Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania Makes Scott Lang The Tony Stark Of The MCU's Phase 5

This post contains spoilers for "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania." Please proceed with caution.

Back in 2019, "Avengers: Endgame" featured one of the boldest moves the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever done: They decided to permanently write off two of its biggest heroes, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). Considering most franchises' general tendency to keep things going for as long as possible, the fact that they went through on such a major change to the status quo (and have stuck to it in the years since) feels like minor miracle. 

In the years since, they've given us a replacement of sorts for Steve Rogers, letting Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson take over his Captain America role. There hasn't really been a clear-cut replacement for Iron Man, however. Ironheart in "Wakanda Forever" is probably the closest to him from a technical point of view, but who's going to take up Iron Man's general role in the MCU? Although the "Avengers" movies were all ensemble films, Tony Stark was always the closest thing they had to a protagonist, followed up by Steve Rogers. Who's going to take up that role the next time there's an "Avengers" film? If the events of "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" are anything to go on, it might actually be Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). Yes, the guy with the ants.

The Iron Man parallels

Admittedly, this comparison has less to do with Ant-Man's strength as a character and more to do with the fact that there's not a ton of Avengers left who can take up the role. Of the six members of the original Avengers team, three of them are gone for good. Thor and the Hulk have grown increasingly silly over their past few movie appearances, to the point where it's gotten hard to imagine them carrying meaty storylines. Hawkeye still feels like an afterthought even when he has his own show, and Spider-Man has basically been removed from the MCU after "No Way Home." This leaves Scott as one of the few candidates left.

Maybe it's a stretch to expect Scott to soon be given some of the more serious storylines that Tony got, but the final moments of "Quantumania" make a good case for it. Although he seemingly defeats Kang (Jonathon Majors) at the end, the movie ends with him giving an anxious, guilt-ridden monologue where he wonders if he did the right thing. Did he actually kill Kang as he thinks he did? And if so, was that even the right choice? The "Ant-Man" films have always felt a lot smaller in scale than the other MCU movies — literally and figuratively — but the stakes for Scott are now unusually high. If Kang returns to wreak havoc later (and looking at the MCU's Phase 5 slate of films, he most certainly will) Scott's going to have a lot of guilt on his conscious. Maybe Kang is to Scott what Ultron was to Tony; by realizing he's made a mistake with Kang, this might take Scott's character in a more serious, introspective direction. 

Becoming a more pro-active character

If Scott had an arc in "Quantumania," it would probably be something about learning to help people even if you don't share their plight. It's not that Scott's apathetic to the suffering of the other people in the Quantum Realm, exactly; it's that his love and protection for his daughter always takes top priority. There's also the fact that Scott seems to have been resting on his laurels lately; he'd rather write a book about how he defeated Thanos than continue fighting against the problems still happening throughout the world.

But as Cassie slowly proves over the course of the film that she's capable of keeping herself safe, and as Scott is repeatedly criticized for his complacency, he does genuinely start to change for the better. It's not a particularly coherent arc, but it does put Scott in a more pro-active place going forward. Like Tony after "Age of Ultron," it feels like Scott's going to go in a more serious, involved direction in the MCU. 

Even if he doesn't become the next Tony Stark, of course, he can always be the next Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). Quill got a lot of flak from fans after "Infinity War," where he got so emotional from the news of Gamora's death that he interfered with the plan to take off Thanos' glove. It's hard to be too mad at Quill for getting too heated to think rationally, but boy was that a serious blunder, the guilt of which will stay with Quill for the rest of his life. Scott's mistake with Kang was far less egregious, but as major casualties start happening in "Avengers: The Kang Dynasty," it'll be fascinating to see how Scott deals with his accidental role in the upcoming disaster.