Marvel movies tend to live or die on their villains. Remember Thanos? Of course you do, his menacing, purple mug made Avengers: Endgame unmissable. But what about Iron Man 2‘s Ivan Vanko? No, us neither. Yon-Rogg in Captain Marvel? Utterly forgettable. The point is, if you’re making a comic book blockbuster and you want to take on James Cameron at the box office, get a good baddie. In Jonathan Majors’ muscly brute Kang, Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania has one of the best.
This third adventure for Paul Rudd’s diminutive superhero takes us into the weird and wacky world of the Quantum Realm. Sucked inside when a science experiment goes wrong, Scott Lang (aka the incredible shrinking Ant-Man) and his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), get separated from the rest of their family. That’s Scott’s partner Hope Van Dyne aka The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) and her physics genius parents Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Luckily, Janet’s been here before – she once spent 30 years trapped in the QR before escaping – and tells the others about any dangerous traps or alien mercenaries to avoid. What she doesn’t tell them is that Kang, a mysterious, all-powerful being bent on destroying the universe, is her nemesis. And now she’s returned to his kingdom, which he rules with a leather-gloved iron fist, he’s hellbent on revenge.
To say any more would spoil the film, but rest assured this is top-drawer MCU. Previous Ant-Man films felt slight compared to their bigger Avengers brothers, and even director Peyton Reed concedes the action-comedies were only “fun little palate cleansers”. Quantumania is different. Much darker in tone and more impactful to the franchise’s overarching narrative, Lang’s psychedelic sojourn has a weightier feel to it that’s more in keeping with the Russo Brothers’ climactic epics Infinity War and Endgame.
For starters, there’s a lot more stuff. Home to a strange array of quirky “quantum people” – martians made out of broccoli, Bill Murray’s creepy space-lord, a warrior who shoots lasers out of his face made of stars – the new intergalactic location seems to have very few actual rules. Can’t understand the regional dialect? Here, drink this gloopy extraterrestrial’s blood and instantly become a polyglot. Don’t know how to fly a rocket ship? Plug your arms into the controls and pilot by brainpower. There’s more than a whiff of Star Wars about the place (hey there, cantina), but with enough reinvention to make it all fresh and very, very fun.
And then there’s Kang. Blessed with the ability to bend the cosmos to his will (“time is not what you think it is”), Majors’ cool yet commanding tyrant dominates every scene he’s in. Whether it’s quelling dissent with a single stare or flipping a finger to dispatch his enemies, Kang has an intimidating presence not unlike Darth Vader. In fact, he’s so compelling that after his initial introduction about half-way through Quantumania, the other characters seem less interesting by comparison. Rudd and Lilly might be first-billed on the poster, but this is undeniably the Majors show – did Marvel just find its next great villain?
- Director: Peyton Reed
- Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors
- Release date: February 17 (in cinemas)