Ant-Man Director Peyton Reed Talks Kang, MODOK, And Quantumania

Quantumania is the Ant-Man And The Wasp series like you’ve never seen it before, introducing higher stakes, new worlds, and more dangerous enemies.

Our heroes are no longer fighting villains on the streets of San Francisco. Instead, they have been sucked into the Quantum Realm where they will face off against the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) most terrifying threat yet, Kang The Conqueror.

The threequel sees director Peyton Reed and co. enter new territory, making an Ant-Man movie on a much bigger scale than the team are used to.

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However, this didn’t daunt the filmmaker, who was excited to rise to the challenge, telling us that going all out was the only way to go.

Reed explained: “Yeah, it definitely felt bigger. We all felt that if we were going to make a third Ant-Man movie, we wanted to mix it up as it’s important in any film series to do that.

“You have to take these familiar characters that hopefully audiences have a connection with and switch it up. The first two movies take place in San Francisco and whilst the beginning of this one does too, we quickly take them into the Quantum Realm.

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“That idea felt organic for the Ant-Man movies as we had already raised the question of ‘what is the Quantum Realm?’ Were we ever going to go down there and experience it?

“It’s a big deal in the Marvel comics and we owed audiences answers to questions like ‘what was Janet’s time down there like? What was she doing? Who was she down there?’ We wanted to answer those questions here.”

Quantumania sees Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet take centre stage, stepping in to lead the family when they are thrown into the Quantum Realm.

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Having spent 30 years stuck there, Janet knows that land like no one else, although she has revealed very little about its nature or how she spent her time there.

That all changes when the whole gang is sent there via Cassie’s (Kathryn Newton) satellite device, with Janet forced to unravel her various secrets in the name of survival.

Everyone is shocked by Janet’s unveiling of her mysterious past, but none more so than her daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) who struggles to process these burning truths.

As Reed states, that’s because Hope had certain expectations of what her relationship with her mother would be like upon reuniting:

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“Evangeline and I spoke a lot about Hope, the idea of a daughter getting her mum back after 30 years, what she would expect from that.

“She will be hoping to have all these great conversations with Janet, find out more about her, share stories, maybe get advice about life and being a hero.

“But what would happen if the mum puts up a wall, deciding not to answer these questions, having places she’s unwilling to go? That seemed like an interesting dynamic to explore.

“Maybe there’s PTSD involved – what did happen to her down there that meant she didn’t want to talk about it?

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“It gave us an organic way to introduce Kang The Conqueror into the movie, discovering that in an unlikely fashion, these two characters had a past together and it didn’t work out well for either of them.

“That’s interesting and a way to create a personal connection between our villain and our heroes.”

Janet and Kang’s (Jonathan Majors) shared history is fascinating and as Reed teases, is the source of much of the conflict within this movie, making the battle between the Conqueror and our heroes more emotional, raw, and intimate.

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Kang The Conqueror, of course, is the big bad of this next chapter of the MCU, a time-travelling entity who has the rather lofty ambition of ruling all of time and space.

And whilst Majors first debuted as one of the villain’s many variants in Loki, appearing as He Who Remains, the actor was first cast for Quantumania.

It was Reed who hand-picked Majors for the role, seeing him as the only choice for Kang after watching a single scene in the 2017 drama Hostiles:

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“I’ve been a fan since then, although he only played a very small role. There was a scene he did with Christian Bale where he’s lying in bed dying, and you just can’t take your eyes off him, he’s such a compelling individual.

“For Kang we needed certain things; an actor with physicality, a real presence and range. That’s an important part of this villain and what distinguishes him from other antagonists in the MCU.

“Jonathan just made sense and I was thrilled to invite him into the MCU. We also love the idea of him being an entirely different energy to the light-hearted, happy-go-lucky Scott.

“What would happen if those two energies met? That seemed dramatically interesting from the start.”

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Majors didn’t just bring a fresh energy to the film, but also to the set, as Reed chuckled describing the actor as quite the “disruptor”.

Fully embracing the spirit of his antagonist, Majors ensured that his presence was felt by the cast and crew at all times, which yes, did include playing a tailor-made Kang The Conqueror playlist on set:

“Jonathan had fun with the whole process! He’s a very serious, committed actor but what he did was project this commanding presence throughout the shoot.

“He even had a Kang playlist! You’d hear this music which was an amazing mix of classical music, Notorious B.I.G., Stevie Wonder, and more – an unexpected mix of things that meant something to him and was all about displaying power.

“You would hear the music and you’d see people stand to attention, they knew he was coming. It was a very different energy.”

Okay Jonathan, we think it’s time you drop the Kang playlist onto Spotify. It’s what the people want!

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Of course Kang The Conqueror isn’t the only villain terrorising our heroes in Quantumania as that’s right, MODOK has arrived!

