“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” centers on the Lang-Pym-Van Dyne family dynamics and that means WASPs of a different sort even if lead actor Paul Rudd (as Ant-Man/Scott Lang) is Jewish and Michael Douglas (as Hank Pym) is part Jewish through his famous father Kurt Douglas. In this third film, Ant-Man and his daughter bond, but San Francisco and the Quantum Realm are disappointingly White and Black. Even if this film is about thinking small, but having a big impact, the little guy isn’t really been promoted. More on that later.
The Ant-Man in the MCU
The Ant-Man (2015)
In the 2015 first film, there’s a parallel story of fathers and estranged daughters. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) developed a shrinking technology that he feels is too dangerous. But his estranged daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and his protégé Darren Cross (Corey Still) force him out of his company, Pym Technologies as Cross has developed his own shrinking suit.
Scott Lang (Rudd), an MIT engineer who became a criminal because his corporation was cheating its customers and was subsequently jailed, has just been released from jail and can’t find a job which means he is a dead-beat dad who can’t play child support for his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) who lives with his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her police detective fiancé Paxton (Bobby Cannavale). Unable to find a job, Lang ends up couch surfing with his old cellmate, Luis (Michael Peña). Hank Pym manipulates Luis into breaking into his home because Pym wants Lang to become the new Ant-Man. Van Dyne and Pym train Lang to use his new powers, including how to fight and gain cooperation of the ants. Cross becomes the Yellowjacket and Lang attempts to steal the Yellowjacket to prevent Cross from selling it to Hydra. Yellowjacket takes Cassis hostage to get Lang, but in the confrontation between Lang and Cross, Lang sabotages Cross’ Yellowjacket suit, shrinking him into a presumed death in the Quantum Realm. In doing so, Lang had to enter and return from the Quantum Realm. During the film, Pym reveals that his wife and Hope’s mother disappeared into the Quantum Realm when she was saving the world as the Wasp. Now, because Lang survived his time in the Quantum Realm, Pym believes it is possible that his wife survived.
“The Ant-Man” is in Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and occurs after “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015) as well as “Agents of SHIELD” Season 2, episodes 20-22, (2015), but before “Jessica Jones” Season 1 (2015) and “Agent Carter” Season 2 (2016).
The Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
“The Ant-Man and the Wasp” takes place after “Captain America: Civil War” (2016), “Doctor Strange” (2016), “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2” (2017), “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017), “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017), “Black Panther” (2018), and “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018). Two years after Scott Lang was involved with the Avengers (“Avengers: Infinity War”), Lang is under house arrest under the supervision of FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) because of his part in breaking the Sokovia Accords: Framework for the Registration and Deployment of enhance Individuals (regulations of the deployment of individuals with superpowers, especially the Avengers).
Hank Pym and his daughter Hope van Dyne work to extract Hank’s wife and Hope’s mother, Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) who has been trapped there since 1987. Although Lang only has a few days left of his sentence, he’s kidnapped by Hope and Pym because he’s somehow become linked to Janet because of his journey into the Quantum Realm and receives a message from her. A giant ant is left at Lang’s home with the ankle-monitor in hopes of preventing Woo from learning about Lang’s absence. Complications ensue involved a “ghost” (Hannah John-Kamen as Ava Starr/Ghost) and a former partner of Pym’s, but Pym, Hope and Lang are able to extract Janet.
During a mid-credits scene, Pym, Hope and Janet are in this world while Lang is in the Quantum Realm as they attempt to harvest quantum energy, when the Blip occurs and Pym, Hope and Janet turn to dust. In “Avengers: Endgame,” Lang is released from the Quantum Realm when a rat accidentally activates the quantum tunnel. He learns about the Blip and, after learning that Cassie (now played by Emma Fuhrmann) is still alive, leaves California to join the Avengers at the Avengers Compound. Lang is part of a time heist experience and does attempt to steal one of the Infinity Stones. Together, the Avengers’ time heist is successful and those lost in the Blip are restored. Lang saves Rocket, Banner and Rhodes and is part of the final battle against an alternate world Thanos and his army. Lang, Hope, Pym and Janet attend Tony Stark’s funeral.
Now you are up-to-date and ready to travel into the ant terrarium of the MCU Ant-Man.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
The film starts with Janet in the Quantum Realm meeting a handsome stranger (Jonathan Majors). There are a few things that Janet didn’t tell her husband or her daughter about her time in the Quantum Realm. We’ll have to wait to learn just what those things were.
In the current day (2024), Lang is a celebrity due to his involvement with the Avengers, and walking down a sunny California sidewalk, he’s surrounded by a warm, comforting nostalgic hero worship suggested by the soundtrack which uses theme song, “Welcome Back,” from the 1975-1979 TV series, “Welcome Back, Kotter.” I don’t know if there were any cameos from that show’s cast and it would have added to the feel-goodness of this world.
Lang has written a book, “Look Out for the Little Guy,” had a mural painted of him at a train station in Pakistan (an Easter egg from the TV series “Ms. Marvel”) and begun a podcast. But while he is coasting on goodwill (including free drinks and food and the occasional misidentification as Spider-Man), Hope, the head of Pym van Dyne Foundation, is deeply involved in humanitarian efforts. Pym has been playing with his ants and he’s found a new protegée.
