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Quantumania Director Peyton Reed On How Kang Opens Up Many Potential MCU Pathways - Exclusive Interview

Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has officially begun with the premiere of "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania," the third solo Ant-Man film and the debut of the villainous Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). Kang is a time-traveling multiversal conqueror who becomes stranded in the Quantum Realm during Janet van Dyne's stay in the small, vast subatomic universe. When our protagonists find themselves pulled into the Quantum Realm, they have to forge new alliances, survive Kang's antagonism, and find their way back to Earth while preventing Kang from escaping his quantum prison. 

It's an exciting time to be a Marvel fan, with the multiverse wide open and one of Marvel's best and toughest villains set to oppose the MCU's finest. 

In an exclusive interview, we spoke with "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" director Peyton Reed about the new Marvel outing. He lauded Majors' legitimately powerful performance, and we discussed Kang's secretive connection to Janet van Dyne's past and the many storytelling avenues that Kang opens up for the MCU. Kang boasts such a rich comic history with many powerful variants, and they're no doubt set to open up massive challenges for Marvel's heroes.

Exploring family secrets in Ant-Man 3

I'm a huge fan of Kang. He's probably my favorite Marvel comic book villain, and I'm excited to talk Kang with you.

I love it. I grew up reading Marvel. I've loved Kang for many, many, many years, and it was one of the great joys of doing this movie that we got to bring Kang into the MCU. Casting Jonathan Majors was maybe the best decision I've ever made in one of these movies. He is such an exciting actor, and we had numerous conversations early on — through Zoom and in person, all along before we shot the movie — about who this character is and who he's going to be in the MCU. And Jonathan brings it. He's a scary guy in this movie.

We also discover that Janet's been hiding a lot about her past in the Quantum Realm for some time, and it isn't until it's life or death that she finally opens up. What was it about Kang and her experiences there that scared her so much?

The "Ant-Man" movies have always been about family at their core, and we really like the idea, in this movie, to expand that, to talk about the secrets that family members keep from each other. At the beginning of the movie, they're keeping secrets from Scott. Janet has not told the family about her time in the Quantum Realm, and Hope and Hank haven't told Scott about what's been going on with Cassie in the basement. Cassie hasn't told Scott about being in jail an additional time. Janet has the biggest secret of all; she's not been willing to talk with Hope. 

[When] they rescued her in the last movie, Hope had this expectation "I'm going to get to know mom again." Well, what if mom throws up a wall and isn't willing to talk about her time down there? Maybe she has a little bit of PTSD.

We find out throughout the course of this story that there's a lot she didn't talk about, and chief among them is Kang the Conqueror, her time with him. They met before, and it didn't end up working out very well for either of them. And as much as she's tried to put the past behind her, the past catches up with you. Now she's forced to confront her past and the choices she made, and her family has [been] pulled into it. That struck us as fertile ground for this story and a really organic way to bring Kang into the MCU.

Kang opens fertile ground for continued MCU drama

Kang-versus-Kang conflict is teased in this film's backstory, and conflict between Kang and Immortus is so pivotal in the comics. There are multiple arcs with one or another partnering with the Avengers, et cetera, and conflicting with each other. What possibilities might there be for us seeing some of that conflict, or even an alliance of sorts between Kang and some heroes?

Introducing Kang in "Quantumania," which kicks off Phase 5, is exciting, but there's a reason we're kicking off Phase 5, and it is Kang. What makes him unique in the pantheon of Marvel villains, and certainly from Thanos, is that there are Kang variants. He's at war with our heroes, but he's also at war with himself, or himselves. He Who Remains, who we've seen in Season 1 of "Loki," is a very different character than Kang the Conqueror in our movie

In the context of our movie, Kang is the most feared, most fearsome of the Kangs, but there exists in the Marvel Comics universe a Council of Kangs. There's Rama-Tut, there's Immortus, there's the Scarlet Centurion and various Centurions, and there's the Council of Kangs. It's an exciting thing that we haven't seen played out in the MCU.

So there's a lot of palace intrigue that can happen, and the idea of "What's the power structure of the Kangs?" You could be in for something that's almost like a Mafia godfather-style thing, where they each have their lanes that they're in. If there's a Kang in every universe of the multiverse, maybe there's an unwritten thing about "All's good. You control your universe, you stay in your lane, but if you go in this other lane, something bad might happen." And Kang the Conqueror might be a guy who doesn't quite know how to stay in his lane. 

I love the idea that they could all have different ideas about what the multiverse [is] or how it should be run, so I do think that there's a lot in store for Marvel fans [in terms of] what this could mean for the larger universe. As we know from "Spider-Man" and "Doctor Strange," our MCU heroes are starting to discover the multiverse, and do they pose a threat to the Kang power structure? That all feels like very, very fertile ground for continued MCU drama.

"Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" debuts February 17 in theaters.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.