Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania director promises an epic: 'I don't want to be the palate cleanser anymore'
Peyton Reed, director of Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp, is aware that there are those who think the adventures of Paul Rudd's tiny superhero don't have the dramatic weight of some other superhero tales. It is an opinion he hopes to change with his trilogy-ending Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (out Feb. 17), which kicks off Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
"People felt like, Oh, these are fun little palate cleansers after a gigantic Avengers movie," says Reed, 58. "For this third one, I said, 'I don't want to be the palate cleanser anymore. I want to be the big Avengers movie.'"
Did the filmmaker kick in Marvel supremo Kevin Feige's door when he made this announcement?
"I did," he deadpans. "I metaphorically kicked in Kevin Feige's door."
Peyton's second sequel once again stars Rudd as the small but mighty Scott Lang, Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne, Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet van Dyne, and Michael Douglas as Hank Pym. Kathryn Newton (Freaky) takes over the role of Cassie Lang, who has become an adult in her father Scott's absence, thanks to Thanos-related events detailed in the last two Avengers movies, 2018's Infinity War and 2019's Endgame.
"One of the single most intriguing things that I was excited to do in this movie was progress the Scott-Cassie relationship," says Peyton. "It's been central to all the Ant-Man movies, the big difference here being that, as a result of Endgame, Cassie is now a young woman. She has become a scientific mind in her own right. She's been going through Hank Pym's old journals and notebooks, and has really latched on to this idea of quantum science and quantum technology."
It is thanks to Cassie that our heroes spend much of the film in the Quantum Realm, the microscopic and mind-meltingly weird universe from which Pfeiffer's character was rescued in 2018's Ant-Man and the Wasp.
"In the first one, we introduced the idea of the Quantum Realm, we kind of dipped our toe into it, and then even more so in the second one," Reed says. "But we obviously left a lot of unanswered questions. We wanted to go in a different direction, and create an epic movie where the bulk of it takes place in the Quantum Realm. For me, it was really exciting, because the other two films take place in San Francisco, and this one, we were creating this incredibly complex subatomic world, and all the environments and ecosystems and creatures and beings that inhabit that world."
The film's villain is Kang the Conqueror, one of the most infamous baddies in the Marvel universe.
"I grew up a real Marvel comics nerd, and there are a handful of antagonists in the Marvel comics universe who are all-timers," says Reed. "Loki, obviously. Doctor Doom from the Fantastic Four. And Kang the Conqueror. In conversations with Kevin Feige and Marvel, it was like, I want to put Ant-Man and Wasp up against a really formidable villain in this movie, and so we're doing Kang the Conqueror. In the comics, Kang has dominion over time, he's a time traveler. His situation is a little bit different in this movie, which I won't spoil for you, but he's someone who, [while] we live very linear lives, from childhood to death, Kang doesn't exist that way. It struck me as interesting to take the tiniest Avengers — in some people's minds maybe the least powerful Avengers — and put them up against the most powerful force in the multiverse."
Kang is played by Jonathan Majors, whose credits include Spike Lee's 2020 film Da 5 Bloods, the HBO show Lovecraft Country, and the recent Korean War movie Devotion. Majors played a "variant" of the Kang character, known as "He Who Remains," in season 1 of the Marvel TV show Loki.
"The first thing that was pitched to me was, he's a villain, and I went, Hmm," says Majors, 33. "And they were like, he's a supervillain, and I went, Hmm, I'm into that. But why was I into that? Because [of] classical texts. I mean, I do want to play Othello, but, in Othello, you've always got to be careful about Iago, because Iago, that guy, that's the most complex character. There's very little he won't do."
The film's cast also includes Bill Murray in an as-yet-unnamed role.
"Bill Murray plays a character from Janet van Dyne's past," says Reed. "It's a crucial role. A big theme in this movie is the things that parents and kids don't say to each other, the secrets that they keep in families. In the last movie, when Hank and Hope rescue Janet, Evangeline Lilly's character had this idea of: Oh, I'm going to be reunited with my mom, this is going to be great, we're going to talk about everything. But what happens if the other person, in this case Janet, puts up a wall and maybe is not comfortable talking about certain things and doesn't reveal certain things about her past? As we know from great stories, you can put the past behind you, but the past will always find a way to show up again. Bill's character represents that in this movie."
Majors' villain will also feature in Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, which is set for a May 2025 release and, like Quantumania, is being written by Jeff Loveness (Rick and Morty).
"I know I'm in the Kang movie, but I don't know how the two relate," says Majors. "I'm sure there's some correlation because there's a Kang in that one."
They can't get rid of you now!
"I don't think so, but you'd be surprised," says the actor. "They can do whatever the f--- they want to do, really. I'd like to stick around a little longer."
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania hits theaters Feb. 17. See an exclusive image from the film at the top of this article and watch the movie's trailer below.
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