There’s no denying that Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a disappointment. Most of the new wave of superhero flicks failed to capture the fun, intensity, and excitement of previous phases and lacked a clear-cut direction or purpose beyond opening weekend box office receipts. Thankfully, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania looks to amend that problem in a big way and might kick Phase Five off on the right note.
Yeah, the movie looks very much like a by-the-numbers Marvel sequel replete with lots of green screen, non-spectacular special effects, goofy humor (hello, Bill Murray), and far too many characters. Yet, I can stomach the lesser MCU entries, provided they serve a larger tale. Admittedly, that’s the only way I could get through Phase One. I tolerated Thor and Iron Man 2 because I knew they were building towards something grander in The Avengers.
Recent MCU efforts like Eternals obeyed the same rudimentary formula established in previous phases but failed to connect the dots satisfyingly. Without another Thanos looming in the distance, these adventures felt like half-baked ideas tossed at audiences by producers hoping one or two would yield the same hype as Guardians of the Galaxy.
Ant-Man 3 might rectify the issues of Phase Four by presenting a big bad for our Avengers to battle, namely, Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror. The first teaser for Ant-Man 3 didn’t do much for me, but the full-length trailer piqued my interest, if only because of the shot below. That image gave me chills. It looks like something out of a comic book and teases a villain who is both powerful and a little unhinged.
Setting up a villain at the start of Phase Five accomplishes two things: First, we now have a story for future films to build around. Even if they venture into solo territory, you can tie plot elements into the larger narrative and tease the end game, so to speak. Second, since Kang hails from the Quantum Realm and can manipulate time and space, Feige has a clear path to introduce mutants and/or the Fantastic Four into the MCU. Ant-Man can do what we expected Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness to accomplish last year and open up portals to new dimensions and timelines.
Hell, Feige could feasibly bring back Tony Stark and Steve Rogers in some capacity should the situation call for it. Most importantly, Kang gives the MCU a path to follow and various options to build around. That would gauge my interest and lure me to theaters for the subsequent two or three films. I may tune in to more of those Disney+ TV shows to ensure I don’t miss any critical details.
For better or worse, the MCU is a shared universe that promises interconnected storylines. Few of the stand-alone Marvel films work independently. However, they all function as necessary steps to get to the movie that matters — Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, etc. This approach made the earlier phases special and set the Marvel franchise up in a way no other studio has been able to duplicate.
Kang can right the ship and reestablish the MCU as must-see entertainment — so long as Feige doesn’t use the villain as another punchline.