Tag Archives: Ant Man and the Wasp

Why Kang The Conqueror Could Be The Next Great MCU Villain (And Why He May Ultimately Fail)

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These are exciting times for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and fans of superhero media, in general. The COVID-19 pandemic may have disrupted and delayed certain plans, but things do seem to be back on track. The success of the recent Disney+ shows and the release of “Black Widow” are encouraging signs that the MCU will continue to grow, evolve, and bedazzle.

However, if the MCU is to continue its unprecedented streak of success, it’ll have to address one massive Thanos-shaped hole that has remained since “Avengers Endgame.” Even as it introduces a new generation of characters while continuing to explore others, it’ll still need one key detail to keep the awesome flowing.

It needs a powerful, over-arching villain who will require the Avengers to assemble once more.

That is no easy feat to pull off. Thanos set the bar very high through three phases of MCU movies. He raised the bar for villains of all kinds, both for the MCU and for movies in general. He presented a threat that required the full force of the Avengers to stop. That’s why so many of us cheered during the climactic battle in “Avengers Endgame.”

The idea of any character presenting a threat like that is difficult to imagine. However, Marvel Studios has proven time and again that they can keep raising the bar. It certainly helps that Marvel has no shortage of villains from the comics, but the recent events of “Loki” have already revealed that one in particular is poised to become that next great threat.

If you’ve seen the season one “Loki” finale, then you already know who I’m talking about. The next great treat for the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be Kang the Conqueror.

He was already confirmed to show up in “Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” He also has been cast to an accomplished actor in Jonathan Majors. Most importantly, he’s a character who has a lengthy history in the comics of being a huge threat to both the world and the multiverse. Much like Thanos, he has often required the Avengers to assemble in a big way in order to stop him.

By almost every measure, Kang has a lot going for him. He even has more to offer in terms of overall complexity. Both the comics and the “Loki” finale mention that Kang has multiple version of himself. You could argue that’s one of his most defining characteristics. Since he’s a time traveler, there are a near infinite version of him with varying levels of power, motivations, and malice.

One could be Immortus, who often carries himself as Kang’s final form.

One could be Iron Lad, a younger version of Kang who tries to walk a more heroic path.

One could be Rama-Tut, a version of Kang who ruled Ancient Egypt as a pharaoh.

It’s that flexibility that puts him in a unique position to be the MCU’s next great villain. It’s also something that helps him stand apart from Thanos in a big way. Thanos was big, bad, and menacing, but there was still only one of him to deal with. There are many version of Kang. Some are potential allies while others could be an even greater threat than Thanos. That could add a lot of drama and tension to every battle.

Since the rise of more complex villains like Killmonger and Baron Zemo, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made a concerted effort to give depth to their villains. Kang, given his many variations, is in a better position to provide that than most villains. You can have version of him trying to avoid his ultimate fate of becoming a ruthless conqueror doing battle with others who’ve already embraced that fate.

In the comics, this has always been a major struggle for Kang. It’s also a personal struggle and the Avengers often get caught up in it. As shows like “WandaVision” have so nicely demonstrated, Marvel Studios have shown how much they can milk a personal struggle for emotional resonance. If they can do that with Kang in a way that builds further drama with the Avengers, then they could set up something every bit as epic as “Avengers Endgame.”

That is likely the ultimate goal. However, there’s still a chance this effort could fail or fall short of Marvel Studios’ lofty standards.

I offer this possibility as both a long-time Marvel fan and one who isn’t too big a fan of Kang. In fact, I’ll go on record as saying he’s one of my least favorite villains. My reasons are purely personal. I just think he’s one of those characters who’s too malleable. He’s also one of those characters who do a lot, yet still ultimately achieve so little.

That’s just an unpleasant side-effect of him being a time traveler. While plenty of other Marvel characters travel through time, Kang really overdoes it. You could argue it’s the only truly defining aspect of his character. As a result, it could also be something that seriously hinders his story.

It’s not unusual for stories involving Kang to get confusing and complicated, even by time travel standards. It’s also exceedingly common for his time traveling antics to be solved with more time travel. Every time he seems on the cusp of defeating the Avengers, something happens that either changes the timeline or undoes everything Kang did to that point. He’s one of those villains who can do a lot, but leave a very limited impact.

That’s why I’m not too fond of him. Too much of what he does is easily erased or retconned by more time travel. On top of that, his reliance on time travel basically guarantees that you’ll be confused by the sequence of events within a couple issues at least. I can’t imagine it being much simpler over the course of multiple big budget movies.

That’s not to say he can’t work as the MCU’s next main villain. Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige have proven time and again that they’re capable of making these seemingly impossible stories work. They were able to transform Thanos into this death-obsessed madman into someone with more complexity and emotional range. If they can do that with Thanos, then who knows what they can do with Kang?

Hopefully, we’ll find out soon enough. Jonathan Majors has already given us a taste in “Loki.” I look forward to seeing something even bigger in “Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” These are exciting and chaotic times for the MCU. Only time will tell how chaotic it gets and for a character like Kang, that’s all too fitting.

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Reflecting On The Balanced (But Bland) Romance In “Ant Man And The Wasp”

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Whenever I go into a Marvel movie these days, I often wonder whether this will be the movie that finally derails the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s unprecedented winning streak. Whenever I to go to see any other kind of superhero movie, I just wonder whether or not it’ll fail miserably. For some, the extent of that failure can be pretty egregious.

