Editor’s Note: The following contains Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania spoilers.
Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania is now in theaters. The new sequel features the official Marvel Cinematic Universe debut of Kang the Conqueror, who is pitted against Ant-Man Scott Lang and friends in a high-stakes battle with the entire Multiverse at stake. Much like in the previous Ant-Man movies, there is a heist at the center of the story. During QuantumaniaKang seeks to use Scott’s abilities as a thief to recover his lost technology core. Compared to the heist narratives depicted in the other Ant-Man films, Ant-Man and Ant-Man and The Waspthe use of a heist for Quantumania was not well thought out and was not as well constructed. We’re going to explore the heist aspect utilized in Quantumania and examine why it failed to live up to previous Ant-Man movies.
‘Ant-Man’ Brought the Heist Genre to the MCU
When you look at some of the best installments of the MCU, it’s worth while to note that the creative teams utilize a variety of genres to use as narrative models for their films. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a political thriller, versus a World War II action adventure for Captain America: The First Avenger.The iron man films are techno-thrillers. Spider-Man: Homecoming is a John Hughes-style high school comedy. Guardians of the Galaxy is a pop-rock space opera. In that respect, the Ant-Man films are modeled after heist films, and there is a heist at the center of each one.
In Ant-ManHank Pym (Michael Douglas) recruits Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to steal back his technology from his own company that’s been taken over by Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). The movie’s narrative is built around prepping for the heist and training Scott Lang to become the new Ant-Man to execute the heist. In Ant-Man and The Waspthe heist is a race against the clock for Hank, Hope Van Dyne/The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), and Scott/Ant-Man to rescue Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the Quantum Realm. If they fail to follow through on this brief window, Hank and Hope will never be reunited with Janet again, so time is clearly of the essence.
In both films, suspense and a ticking clock are built around the heists. In the first film, Scott and his allies must complete the heist before Darren Cross starts selling off Pym’s tech and the Yellowjacket suit to the likes of HYDRA. Ant-Man and The WaspHank and Hope have a limited window to complete their heist to save Janet, or they will never be reunited. The heists were integral parts of the narratives of the previous Ant-Man films. They are not secondary to the active plot but constitute the films’ overall active plots for the heroes.
The heist-style narrative does not stop at Ant-Man and The Wasp.It continues into Avengers: Endgameas the remaining Avengers and Scott Lang, devise a “Time Heist.” Through the Time Heist, the Avengers use the remaining Pym Particles and a time machine to travel through time and obtain the Infinity Stones to save their fallen friends who were erased by Thanos (Josh Brolin) during Avengers: Infinity War. In other words, the heist narrative that was introduced in the Ant-Man films ultimately carry over into Avengers: Endgame and is crucial to the heroes defeating Thanos, saving all the people Thanos killed, and saving the world.
‘Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania’s Heist Is an Afterthought
In contrast, the heist introduced in Quantumania is more or less an afterthought. The heist doesn’t come in until about midway into the movie. After Kang the Conqueror formally introduces himself to Scott and Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton), he makes Scott an offer. If Scott Lang uses his abilities to retrieve his lost power core, Kang will let Scott and Cassie live and return them home. In Scott’s defense, he’s not given much of a choice in the matter, lest Kang torture and murder Cassie in front of him. Scott does agree to retrieve the power core, and thanks to Hope’s help, they restore it to its original state. Kang needs the power core as it is his main means of escape from the Quantum Realm. Without the power core, he has no way out.
The execution of the heist narrative in Quantumania is decidedly lacking. Kang does not need Scott Lang or his abilities as a thief. What he requires is Scott’s Ant-Man suit, the Pym Particles, and the technology that enables Scott to use the Pym Particles. Kang is depicted as a genius with technology and abilities far more advanced than anything Earth in 2023 has ever seen. On their own, Ant-Man and The Wasp are no match for him, and he easily swats them aside early on. What is it about the Pym Particles and Hank Pym’s technology that Kang cannot replicate? Why does he need Ant-Man to do the heist, when he could simply murder Ant-Man, take his tech, study it for a bit, and then figure it out for himself? Unlike the previous films, Kang has no ticking clock. The Quantum Realm is established to be outside time. In other words, Kang is in no hurry. He spent considerable time subjugating the Quantum Realm and building a tyrannical empire. There is no rush for him to have Scott Lang personally retrieve the core when he could do it himself. And then, once the power core is retrieved, the heist aspect is pretty much over for most of Quantumania. The heist subplot is no longer driving the plot of the film forward.
Quantumania has certainly become one of the more divisive MCU features among fans and critics. However, there is a noticeable difference in the way the heist aspect was integrated into the previous films compared to Quantumanianot to mention the absence of previous regulars of the Ant-Man films, such as Luis (Michael Pena) and Maggie Lang (Judy Greer). Unfortunately, Luis and Maggie are nowhere to be found in Quantumaniaand their presence is sorely missed. Similarly, Quantumania is missing that wild heist consistently present throughout the previous films, making them more appealing to audiences. In the film’s defense, it’s not wrong that Quantumania tried something different for the Ant-Man series, but the heist movie structure of the previous films worked almost too well and conditioned audiences and critics to expect something similar for a third outing. Marvel’s Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania is out now in theaters.