The Direction of the MCU’s Phase Five
Light spoilers for this movie
With the release of ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ in November of last year, phase four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe concluded, and with it, the end of a mixed-bag year of MCU movies. While Black Panther was great, the new Doctor Strange was just alright, and the new Thor Movie was pretty bad.
Did AMATWQ (Ant-Man and The Wasp Quantumania) see a return to the normalcy of great output from the MCU going into 2023 though? Well, many critics don’t think so. Fortunately for the audience, though, most critics are wrong on this one.
Without going into too much depth explaining the plot of this new movie, I’ll give a very simplified synopsis.
Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) as well as members of their families find themselves trapped in the quantum realm, a universe outside of space and time. In this realm, which The Wasp’s mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) was already trapped in, exists an evil tyrant known as Kang the Conqueror (Johnathan Majors).
The movie follows Kang’s hunt to try to escape the quantum realm, Janet’s hunt to prevent that from happening, and Ant-Man’s mission to protect his daughter.
The world-building of this film is phenomenal. The visuals of the quantum realm are so encapsulating; it almost feels like you’re exploring this whole new world with the protagonists. The creative alien characters who exist in the world only add to this feeling.
There’s Veb (David Dastmalchian), a strange slime creature who possesses the ability to get humans to understand the quantum realm’s language, Jentorra (Katy O’Brian) a rebel warrior to Kang’s tyranny, and Quaz (William Jackson Harper), Veb’s friend who has the ability to read minds. And despite these characters having limited screentime, they were good comic relief and compelling side-stories.
This isn’t even to mention the award-worthy performances from the main characters of the movie. Paul Rudd perfectly plays a conflicted post-Endgame avenger. He’s begun writing books and doesn’t want to face any challenges. Only after his daughter’s (Kathryn Newton) life is in danger does he realize that he still needs to be a hero. For the third movie of the franchise, I was thoroughly impressed with how much character growth Ant-Man exhibited throughout the 2-hour film.
On top of Rudd’s performance, Johnathan Majors as Kang plays a brilliantly sinister antagonist in the film. Even from the opening scene, before we realize that he’s evil, there’s something so inexplicably off-putting about his character. Through his almost cartoonish but still eerie monologues and the scenes displaying just how powerful he really is, I could argue that Kang is the best villain that the MCU has had since Thanos. And comic readers know that this is just the beginning for Kang. Without going into too much detail, a part of me was wondering if Kang was really evil in intention or if, in a similar vain to Thanos, he thought he was doing what was best for the universe.
Perhaps what is the most redeeming quality of this film compared to the MCU’s recent output is that it’s actually really funny. A common gripe with the MCU now is that its humour is overdone, but this movie didn’t have that vibe. Outside of Modok (Corey Stoll) seeming overly goofy at times, the humour always fit the tone of the film, which actually felt darker than a lot of the MCU’s recent output. I think this led to this being the most hilarious film in possibly all of the MCU.
This film could, and probably will be a great tone-setter for the fifth phase of the MCU; it introduces one of the phase’s primary villains, brings the quantum realm to a fascinating vibrant life, and expands on the ever-growing sci-fi worldbuilding of the recent MCU catalogue.
I’m still puzzled as to what the gripes of most critics are with this movie to be honest. It’s easily the best Ant-Man movie and a return to form for the MCU after a very mixed 2022 calendar year. 9/10