It says something about the brand that Kevin Feige and Disney have created when the quality of a movie is assumed by the audience. Ever since the first “Iron Man,” the MCU has found ways to raise the bar, match it, raise it again, and make billions in the process. The brand is so strong that it can turn obscure comics involving talking raccoons into a global phenomenon.

It’s for that reason I wasn’t at all surprised when Feige and our Disney overlords turned “Ant Man” into another successful franchise. Granted, he’s not nearly on the same level as Iron Man or Captain America, but he doesn’t have to be. The fact his first movie made over $500 million is proof that even obscure characters can play a part in the MCU’s winning streak.

For the most part, I thought “Ant Man” was a decent movie. It was fun, but not on the same level as “Guardians of the Galaxy” or “Thor: Ragnarok.” However, what really got me excited for the inevitable sequel was the promise of a more meaningful romantic sub-plot between Scott Lang and Hope Van Dyne.

When I heard that the title of the sequel was “Ant Man and the Wasp,” I grew even more hopeful. The first movie did a lot to establish the connection between Scott and Hope. Unlike the other romantic connections that have emerged in the MCU, this one had the potential to become something more than just a standard plot device.

It’s an understated, but emerging issue in the MCU. When it comes to romance, Marvel movies have a frustrating tendency to only go so far. Sure, it has romantic moments between Captain America and Peggy Carter, Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, and Black Panther and Nakia. However, those moments rarely go beyond moving the plot forward.

With Ant Man and Wasp, there’s an opportunity to inject a more refined level of romance into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Beyond just giving characters added motivation, this is a relationship that can function more like a partnership rather than a plot catalyst. A good romance, after all, is an exercise in developing quality partnerships.

This is what I was hoping to see with “Ant Man and the Wasp” in addition to Paul Rudd finding new ways to be hilarious. Being a self-professed lover of romance, I wanted to see this romantic evolution happen on-screen and within the context of a larger story. Looking back on it, I might have been hoping for too much.

That’s not to say my hopes were dashed for this movie. I’ll gladly go on record as saying that “Ant Man and the Wasp” is a solid movie that improves on its predecessor. At the same time, though, I felt this movie was a missed opportunity to give the MCU an element that it has been sorely lacking for a while now.

Ever since Thor’s relationship with Jane Foster was unceremoniously cast aside after “Thor: The Dark World,” Marvel movies have been doing the bare minimum when it comes to romance. I would argue that has been part of a larger trend within superhero movie not involving Deadpool.

From the beginning, “Ant Man and the Wasp” sets itself apart by having Scott Lang and Hope Van Dyne operate as an equal partnership. They both have plenty of moments where they show off their skill. Hope gets to show off early by really shining as Wasp. Scott contributes later on in ways that are both cunning and hilarious.

In my opinion, the most important achievement of this movie is establishing how complementary Hope and Scott are as a duo. On their own, they show they’re plenty capable. However, they can only achieve what they want when they work together. That, in essence, is the foundation of any meaningful romance.

Unfortunately, “Ant Man and the Wasp” doesn’t do much to build on that foundation. There are a few romantic moments, but they’re very small and usually involve puppy love glances. There aren’t any instances where Hope and Scott get that intimate. They work together and they work well, but it’s exceedingly basic.

There’s never an impression that their relationship deserves to be elevated above a relationship like Thor and Jane. Even though Hope and Scott is a lot more balanced in terms of how they function together, it’s not necessarily the kind of love story that will strike an emotional chord.

They work well together and they’re attracted to one another. Their romance is basically not that different than a typical office romance. In many respects, their relationship is overshadowed by the one between Hank Pym and his missing wife, Janet. That ends up being a more compelling love story, which is saying a lot given the complications of their relationship in the comics.

Even that romantic element is relatively basic, though. Much of the conflict revolves around Ant Man and Wasp’s efforts to save Janet from the quantum realm, where she’s been trapped for years. It creates plenty of family-driven drama, which certainly has its appeal. In terms of overall drama, though, it only goes so far.

Outside those romantic elements, “Ant Man and the Wasp” does everything it needs to in order to maintain the brand of the MCU. It’s coherent, concise, and entertaining. The movie relies heavily on the comedic elements, which fits perfectly for a character who rides around on ants.

Ant Man is not Black Panther, Captain America, or Thor. Wasp is not Black Widow, Gamora, or Peggy Carter. They don’t try to be more than who they are. They stick to the core of their character. In an era where superheroes try too hard to be like Batman, this counts as an accomplishment.

In this same era, there’s a similar effort to develop more balanced female characters who aren’t Wonder Woman. Wasp definitely counts as progress in that effort. She can hold her own, kick ass, and complement those around her, whether that’s Scott Lang or Hank Pym. She’s still no Wonder Woman, but Marvel may be saving that effort for “Captain Marvel.”

In terms of the villain in this movie, “Ant Man and the Wasp” manages to get by with Ghost. While there is some intrigue with her character, she does little to make herself memorable. Compared to Erik Killmonger, who stole the show in “Black Panther,” Ghost was more an obstacle than a villain. She still got the job done and did so with personality.

Overall, if I had to score “Ant Man and the Wasp,” I would give it a 7 out of 10. It’s an all-around solid movie that’s fun, entertaining, and satisfying. It’s definitely a breath of fresh air after the grim circumstances surrounding “Avengers: Infinity War,” at least until the post-credits scene. However, the romance lover in me still feels that it left much of its potential untapped.

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