The Ants Are Better Than Ever In Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is full of almost every kind of massive, powerful entity you can think of, from pantheons of gods to Celestials, to Eternals, dragons, and giants. The newest Marvel movie hitting theaters, "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania," takes an entirely opposite route — like both "Ant-Man" and "Ant-Man and the Wasp," it gets smaller. This time it's the smallest yet, taking us into the heart of the Quantum Realm for all things Lang and Kang. "Quantumania" sets off Marvel's Phase 5, sure, introducing one of Marvel Comics' best villains, and all that's important and fine and good. 

What's really important, of course, is what the movie does for our brilliant six-legged friends, the undersung heroes of the MCU: the ant. 

Ants have always been pivotal in the "Ant-Man" trilogy. The first film introduces us to original Ant-Man Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), and new protégé Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), alongside the group's secret weapon: a massive posse of the humble insects. While they've solved many problems for our conquering heroes, and truly made many scenes in the process, never before has the franchise treated them as well, with as much gravitas, respect, and potential as in "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania."  As a consequence, they're better than ever before in the MCU.

They've grown in Hank Pym's sentim-ants

In the first "Ant-Man," we're introduced to everything ant. In his exposition-laden initial chats with Scott Lang, we learn about the various ant species and their uses. Crazy, bullet, carpenter, fire ants, if it's an ant, it's useful to Hank Pym. We learn how Pym communicates with the ants using electromagnetic waves. It's clear that Pym appreciates the ants and all their strength and basic skills, but he doesn't truly respect them. Ants are tools, defenders, or weapons, but they aren't allies or friends. 

When Lang gets his first ant steed, the ant doesn't have a name. It's "247" before Scott christens him Anthony. Pym makes the point to say "he doesn't have a name, he has a number, Scott, do you have any idea how many ants there are?" A short beat later Pym tells Scott "I'm controlling 247, he's not listening to you." Here, Pym treats the ants as objects he controls; decidedly not so in "Quantumania."

From the outset of "Quantumania," Pym has an ant farm with ants he describes as intelligent and building their own technology. This is a far cry from Pym's prior attitude of claiming control over them and their accomplishments. Instead, Pym treats them with respect (nearly awe) and gives them explicit credit, a marked difference in their stature between "Quantumania" and prior outings. His new attitude is reflected in his repeated "Quantumania" refrain "I love ants," and he does! Janet replies, "and I love that you love them." We do, too, Janet. We do, too.

They're finally meeting their evolutionary pot-ant-ial

Of course, the ants being treated with greater respect and recognition in "Quantumania" isn't the only reason they're better than ever in the MCU. This third "Ant-Man" outing actually allows them to be better, to improve, and (spoiler) to evolve in every aspect, from social and technological to physical. They are literally better than ever!

From the outset, as noted before, Pym established that his ants were smart and developing their own technology, and this is well before the team (and the ants) gets pulled into the Quantum Realm. When the team finds themselves shrinking and falling, the ant farm does too, getting caught in an independent timeline that gives them thousands of years of further evolution. They emerge a truly intelligent offshoot with a technocratic socialist society and advanced technology, one trying to find Pym in the subatomic universe. 

While this may be playing fast and loose with evolutionary processes, every second of the ants' existence is better than it has been in any prior MCU movie. From moment one they've excelled at "ant science," and they become further evolved and socially advanced throughout the film, building one of the MCU's greatest civilizations thanks to pocket timeline shenanigans and the bizarre rules of the Quantum Realm. When the movie ends, we have the Best Ants Ever and the makings of an expansive ant utopia in the heart of the Quantum Realm.

Becoming Kang's mightiest ant-agonists

As a consequence of their increased respect and technological and social development, Pym's ant-buddies are allowed to do something with greater impact than ever before, playing a pivotal role in the fight against Kang the Conqueror. As Kang gears up to engage the engine of his multiverse-traveling ship, first giving an impassioned speech to his soldiers, Cassie breaks his prisoners from their Quantum jail cells and overrides his signal to send a call out to any rebels in the Quantum Realm.

The reinforcements arrive along with Ant-Man and family, and make considerable progress in beating back Kang's army until the Conqueror himself enters the fray directly and angrily starts vaporizing rebels. He almost thwarts the rebel's advance entirely until Pym arrives with reinforcemANTS (sorry, I had to). The technological ant civilization has emerged and reunited with Pym, and they swarm Kang's remaining forces and Kang himself. Alongside a reformed M.O.D.O.K., Kang's insectoid ant-agonists overwhelm his technology, damaging his shield and armor and carrying him away. 

Kang returns later with damaged armor and capabilities thanks to Pym's evolved ant allies, giving them a key role in helping the heroes and opposing Kang. Ants have been used in opposition to Ant-Man's nemeses before, aiding Scott Lang's jailbreak and frying computer circuitry for a technological snatch-and-grab in "Ant-Man," and being used to attack Ghost and free Ant-Man and allies in "Ant-Man and the Wasp," but these ants weren't being manipulated, they spend "Quantumania" proactively searching for Pym and choose to attack his enemies after emerging from their accelerated timeline. It's the best and most proactive story progression the ants have ever had, and the first time they've been treated as characters worthy of an actual arc instead of being objects used by the heroes.

The future's bright for their civilizational adv-ants-ment

Before "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania," the future didn't look that bright for our six-legged and sometimes winged friends. While they were heavily featured in "Ant-Man," "Quantumania" is the first in the franchise to give the ants their own hopeful, independent future. In the first film, Pym acknowledged he gave them numbers, not names, and that he "controlled" them as subjects to be manipulated towards his ends. This was continued in "Ant-Man and the Wasp," but with a diminished focus as the franchise pivoted towards quantum technologies. Still objects, there were no signposts suggesting they might someday get their due. This newest entry not only changes that trajectory entirely, it pivots so extensively that we now have a new advanced civilization in the MCU.

When we leave the evolved ants, they're at an evolutionary high point. It's even suggested that ant-tech is in advance of our own (albeit very small within the Quantum Realm). With Kang the Conqueror currently defeated, the ants are free to help rebuild the Quantum Realm as the architects of their own destiny. With Pym's technology available, it's completely possible they could expand their civilization outside the Quantum Realm and into any other locale within the MCU. With the right location, they could build a civilization that rivals Wakanda, Talokan, or interstellar powers like the Skrulls or Shi'ar. We're left with Ant-Man's ants finally getting the respect they deserve. They've never been better, and their future has never been brighter.