With “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” playing out its second weekend in global theatrical release, much of the chatter around the film has focused on its baddie, one of the seemingly countless variants of Jonathan Majors’ Kang. The Marvel marketing machine is pitching the would-be conqueror as the next Thanos-level threat, with appearances in this third “Ant-Man” and the first season finale of “Loki” before getting his name in the title in the summer 2025 release “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty.”
For a look at what makes Jonathan Majors’ Kang a different kind of threat, and a different kind of character from Josh Brolin’s universe-killing Thanos, TheWrap spoke with Jeff Loveness, the screenwriter behind both the recent “Ant-Man” threequel and the upcoming “Avengers” team-up flick.
Loveness spoke about Kang, what he does or doesn’t know about future Kang-centric adventures and why he used the opportunity to give Michelle Pfeiffer an MCU spotlight.
NOTE: Spoilers are included.
What makes “Rick and Morty” writers a good fit for the current version of the MCU?
It helps to have a little shorthand with multiverse storytelling and a sci-fi comedy background. They [“Rick and Morty” producers] just hire sharp writers. They really put you through your paces of story structure. Dan Harmon has a big Joseph Campbell background, so you really get a sense of that macro-level storytelling.
What guardrails and or restrictions did you have from Marvel, in terms of this being a stand-alone sci-fi comedy adventure, the third “Ant-Man” and a season premiere of sorts for the next big MCU arc?
I try not to think about it that way. I know they are doing their secret vampire cabal planning behind the scenes. All I knew going into talking with [director] Peyton Reed was that they wanted a tonal shift from the first two movies, where they had seen enough of Ant-Man fighting on the back of an eraser. The goal was to make it more of an epic, one set in the quantum realm.
Kang the Conqueror was available, but there was no impetus to making him the next “Big Bad.” That came from the strength of Jonathan Majors’ performance [as Kang]. Kang was always a top-shelf “Avengers” villain up there with Dr. Doom, Loki, Thanos and Magneto.
What makes Kang a different upper-level threat compared to Thanos?
Our real advantage here is having a human being with a human face, a guy who doesn’t have powers and is essentially the Iron Man of the future. You get to have a lot of Bill Pope-shot close-ups on this guy. You get to have a lot of conversations with him.
He’s nearly omnipotent in the comics. My pitch on him was “Napoleon in exile.” In another world I was going to be a high school history teacher. I took a lot of reference points from a guy who could have the title “Conqueror” in his name.
In this film, he’s in a vulnerable, exiled state, and you see him being a real person with [Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet van Dyne]. When the lie catches up, it’s tragic and sad. That’s the first real connection he’s had in centuries.
I really wanted to pivot away from the monolithic Thanos who can beat Thor up in the cold open of “Avengers: Infinity War,” and go the other way and show the very human, broken side of Kang.
Have you been told what happens next with Kang or any of your characters?
I’m writing “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty.” I had written “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” and I thought that was it for me, but they must have really liked the script and the characterization of Kang. I didn’t really plan on charting out an “Avengers” story, but I laid down a little bit of track. I’m honestly quite thrilled that I get to do a saga with the best actor in the world right now.
Thanos was a monolithic Titan. Kang gets to be a bit more postmodern. How many lives can a man have? He gets to be this sort of “Great Gatsby” of time. I think Majors has the potential to make this a great performance among comic book superhero villains, we both want to swing for the heights reached by Health Ledger’s Joker in “The Dark Knight.”
What choices did you make in terms of the other characters?
Michelle Pfeiffer is so overdue for a blockbuster reappreciation. And I was all “I get to write Michelle Pfeiffer in a complicated action role!” Moreover, every other superhero movie is about father/son relationships. I’ve never seen a superhero movie with a strained mother/daughter relationship, where a mother’s trauma is explored as much as Vader or Jor-El. Mothers don’t want you to worry about them, and they hate telling you what damaged them. It seemed powerful to do “A History of Violence” with Michelle Pfeiffer.
As for Paul Rudd, Scott Lang has done this for a while. I wanted to riff on “Rocky III,” where he’s resting on his laurels a bit. Maybe he’s lost a step, maybe the stuff that took him away from his daughter was really what she respected him for.
Was there any discussion about bringing in some of the other supporting characters? I’m thinking of folks like Judy Greer or Michael Peña.
I love Louise and those guys, but like I think we need more time with Kang, Janet and Kathryn Newton’s Cassie Lang. Even though those [previous “Ant-Man” co-stars] are fun, kind of like “Wizard of Oz” side characters. I just don’t think they would fit into the movie that we were making. I’ll take the hit on that. They didn’t die of food poisoning off-screen.
Are Cassie’s mother and stepfather still alive?
There was a really bad carbon monoxide leak..