There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania was not good. The film was a critical and commercial disappointment, continuing the MCU’s current trend to deliver subpar efforts that further complicate the already shaky and convoluted Multiverse Saga. Quantum had all the elements to succeed: Paul Rudd’s charm, a thrilling premise — on paper, anyway –, an interesting villain, Michelle Pfeiffer. Alas, the film wasted all this potential, offering a weird and confused story with awful CGI, absurd characters, and no real stakes, despite what its monologuing villain claimed.
Who’s to blame for Quantum‘s mediocrity? Screenwriter Jeff Loveness bears much of the blame, penning a weak story that squandered one of the MCU’s most personable heroes and introduced the Multiverse Saga’s Big Bad with a fizzle rather than a bang. However, I’d say director Peyton Reed is the true culprit here, especially because, after two movies, Reed should know better and have more control over these characters. The first two Ant-Man movies were nothing great, but they weren’t this bad, right? Perhaps they were; we just were in such an MCU high that we either didn’t notice or gave them a pass.
However, there’s still promise in Ant-Man, if only because of Paul Rudd. But if the character is to continue in the MCU, it needs to be under different leadership. The Ant-Man series needs a more assured, confident hand to guide it out of the gutter; it needs a leader who is a fan of these characters and doesn’t treat them as jokes; it needs to keep things tight, with a director who is also a writer; above all, it needs fresh blood, an outsider foreign to the MCU’s factory-produced content. In short, Ant-Man needs Edgar Wright.
Once upon a time in Wright-land
Almost every MCU fan knows the Ant-Man series was initially developed by acclaimed genre filmmaker Edgar Wright. The director, who rose to prominence with his beloved Cornetto Trilogy, was behind the project since 2006, spending nearly a decade developing the IP. And it was a risky property to translate to the big screen; Marvel fans might’ve known who Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne were, but the average moviegoer might’ve rolled their eyes at the prospect of a hero whose superpower is shrinking to the size of an ant.
Ant-Man lived and died with Wright, with Feige telling MTV in 2013 that the director’s vision was “the only reason we’re making the movie.” But time has proven that filmmakers with distinctive visions can’t work within the MCU’s tight constraints, and tragedy would soon strike. As soon as the film entered production, rumors came out about rumored differences between Feige and Wright, culminating with the bombshell May 2014 announcement that Wright was exiting as director.
Peyton Reed eventually replaced Wright after several names circulated the project. Reed picked up where Wright left off and continued as if nothing had happened, with Adam McKay and Rudd contributing to the script. However, Wright’s shadow loomed large over the project — how could it not when the director spent nearly a decade working on it? And although Feige and Reed insisted that the latter was putting his own spin on the film, Wright’s DNA was all over the project. Every key casting choice happened under Wright: Rudd, Michael Douglas, Michael Peña, Evangeline Lily. Some of the film’s most successful scenes have Wright written all over: Luis’ fast-paced narration — arguably the film’s most iconic part –, the Thomas the Tank Engine fight, the 1960s vibe. Ant-Man was Edgar Wright’s project in all but name.
The sequel was less Wright, which means it was much worse. Ant-Man and the Wasp is possibly the most forgettable MCU film this side of Thor: Love and Thunder. It has the worst MCU villain, an uninspired plot, meh action sequences, and an underwhelming romance that never takes off. Michelle Pfeiffer and the Quantum Realm’s introductions are the only good things about it, but otherwise, Ant-Man and the Wasp is the worst kind of MCU movie: overstuffed, overblown, and over-indulgent.
Edgar Wright, you’re our only hope
In case it isn’t clear, I’m a huge Edgar Wright fan. The Cornetto Trilogy is a comedic masterpiece, Baby Driver is the perfect mix of action, style, and humor, and I will go to my grave defending Last Night in Soho. Love or hate him, there’s no denying Edgar Wright is a true auteur, a director whose style and humor are recognizable from a mile away. That’s what the MCU desperately needs: a strong, capable, decisive filmmaker who can disrupt the franchise’s by-the-numbers storytelling. The MCU needs uncompromising directors, daring artists with unique visions to breathe life into a franchise quickly running out of steam.
Edgar Wright’s style is all or nothing; you don’t get toned-down or half-assed ideas. His fast-paced, kinetic, vibrant approach to filmmaking would be ideal for Ant-Mana franchise that has never stood out for having a distinctive essence. In many ways, Ant-Man is still a blank canvas, despite having three films — which says a lot about Reed’s safe, disposable approach to these movies. Wright would be electrifying in an Ant-Man movie, injecting a healthy dose of adrenaline into the series and removing the ugly aftertaste left by Quantum.
I’ll be honest: a fourth Ant-Man movie might seem unnecessary at this point. Scott Lang’s tiny hero has always been treated as a second-class citizen in the MCU; even in Avengers: Endgamewhen he is the literal catalyst for the plot, everyone still sees him as small-time — the ugly, weak cousin everyone makes fun of in the family reunion. Rocket insults him, Nebula discards him, Rhodey bullies him, and the others see him as a clown, an overly-excited fan who has risen far above his pay grade. Quantum was supposed to be his graduation to the big leagues, what with fighting the Multiverse Saga’s Big Bad and all. But he was still undersold in his movie, with everyone taking cheap shots at him for being “out of his league.”
My main problem with Reed’s version of Ant-Man is that he allowed the character to become the MCU’s punching bag; even Hawkeye gets more respect. But Wright would never allow that; he has too much respect and affection for Ant-Man to sell him so short. Wright is a true fan, someone who understands Ant-Man’s appeal and considers him special and unique among all the other Avengers. Wright sees Ant-Man’s potential and how much he could do for the Avengers and the MCU. Wright’s mind could do wonders with Ant-Man’s powers; whereas the current MCU treats them as a visual gag rather than anything actually useful, Wright’s restless, dynamic style would exploit Ant-Man’s skills to their fullest.
A Wright-directed Ant-Man film could also allow the tiny hero to go against two of his coolest comic book villains: Eric O’Grady, the Black Ant, which could provide an interesting contrast to Scott’s boy scout take on Ant-Man: and, of course, Ultron, who the MCU wasted in a mediocre movie. Wright would be the right director to do these two characters justice while delivering a worthy and proud version of Ant-Man in the process.
What happens next?
The chances for a fourth Ant-Man movie are slim. Quantum was a low point for the MCU, perhaps damaging the character’s already shaky reputation irreparably. Paul Rudd is always a welcome presence, especially if he’s down to be the target of more jokes, and he could perfectly return as a supporting character in a future Avengers movie, especially given his experience “fighting” Kang. But a fourth solo film for his ant-sized hero? Unlikely.
However, if it does happen for some magical reason, then it shouldn’t be under Peyton Reed’s vision. The director has had three shots already, delivering worse projects each time. By now, it’s clear everything that worked in the first Ant-Man came from Wright’s mind. After spending a decade developing the project, Wright deserves a chance to save it from the pit of mediocrity the MCU threw it into. Ant-Man can be cool; hell, he is cool. So why is he so lame on the big screen? He needs a cool director to bring out his coolness for the world to see, and after nearly a decade of watching him fail to live up to his potential, we desperately want it too.
As it turns out, we do need a fourth Ant-Man film, but under the right leadership. Scott Lang deserves his redemption, we deserve a good movie, and Edgar Wright deserves to finally join the MCU and helm the Ant-Man movie he always wanted to make.