Cassie, now played by Kathryn Newton, is an 18-year-old with an interest in science and improving the world through activism. She has to call her father to spring her from jail after being arrested during a protest. But she’s also been reading Pym’s old notes and, unbeknownst to Lang, has her own suit, similar to her father’s, supplied by the grandfatherly Pym. When she demonstrates her new invention which is sort of like a satellite that provides a link to the Quantum Realm, her family is sucked into the Quantum Realm. They are spit out with Lang and Cassie together in one part of the Quantum Realm and Pym, Janet and Hope in another. This is family-bonding under pressure.
The Quantum Realm is colorful and somewhat aquatic, with things that float and and other things have a squishy consistency. If you have a phobia for snails and slugs, you find some of the Quantum Realm creatures inspired by these slimy earth gastropod molluscs. And then there are some that don’t–like the creature who eyes resemble a small spotlight. In the Quantum Realm, the buildings are living creatures or at least they were before a great calamity.
Janet takes the lead with her group; she did, after all, spend 30 years in the Quantum Realm and she wasn’t alone. They go to the Axia community to meet with one of her former acquaintances, Lord Krylar (Bill Murray) who is now the governor, in a cantina.
Elsewhere, Lang and Cassie are captured by a ragtag team of rebels that include Veb (Iranian American actor David Dastmalchian) who is red goo that you can ingest. The goo is important because it allows the Quantum Realm babel to be intelligible to those who drink it. Veb is comic relief. The rebels are led by Jentorra (Katy O’Brian) with the help of the telepath Quaz (William Jackson Harper).
If you’ve been watching “Loki,” then you’ll already know that all roads lead to Kang. Kang was He Who Remains and the creator of the Time Variance Authority in the first season of “Loki.” In “Quantumania,” Kang is an acquaintance of Janet and they have some history.
I do miss the presence of Lang’s X-Con Security crew of Luis (Michael Peña), Dave (Tip “TI” Harris) and Kurt (Dastmalchian) as well as Woo. Their presence helped boost the diversity of the previous Ant-Man films. In San Francisco, diversity is an important issue, even in high tech industries. While you might consider Katy O’Brian’s Jentorra as a part of diversity, I do not see that she is listed as being API or Latina.
According to Census.gov, San Francisco County is 51 percent White, but only 5.7 percent Black or African American. It is 37 percent Asian alone and 15.7 percent Hispanic or Latino. Of that 51 percent, the people who are White alone and not Hispanic or Latino are 38 percent or very close to the number of Asian Americans.
The specific house that is supposed to be Pym’s house is located near Haight-Ashbury along the Buena Vista Park area. According to Niche, the Haight-Ashbury area is 74 percent White, 16 percent Asian, 6 percent Black/African American and 1 percent Hispanic/Latino. The Buena Vista Park area is 74 percent White, 10 percent Asian, 4 percent Hispanic/Latino and 2 percent Black/African American. You’ll see in the trailer that when Scott Lang is walking the neighborhood, Black/African American people are prominently features.
Once we jump into the Quantum Realm, then we’d consider the world population. The population of Eastern Asia is 21.5 percent of the total world population. The population of India is about 18 percent of the world population. The population of Asia, including West Asia, is about 60 percent of the total world population.
About 1.18 billion people are in Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding North Africa. That’s about 17 percent of the World Population, but it is difficult to determine how many people in the world would be considered Black for a variety of reasons.
So then I would say that there is under representation in Ant-Man. There might be a lot of extras who were from West Asia or Europe since one of the filming locations was Cappadoccia, Turkey (Turkey is intercontinental).
Agent Woo does make an appearance, but it is brief. Moreover, I don’t know if being a red blobby Quantum Realm alien counts as West Asian representation because we are only reacting to the voice. In terms of representation, there seems to be little representation of East Asia in the Quantum Realm, but there are two very prominent representatives of Black people in Kang and Quaz. And there is also an actress, Katy M. O’Brian, who is racially “ambiguous,” but according to one website, is part African American. This seems to be the same actress, Katy O’Brian, and the last name seems to be a typo which is corrected in the highlighted text.
Keep in mind that Kang was originally not portrayed in the Marvel Comics as Black or African American. Kang the Conqueror (also Nathaniel Richards) was originally portrayed as a humanoid with a blue face.
Kang is a Korean and a Chinese surname. It might also be a surname for other ethnic groups.
As a PG-13 film, there is violence and people or aliens do die, but there is also a lot of humor, and family bonding, despite past indiscretions under highly unusual circumstances. Director Peyton Reed keeps this two-hour and change MCU outing well-paced and balances the tones that vary from death-defying to comical. Rudd’s hero gets schooled, gently by his daughter’s activism and the chemistry between Rudd and Newton is comfortable. The dynamics of this family of Rudd, Newton, Douglas, Pfeiffer and Lilly is charming. It’s delightful to have a happy family in the Marvel movie realm. The downfall is the issue of diversity and representation.
My husband, a real scientist who has studied physics, said this film has nothing to do with “quantum” except to mean small. Here’s what Merriam-Webster had to say about “quantum.”