SPOILER ALERT: This story discusses major plot points, including the ending and the post-credits scenes, for “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” currently playing in theaters.
At this point, even casual followers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are likely aware that “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” launches Phase 5 of the MCU. What that means is a bit fuzzier to define.
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To start, there’s the whole idea of “Phase 5” as a discrete unit of measurement within the larger Multiverse Saga, especially since Phase 4 wound up feeling like the least cohesive the MCU has ever been. A few titles did link together — “Black Widow” flowed into “Hawkeye”; “WandaVision” set up “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” — but that feeling of a single, larger story coming together that made the MCU so thrilling in the Infinity Saga didn’t quite cohere in Phase 4. How can “Quantumania” start a new phase if what came before it didn’t really end more than it just kinda stopped?
The answer is Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror, the villain of “Quantumania” and the overall Big Bad of the Multiverse Saga. Majors made his MCU debut in 2021’s Disney+ series “Loki,” as a variant of Kang known as He Who Remains, who foretells of the carnage that awaits the multiverse if his other variants are allowed to thrive. “Quantumania” is Marvel’s first attempt to live up to that promise, by placing Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang in the crosshairs of what we’re told is the most formidable version of Kang in the multiverse, the one known as the Conqueror.
Your milage may vary as to how much the Conqueror lives up to that billing. Majors is never less than fabulously intimidating in the role; the character does overtake the whole of the Quantum Realm on his own; and when he’s wearing his suit, built with technology from the future, he has seemingly limitless telekinetic powers. He says he was exiled by all the other Kangs for attempting to wipe them all out, erasing entire realities in the process, so we know he’s even more ruthless than Thanos. (That M.O., by the way, sounds awfully similar to why He Who Remains created the Time Variance Authority in “Loki” — more on that later.)
But this version of Kang is also ultimately defeated — nay, seemingly obliterated from existence — by Scott, his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), his girlfriend Hope (Evangeline Lilly), Hope’s parents Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Hank (Michael Douglas), the citizens of the Quantum Realm, and a swarm of giant, super-intelligent ants. It’s not nothing, but it also isn’t close to an army of Avengers a la “Endgame,” either.
That brings us to “Quantumania’s” two post-credits scenes. The first scene features an army of Kangs gathered within a massive amphitheater that appears to be ensconced outside of the multiverse itself. They’re overseen by three Kang variants, all of whom have counterparts within the pages of Marvel comics. There’s Rama-Tut, dressed like an Egyptian pharaoh; the Scarlet Centurion, who looks like a sophisticated cyborg; and Immortus, with blue skin, an eccentric beard, and raspy voice that suggests he’s the oldest of them all.
These three Kangs discuss how the defeat of the Conqueror by Ant-Man has made plain that the pesky Avengers may scuttle their plans to rule over the multiverse. Then we cut back to the amphitheater, filled with that army of Kangs — known as the Council of Kangs in the comics.
At the very least, this scene makes clear just how overwhelming of a threat Kang really is to the MCU, and where it’s heading with 2025’s “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty.” The introduction of Rama-Tut is particularly compelling, since that character is one of the enemies of the Fantastic Four, who will make their MCU debut right before “The Kang Dynasty.”
The second post-credits scene focuses on just one Kang, who appears as a man named Victor Timely, extolling his views on the mechanics of time to a rapt audience in 1920s America. We cut to Loki (Tom Hiddleston), watching with terror as Timely speaks, as Loki’s TVA buddy Mobius (Owen Wilson) wonders what the fuss is all about.
In the comics, Timely is a version of Kang the Conqueror who founds a town in Wisconsin in 1901 that houses the company that will, eventually, create the technology Kang uses to hopscotch across time and space. As with every title in the MCU, it’s unclear how much “Loki” will follow this storyline in its second season, but it is clear that Kang will be center stage once again on the show.
And that, really, is the biggest impact these post-credits scenes have: They demonstrate just how much Marvel is reinvesting into the whole concept of an interconnected cinematic universe.
Phase 4 spent so much time over its 17 titles setting up new franchises and new characters — including in post-credits scenes for “Eternals,” “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” “Thor: Love and Thunder” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” — that the disparate film and TV tiles barely had time to relate to each other. “Quantumania” returns the MCU to a larger, Kang-ier meta-narrative.
That has its own risks. Yes, the MCU has been a groundbreaking pop-cultural phenomenon, but every new connection makes it feel that much more staggering to comprehend. It was so refreshing to watch “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” or “Moon Knight” and not feel like one needed a Ph.D in MCU Studies to follow their storylines.
Perhaps that is one reason why Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige recently told Entertainment Weekly that Marvel was slowing down its release schedule moving forward. At Comic-Con last July, Feige announced that no less than 10 film and TV titles would premiere in 2023. Insiders now indicate that as few as half that number will wind up debuting this year, with the rest moving to 2024 and beyond.
That would be a far more manageable pace for most audiences to keep up with the MCU. Whether they can keep up with Kang is another question.
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