of sinister villain who takes advantage of you because you opened the door, invited him for dinner, and allowed him to stay for the night. While we as fans are still learning about who Kang the Conqueror is (assuming you haven’t read the comics), at this point in the MCU he remains a mystery to all of those within his sphere of influence, even those who work for him. There is something intriguing about Kang and you just need to know more.
While there may be some disappointment from some that Kang doesn’t get enough screen time or no origin story in this film, I’m not upset about that. Especially if he is set up to be the next big bad of the MCU, which would cross over into other Marvel properties. Each film will get snippets of who Kang is and how that snippet is a direct threat to them, and eventually all of the elements of who he is will come together thematically through a series of films and Disney+ shows. At least that’s the way I envision how Kevin Feige and his team will position Kang.
Is this an extraordinary and a huge banger to kick off Phase 5? No. Is it a nice warm up of things to come to as things heat up later down the pipeline? Yes. That’s the hope at least. There are two post credit scenes at the end, and let’s just say the second end-credit scene is why I have my high hopes.
Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania premieres in theaters nationwide February 17, 2023.
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Jamie Broadnax is the creator of the online publication and multimedia space for Black women called Black Girl Nerds. Jamie has appeared on MSNBC's The Melissa Harris-Perry Show and The Grio's Top 100. Her Twitter personality has been recognized by Shonda Rhimes as one of her favorites to follow. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association and executive producer of the Black Girl Nerds Podcast.