How Ant-Man 4 could fix the problems of Quantumania

Kim Taylor-Foster
Michael Pena in Ant-Man.Disney/Marvel

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania arrived with a lot of responsibility on its shoulders. Not only is it set almost entirely within the Quantum Realm – and, like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, set itself a lot to do to evoke the lunacy inferred by its title – but it was also tasked with the honor of kicking off Phase 5. All that as well as introducing the Multiverse Saga’s main villain, Kang the Conqueror, against whom our heroes have to fight.

From this film, we start building towards the Multiverse Saga’s first Avengers team-up film. Slated for Phase 6, Avengers: The Kang Dynasty will see the titular superheroes go up against the multi-threat to the Multiverse that is a bunch of Kang Variants. Oh, and did we mention that Quantumania is also tasked with directly setting that film up?

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A lot of heavy lifting, then, for one movie and consequently, the weight of expectation is also heaped upon Quantumania. With so much to pull off, the Peyton Reed-directed Marvel Cinematic Universe instalment was bound to get some stuff wrong. But there are some things it can do in a potential Ant-Man 4 that would set the franchise back on track.

Warning: the following article contains SPOILERS for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

Where is Luis?

Michael Peña as Luis (left) with David Dastmalchian as Kurt (centre) and T.I. as Dave (right).

Luis doesn’t appear in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and this is the film’s first mistake. If what we want from an Ant-Man film are the things that make the franchise unique in the MCU, Ant-Man 4 must, must, MUST include Luis. Glaringly absent from the third Ant-Man film, Luis would have provided the glue to stick Quantumania’s mess together.

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And not simply because he makes us laugh. At times, the broad humour that marks out the Ant-Man movies chafed against the high-stakes, serious overtones of the Kang plot. That’s in part also because of how complex a character Kang is. Coupled with the distinctive, emotional, rage-fuelled performance delivered by a fully committed Jonathan Majors.

Without Michael Peña’s Luis as the main comic relief, the script divided the lion’s share of the franchise’s trademark comedy between other characters. Scott Lang, Hank Pym, M.O.D.O.K., and a couple of new characters all get lumbered with more buffoonery than is comfortable. With the film exploring Scott’s relationship with his grown-up daughter Cassie alongside a focus on him taking down Kang, sometimes the jokes coming out of his mouth felt misplaced and awkward. Yes, we want Scott Lang to be funny – but it’s not always appropriate for a character who is also really responsible.

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Including Luis could have meant channelling much of the film’s broader humour through him. It’s easy to imagine Luis in scenarios not involving Kang, within the Quantum Realm or outside it, that up the level of fun without feeling ungainly. In this way, the comedy would have felt more on-track and organic, and would have elevated the movie and bridged any clumsiness. 

It could have worked really well to team Luis with Quaz and Veb – peripheral characters who are funny and charming. A side quest with these guys could have been really engaging. However, Luis didn’t experience this Quantum Realm adventure. We’ll never see him tell his first-hand account of it. And that’s sad. Sob.

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Where is Ant-Man’s ‘Street-Level’ quality?

Ant-Man interacting with San Francisco and the “real world” is more thrilling.

San Francisco is one of the important aspects of an Ant-Man film. And though we see the city in some sequences bookending the film, it doesn’t have the presence it has in the previous entries. San Francisco is as good as a character in the franchise. It’s associated with Ant-Man the way that New York is synonymous with Daredevil and Spider-Man.

Most of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is set within the Quantum Realm – a bold choice and one that doesn’t pay off. It has the effect of lessening the impact of action. Think of the memorable action sequences from the first two Ant-Man films on the streets of San Francisco. The “real-world” is the perfect backdrop for the shrinking and embiggening capabilities of Ant-Man and the Wasp.

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Action sequences are all the more thrilling and inventive in this context. An audience can only fully appreciate them if seen within the world we know. Even director Peyton Reed admits that Ant-Man’s “street-level quality” is integral to the franchise. 

The enemy faced in Quantumania by Ant-Man, the Wasp, and company is massive in terms of his importance to and impact on Phases 5 and 6 of the MCU. But for Ant-Man 4 we’d suggest dialling the whole thing down, lessening the stakes and making everything smaller scale.

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Thanos’s presence in the Infinity Saga wasn’t ever really felt consequentially until its climax in Phase 3. As we approached Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, we built up to the threat the Mad Titan posed. It simmered somewhere in the background until then, allowing each individual film breathing space. Room to explore their own tones and adventures that were to greater and lesser degrees connected to the whole. This is what Ant-Man 4 needs.

Ant-Man 4 should introduce a smaller adventure that is only loosely connected to the MCU at large. Iron Man 3 kicked off the middle phase of the Infinity Saga, and had Iron Man facing Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian and Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin aka Trevor Slattery. While that film might not make your best-of-the-MCU lists, in comparison with Quantumania, it’s easy to see what it did right. Even if you can also see its flaws.

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Why isn’t it clear who the main protagonist is?

Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet van Dyne (centre) and Michael Douglas’s Hank Pym (left) have more to do than Evangeline Lilly’s The Wasp (right).

Focus, focus, focus should be the aim of the game in Ant-Man 4. Fine, give equal billing to Evangeline Lilly’s Wasp, but in Quantumania, there are too many cooks spoiling the Marvel broth. There’s no clearly defined main protagonist. If it’s Ant-Man, it certainly isn’t the Wasp. Her name is up there in the film’s title with him, yet she has very little to do. Even when Hope comes back to rescue Scott at the end, he’s the one who ultimately delivers the final blow to Kang.