The Mechanised Organism Designed Only For Killing, a.k.a. MODOK, has long been a fan favourite comic book character thanks to his bonkers design, bizarre personality, taste for world domination, and fondness for yelling ridiculous things (“if you think I’ve evolved beyond the joys of murder, you’d be wrong” is a personal favourite).

As a member of the MODOK fan base himself, Reed knew he had to get the character right, but how on Earth do you bring a giant weaponised screaming head to live-action?

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And not only that, but how do you make his battle against Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and co. personal? The answer here was to tie MODOK to a character from Lang’s past…

Reed teases: “As a kid I was possibly scarred by MODOK – he’s such a weird, grotesque character in the comics. We had to figure out what a live-action version of that would look like.

“And when we hit upon the idea of who MODOK is, it got us all excited. It gave MODOK a reason for being in this movie and brought some things home that we set up in the first movie with Scott, Hank, and Hope.

“But also with Cassie as she had a previous encounter with this character who is now this wholly other thing.

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“We also liked this idea that MODOK has in his brain that he’s the main villain of this movie – it’s not Kang, it’s him!

“He doesn’t realise how much has happened since the first movie, that Scott and Hope are now Avengers – he missed out on all this stuff. That struck us as fun!”

MODOK seems to have a personal vendetta against the whole world, but it’s especially treacherous when it comes to Cassie, who becomes the main target of his pursuit of vengeance.

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Having to take on both MODOK and Kang The Conqueror, we see the young Cassie join the family business, donning her very own Ant-Man suit.

It’s the start of the character’s journey to becoming Stature, which is the superhero mantle she takes on in the comic books, and her dad couldn’t be prouder.

However, Cassie’s relationship with her father in Quantumania isn’t completely rosy, with tension being present for the first time, as Reed explains:

“Cassie is now 18 and that of course provides a different dynamic. It gave us the opportunity to explore this father-daughter relationship and go further with it, especially since they lost five years together after Endgame.

“He still maybe sees her as a little girl but she’s not that – she’s her own woman, she has ideas of her own, and is trying to find her voice. What is her version of bringing justice to the world?

“Her idea of that is different to her dad’s and we like exploring that generational divide. They love each other but she’s at that age where she can be critical of her father.

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“She feels like he’s wasting his time looking in the rear view mirror doing a victory lap. She wants to remind him that there is still so much injustice in the world – he’s an Avenger, he should be doing something about it.

“She has all these ideals but being shrunk down to the Quantum Realm and ending up in the middle of this war, those ideals will be put to the test. Can she rise to the challenge of becoming a hero?”

Cassie discovers what she can use her powers for when she encounters a group of freedom fighters in the Quantum Realm, a whole community which has been destroyed after Kang tore apart their home, building his citadel on their bones.

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This community is just one of many we see in Quantumania, as our heroes encounter all sorts of strange creatures, aliens, and beings.

We discover that not only is there life in the Quantum Realm, but there is a wide range of religions, complicated politics, various societies, and so much to explore.

Fleshing out this new land was a huge job for Reed and his team to take on, who drew from various sources of sci-fi inspiration to bring to life this vibrant, buzzing world.

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“It was a big task but one I was excited about as it was a whole different environment to the ones seen in the other two movies. We had to create this very strange, alien, sub-atomic world, as well as all the creatures, inhabitants, and politics of that.

“We worked with a very talented team of artists to create this vivid world and in terms of inspiration, Star Wars was one of many references and I’m glad you referenced Doctor Who – I grew up in the Tom Baker era but continued on.

“Another big one for me was reading and listening to Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, that Douglas Adams vibe. But there’s also some Flash Gordon and Alien thrown in, all this stuff I loved growing up. I wanted it to be a mish-mash of these pulp sci-fi vibes.”

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The Quantum Realm is so expansive there is plenty to explore, with the two-hour run-time of Quantumania being not nearly enough to do this.

Reed plays it coy when I ask him if he is keen to helm another MCU adventure, perhaps discovering the depths of this land, however, he is certain our heroes’ journey is far from over.

He concludes: “Right now the focus has been on doing this trilogy – I’m thrilled we go to do three Ant-Man movies and progress these characters.

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“I think that there’s a lot more story to tell with Scott, Hope, Hank, Janet, and Kang – how that plays out remains to be seen. But their stories are definitely not over.”

Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania is out in UK cinemas now.

You can read our interviews with the cast of the film, including Majors, in the latest edition of our free digital magazine The Lowdown. Get your copy here.

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Emily Murray

Emily Murray


Emily is a journalist and film critic who unashamedly cries at most movies having got too emotionally attached. When not at the cinema, she is at home cuddling her cat Holmes, whilst binge watching New Girl. She can be found on Twitter @emilyvmurray