DUBAI: With “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” the Marvel Cinematic Universe officially kicks off Phase 5, pushing further into the multiverse saga.
This means pulling the characters into the dangers of the unfamiliar landscape of the otherworldly sub-atomic quantum realm and also introducing the main antagonist of this new phase, Kang the Conqueror, played by Jonathan Majors.
“We’ve never been in that central story position. We’ve always been what people would call ‘the palate cleanser,’” says actress Evangeline Lilly, who plays Hope van Dyne, aka Wasp, to Arab News. “After a huge ‘Avengers’ film where everything gets really tense, ‘Ant-Man’ comes along and cheers you up and makes everything feel good. And this one is like that, in that there’s still the sweetness, there’s still the family stories, and there’s still the humor, but it’s also much more in line with the other MCU epics, where it’s a big, broad story.”
When director Peyton Reed, who also directed the first two ‘Ant-Man’ films, returned for the threequel, he decided, along with lead star Paul Rudd, that he wanted to put his superhero in real danger by having him face-off against a formidable enemy.
“When we landed on Jonathan for Kang the Conqueror, I could easily see he was physically imposing. He just has this seriousness and a very, very different energy than Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang or Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne. That seemed like a fun juxtaposition,” says Reed. “And I wanted to take what people perceived as the sort of light-hearted ‘Ant-Man’ movies and really mix it up. Paul and I had conversations early on about if we got to do a third one, we really wanted to put Scott through the wringer, we wanted him to be really beaten up.”
The film opens with Lang settling back into family life after defeating Thanos, publishing a new book, “Lookout for the Little Guy” (now an actual book fans can purchase in bookstores, if so inclined), and navigating his reunion with his now grown-up daughter Cassie, played in “Quantumania” by Kathryn Newton.
“So, he’s looking in the rearview mirror; he’s resting on his laurels,” Reed says. “And what better way to shake up Scott Lang than to have his now-18-year-old daughter start busting him on it? She’s a young woman with her own ideas about life and idealism and what being a hero might look like. So, she’s very critical of her dad in a great way that felt like a natural dynamic.”
For Newton, who is making her MCU debut with “Quantumania,” Cassie’s evolution into a superhero felt like the logical next step.
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and I think she just wants to be like her dad. During the blip, she’s been fighting the good fight at home. Like, if there’s someone who needs help crossing the street or with their groceries, I bet she’s the first one to volunteer. She wasn’t going to sit and wait for her dad to show up, which I find very brave in itself. I think she’s a superhero without the suit. I think that the suit is second to who she is as a hero and solidifies her as a little superhero. But she’s not quite there yet. She’s still on her way,” Newton says.
And while Scott and Cassie are renegotiating their father-daughter relationship, the film also sees Hope and her mother Janet van Dyne, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, reuniting after a 30-year absence.
“It was so comforting to have another woman there who I could lean on, who I could talk to. We could commiserate with one another. If she was struggling, I was there for her. If I was struggling, she was there for me,” says Lilly about getting more screentime with Pfeiffer in “Quantumania.”
“We would even sometimes fall into comfortable riffing in character off-screen. So, I’d be Hope and she’d be Janet. We’d have arguments that weren’t scripted and weren’t part of the film. And sometimes we would really be yelling at each other, trying to express what they were feeling.
“And that was a first for me, I’ve never had that experience on a Marvel film, where I got that deep into the character work with another actor. So, it was wonderful; it added so many layers for me as a performer,” she adds.
Newton, who has been acting since the age of four, also found comfort in her new cast members on her MCU debut.
“I’m a really shy person, but I feel like a movie set is a safe place, because your cast mates, your director, your writer… they all hired you to show up and bring something to the table. They want you to shine,” she says. “So, from a young age, that’s always given me a lot of confidence. But I was still really nervous to join this cast. It’s their third movie — they all know each other well. But I didn’t need to be nervous; that was a waste of energy because they’re just awesome.”