'Ant-Man and the Wasp' gets 'Avengers' big for 'Quantumania' with 'epic' supervillain Kang

Brian Truitt

Marvel’s third “Ant-Man” film breaks its own quirky heist-movie mold with “Quantumania,” courtesy of an uncharted fantasy world, a fearsome supervillain and, for star Paul Rudd, a revamped rhythm.

When shrinking superhero Scott Lang (Rudd) meets Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) in the subatomic Quantum Realm in the first scenes the actors filmed together, “the beats per minute felt different,” Rudd says. “The whole thing felt a little bit more epic. It was cool that when you're doing the third one to have this feeling of something fresh and new.”

Here's how "Quantumania" (in theaters no) kicks off Marvel's Phase 5 slate of films with "Avengers"-level scope:

The Quantum Realm is an impressive deep dive into pop culture

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) grows big to deal with Kang's Quantum Realm army in "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania."

Did you like the good guys' time-traveling escapades in "Avengers: Endgame"? This is truly a trip: Our "Ant-Man" heroes – including Scott and his 18-year-old daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton), plus Scott’s partner Hope (Evangeline Lilly), her inventive dad, Hank (Michael Douglas) and her mother, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) – are accidentally transported to the Quantum Realm, an otherworldly landscape with strange environments and freedom fighters being oppressed by Kang’s iron-fisted reign.

The Quantum Realm's cinematic influences include “Barbarella,” “Star Wars,” “Flash Gordon" and “stuff that almost reminds me of ‘Flesh Gordon,’ the X-rated ‘Flash Gordon' ripoff,” director Peyton Reed says with a laugh. His “grab-bag approach” to inspirations also included electron microscope photography and old sci-fi paperback covers. “I don't know what that book is about, but that painting is cool,” Reed says. “I want to go to that place.”

Paul Rudd plays super-dad, Kathryn Newton's Cassie comes of age

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) goes into full dad mode when protecting daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) in "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania."

Scott might not have always been father of the year but since 2015's first “Ant-Man,” where he kept young Cassie safe from the evil Yellowjacket, his parental powers have been top notch – which is needed when protecting his daughter from Kang. Rudd has played “Ant-Man” in five Marvel movies and being a father himself, to a boy and a girl, “probably does help on some level,” the actor says. "If you were to ask Scott Lang, it's a dad before a superhero.”

And like Elizabeth Olsen's witchy Wanda Maximoff in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," Cassie learns to be sort of a young Avenger on the fly, thanks to her dad. “She really chose to be a hero for herself first,” Newton says. “It's really easy when things are tough to just let it take you down and she didn't. That's a result of growing up around superheroes."

Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer coupling gets the spotlight 

Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) returns to the Quantum Realm, where she was stuck for 30 years, with husband Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) in "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania."

In 2018’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” Hank and Janet were reunited after she spent 30 years stuck in the Quantum Realm. A return trip shows what that relationship is really like. Douglas says there's a bit of a comedic “The Bickersons”-style vibe between them and appreciates that the film explores how “we all have needs” during those three decades apart. “Some people might have been involved with (Janet) when she was down there in the realm.” 

But Janet is very secretive about her previous time there. And the truth, when it’s revealed, connects her closely with Kang. “I love that we have this very intense history together,” Pfeiffer says. “Our story in the Quantum Realm was really like we were in kind of a time warp.”

Evangeline Lilly's Wasp embraces her maternal side

Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), aka the Wasp, is in a pretty good place before she gets sucked into a dangerous landscape in "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania."

"Avengers" movies love their huge casts, and Lilly's Hope rounds out the heroic "Quantumania" family with yet another evolution. Every time she reprises the role, "I feel like I have to start from scratch because she's so different,” Lilly says. "I feel like sometimes I'm chasing her coattails going, ‘Who are you now?’ I had a resting bitch face for half the first film and that is gone. She is content and full of peace and love in this.”

Hope is using her dad’s technology to save the world in her own way, before she gets sucked into the Quantum Realm. She’s also become a de facto stepmom for Cassie while struggling to reconnect with Janet. “With Cassie, she's like, I'm going to take you under my wing and I'm going to let you in.’ Meanwhile, she's staring longingly at her mother going, ‘You want to do the same for me?’ ”

Jonathan Majors' 'Quantumania' villain is big on human nature

Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) rules the Quantum Realm but also is trying to find a way out in "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania."

Just like the Avengers' nemesis Thanos, Kang is a complex guy Marvel movie fans will spend a lot of time wi over the next few years. And there's not just one but actually multiple versions of him in the multiverse: He Who Remains was the first variant seen in the “Loki” series, and there promises to be more to come as the MCU heads toward 2025’s “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty.” As Kang the Conqueror, Majors says it was key that he was “the most solid thing” in the wild and crazy Quantum Realm.

“We all, as human beings, know what it is to want something so badly. We also know what it is to fail. We also know what it is wear our failure or when we hide our failure,” Majors adds. “You're going up against a lot of things: the sci-fi element, the villain element. How do we make this guy flesh and blood? You may not like him, or you may, but you can hold onto him, and that's what's important, especially as we move forward.”

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