But is it Scott’s film? There’s more evidence to suggest it’s Janet’s. Michelle Pfeiffer’s character has plenty to do in this film. Including schooling her family in the Quantum Realm, having spent 30 years of her life down there. She’s the catalyst for the story, just as Kathryn Newton’s Cassie – another contender for main protagonist – is the catalyst for the action. It is she who sends the signal down to the microscopic dimension that triggers their transportation there. 

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We spend much of the film watching Cassie come into her own as a new superhero coming of age. We watch her getting to grips with her powers as she fights alongside her dad to best Kang. Then there’s Michael Douglas’s Hank Pym, without whose ant army they’d certainly have failed.

So, the best advice for Ant-Man 4? To make one character – probably Ant-Man – the main focus. Or two characters, as long as point 5 is addressed below.

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Marvel’s current remit seems to be establishing characters that occupy a space on the sliding scale between hero and villain as it seeks to address accusations of a villain problem. But trying to double down on developing all their characters so that they are morally grey and/or conflicted, psychologically dense, and three-dimensional within such a bombastic movie is problematic. They risk bloating, confusion, and dulling the impact of the story and its thrills.

I’m all for character development. But in the MCU there’s plenty of opportunity to do this elsewhere with the wider cast. Focusing on Scott Lang in Ant-Man 4 would allow us to dig deeper into a character who actually hasn’t developed much since he was first introduced. As fun as he can be.

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To go back to Iron Man 3, that film focused on the title character and further developed Tony Stark. It looked back at his past in 1999 meeting Maya Hansen and Aldrich Killian, and then explored him in the present dealing with the PTSD he suffered following the Battle of New York and its impact on his relationship with Pepper. It also introduced a ton of new Iron Man suits. By the end, there’s a satisfying resolution to the trilogy, which culminates in the removal of the shrapnel near Tony’s heart before he throws his chest-mounted arc reactor into the sea.

Wait, MODOK was great, right?

Out of shot: peachy little MODOK butt.

Noooo! Listen, Ant-Man movies: never do a MODOK again. Yes, in the comic books he’s a quirky character and yes, that translated to the animated series that streamed on Disney+. 

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But in Quantumania, treating him simply as a joke and retconning his backstory the way they did failed. It was as if they didn’t have faith that the audience wouldn’t laugh at him and so avoided leaning into his menacing side. Instead, they made him a pathetic laughing stock and a foil to Majors’ Kang.

He was unnecessary to the plot here, and raised more questions than provided answers, as a curious and jarring sidekick to the Conqueror. Don’t shoehorn in a character, especially if you’re going to do this to him.

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Of course, in a turn of events that’s becoming a motif for Marvel movies, we did get to see his peachy little butt, so there is that.

Back to The Wasp – why isn’t she better?

Evangeline Lilly’s Wasp aka Hope van Dyne (left) needs more development.

Do you feel like you have a sense of who Hope van Dyne is? Yes, we know who her parents are, and now we know that she started a charitable foundation. Admirable. We also know that she’s Scott Lang’s girlfriend. But it doesn’t really feel like we have a sense of her personality, or her likes and dislikes. She doesn’t feel three-dimensional.

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The Wasp may have equal billing in the titles of the second and third Ant-Man instalments: Ant-Man and the Wasp and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, respectively. But she is underwritten and we don’t feel much attachment to her or empathy with her. She plays second fiddle to Scott, who gets to be funny, and save the day. To reiterate, even at the end when Hope comes back to rescue Scott, it’s he who puts the final nail in Kang’s coffin. 

She’s overly serious, poorly conceived, and not fully rounded. Ant-Man 4 could spend some time developing Hope as a character, and maybe even give her some friends to hang out with. After all, Scott has had the opportunity to do this. Shang-Chi’s Katy Chen would make a great pal to bring out Hope’s more frivolous side.

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Why is the Quantum Realm so generic looking?

Look familiar?

Now that the Quantum Realm is a thing that Ant-Man, the Wasp, Hank, Janet, Cassie, every man, woman, and dog, can travel to, it’s unlikely that Ant-Man 4 would just ignore it completely. 

So, let’s assume that Ant-Man 4 would split its time between street-level San Francisco and the Quantum Realm.

The best parts of the Quantum Realm in Quantumania were explored in early sequences. Meeting Quaz and Veb, for example, and the ritual we witnessed where Scott is forced to drink the ooze. The Star Wars-style cantina, too, where we met Bill Murray’s Krylar.

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The rest, particularly during battle sequences, is an unspecific, muddy looking, derivative space-adjacent universe that fails to inspire.

Ant-Man 4 should play into the best aspects of the Quantum Realm and build on them. It could spend more time just hanging out with the weird and wonderful microscopic characters and locales. It could also look elsewhere for its aesthetic. The Quantum Realm offers a unique opportunity to be really inventive in what is envisioned and depicted. Quantumania relies too much on matching the kind of stuff we’ve seen time and time again. If Peyton Reed is looking for inspiration, he could look more towards Salvador Dali, Luis Buñuel, David Lynch, and even some anime instead of the overused aesthetic of classic science fiction he says influenced the production.

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Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is in cinemas now, and you can check out more of our coverage below…

Ant-Man 3 review | Ending explained | Quantumania characters and castWho is Kang the Conqueror? | Ant-Man 3 Easter EggsDarren Cross as MODOK explained | Has Kang already killed an Avenger? | Who is Victor Timely? | Bill Murray’s character explained |  What is the Quantum Realm? | Post-credit scenes explained | Will there be an Ant-Man 4? | All the Marvel movies in order

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About The Author

Kim Taylor-Foster is a film and TV journalist, critic, and author. Her books include Why We Love The Matrix and Why We Love Die Hard.