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'Ant-Man: Quantumania' Ending Explained: Don't Be a Dick, Kang

How does Paul Rudd's new Marvel movie set up Kang, MODOK and phase 5 of the MCU?

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Expertise Films | TV | Movies | Television | Technology
Richard Trenholm
5 min read
Image from the movie Ant-Man: Quantumania

Kathryn Newton and Paul Rudd face a new era in Ant-Man: Quantumania.


Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is more than the latest Marvel movie. It's a new chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ushering in new supervillain Kang in an era codenamed Phase 5. But how does the end of the movie set up this new beginning for the MCU, in movies on the big screen and TV shows on Disney Plus

In Ant-Man 3, in theaters now, Paul Rudd returns as small-time-thief-turned-big-time-superhero Scott Lang. With his girlfriend, scientist Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), Lang's been coasting through a life of celebrity, oblivious to the political awakening of his daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton), or the repressed trauma of Hope's mom, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer).

Janet is horrified when her husband, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), helps Cassie sends a signal to the quantum realm, a plane of reality teenier than an atom. Janet was lost in that nightmarish itty-bitty world for 30 years, and was only rescued in 2018's Ant-Man and the Wasp. So she's none too happy when the whole family is sucked in and shrunk down, lost in the quantum realm and facing the chillingly soft-spoken dictator Kang (Jonathan Majors).

Kang forces Scott to retrieve the multiverse engine core that Janet damaged years ago, giving Kang the power to finally escape and launch an invasion of the larger world.

To stop him, Cassie gives an impassioned speech to the downtrodden people of the quantum realm, who rise up against Kang. Scott and Cassie turn giant and smash their way into Kang's tower, although Cassie discovers that changing size takes a lot of energy (and limes). 

The insurgents are reinforced by an army of high-tech ants who evolved from Hank's experiments thanks to time fast-forwarding. "Socialism may be a charged word, but we've got a lot to learn from them," Hank says of the super-evolved ant society.

The moral of the story is that individuals shouldn't lose hope, even in the face of overwhelming odds. Even the tiniest ant or lowliest person can change the world when everyone bands together. 

MODOK is not a dick

In the first Ant-Man movie, sleazy arms salesman Darren Cross attempted to sell Hank Pym's size-changing technology. That led to a showdown with Scott in Cassie's bedroom when the poor kid was just six. Scott saved her then by damaging Darren's Yellowjacket suit, which imploded and crushed Darren down to subatomic size.

But rather than killing him, this sent Darren to the quantum realm. His mangled body was joined with a heavily armed cyborg suit, and he became a Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing (AKA MODOK). It was MODOK who detected Cassie's signal and kidnapped the Ant-fam.

In Quantumania, Cassie faces Darren once again. Despite the fact he tried to kill her and her mom when she was just a kid, she offers him redemption. "Don't be a dick!" she suggests. "It's too late," he replies. 

"It's never too late to stop being a dick," Cassie answers, and never a truer word was spoken.

Darren joins the rebellion against Kang, forcing his way through the conqueror's forcefields with the immortal battlecry, "My name is Darren and I am not a dick!" This kills Darren, but his crucial intervention helps the rebellion to smash Kang's forces. Not enough to qualify him as an Avenger, but whatever.

Hope for the future

As the Ant-fam return to the real world, Scott is stuck in the quantum realm. He and Kang throw down in a brutal final punch-up that leaves Scott bloodied and bruised. Luckily, he was only playing for time, soaking up the beating until Hope can return and destroy the multiverse engine core with size-changing technology.

It's great that Hope saves the day, seeing as she hasn't had anything to do the whole movie. She's introduced as being a world-saving scientist, but that's just a tangent in Scott's voice-over detailing his celebrity lifestyle. Hope spent most of the movie trailing around after Janet trying to get her mom to explain this whole quantum realm deal, and aside from a bit of fighting is criminally underused. It has to be said, the filmmakers really shortchange Evangeline Lilly in this one.

Hope apparently succeeds where her mom failed, seemingly imploding the multiverse engine for good. Kang is also sucked into the explosion, which seems pretty final. Of course, that isn't the last we'll see of Kang…  

Who is Kang?

It turns out that Kang was deliberately imprisoned in the quantum realm. Who banished him? His own alternate selves from across the multiverse -- different versions of the same man who crossed over from their own parallel realities.

The Kang of this movie says he saw the different versions of himself "playing with time like children," but also "saw how it ends." To stop "chaos spreading across realities," he "took control." This involved killing and enslaving whole civilizations, apparently. The consortium of Kangs ganged up to exile this film's villain to the one place that could contain his power: the quantum realm.

Image from the movie Ant-Man: Quantumania

Jonathan Majors (right) steals the show from Paul Rudd in Ant-Man: Quantumania.


Kang the exile quickly imposed his will on the quantum realm, facing resistance with a cry of, "Do you have any idea how many rebellions I've put down? How many Avengers I've killed?" 

Even so, it's worth remembering that the Ant-family are interlopers in this world, and it's worth considering the morality of interfering in another realm that isn't their own. It's pretty clear that Kang is a bad guy set on launching a new reign of terror, which is all the encouragement the superheroes need to arm and direct an insurrection against him. In the real world, of course, foreign policy decisions about "regime change" in other lands are rarely so straightforward. 

And indeed, it turns out Kang the exile may have been the one person who stood against the combined might of his multiple selves. Upon returning to the real world (to the theme from 1970s sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter), Scott once again adopts a sunny outlook on life, until he remembers Kang's warning about his other selves. Scott quickly dismisses these fears, but the post-credits scene reveals bad times coming…

What's next for the MCU?

This Kang may be finished, but there's more where that came from. Like Thanos before him, Kang will be the major antagonist of the MCU Phase 5, building to a movie called Avengers: The Kang Dynasty in 2025.

In the meantime, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and The Marvels come out in theaters this summer. They may not feature Kang, but Quantumania's mid-credits scene suggests that Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson will face a new Kang in Loki season 2, which will stream on Disney Plus at some point this year.

Here's the full list of the rest of Phase 5, from Quantumania to the next few years of theatrical movies and streaming series.

New Movies Coming in 2023 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More

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