Marvel’s latest MCU movie release date shuffle is potentially great news for Kang the Conqueror. The purple specter of Thanos hung over the MCU for an entire decade, but Phase 4 has yet to (explicitly) induct a successor into the franchise’s big bad slot. By far the strongest contender, however, is Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror. Loki season 1 introduced the MCU’s first Kang variant – He Who Remains – and broadly explained the villain’s multiverse-shattering backstory. By killing He Who Remains, Sylvie seemingly unleashed Kang the Conqueror upon the various strands of reality, and Kang is now confirmed for at least two further appearances in the MCU – Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania and Loki season 2.
The sprawling, fast-moving nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe means Kevin Feige can change release date slots more than Hulk changes shirts. His latest rejig sees Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania moves up to February 17, 2023, while Captain Marvel 2 (otherwise known as The Marvels) slips back to July 28, 2023. Predictably, Marvel hasn’t provided much insight its thinking, but both movies already wrapped principle photography, meaning the most likely explanation is either Captain Marvel 2 needs longer for post-production… or there’s a creative, story-based reason for bringing Scott Lang’s next solo venture forward.
Whatever the motivation might’ve been, Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania‘s five-month hop through the Quantum Realm is excellent news for Kang the Conqueror. For starters, Jonathan Majors’ villain is arriving much sooner than previously anticipated – no bad thing, considering his impressive MCU debut as He Who Remains in Loki. More importantly, Marvel’s release date switch may hint towards Kang’s growing importance within the overarching MCU narrative. Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania was previously the furthest away of Marvel’s scheduled movies, meaning Kang the Conqueror’s influence upon Phase 4 was limited. Now, Kang’s battle against Ant-Man and Wasp falls before both Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Captain Marvel 2, and – if it didn’t already – Loki season 2.
If we assume Kang the Conqueror isn’t a one-and-done villain exclusive to Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania, whatever fallout comes from his encounter with Paul Rudd will now hang over James Gunn’s third Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and Carol Danvers’ team-up with Monica Rambeau and Kamala Khan. Marvel’s release date switch not only allows for more long-term storytelling and Kangtastic continuity in those movies (similar to how Thanos lingered in the background of Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron after debuting in The Avengers), but Loki season 2 instantly becomes more exciting because Kang will be a major established movie villain by the time he faces Tom Hiddleston again.
Because Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Captain Marvel 2 both operate on a galactic level, they each provide a perfect opportunity to touch upon Kang’s growing influence upon the multiverse – even just a passing reference. Any multiverse or time-altering shenanigans that occur in Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania will surely be felt by both Star-Lord’s Guardians crew, and the planet-hopping Carol Danvers, so unless Scott and Hope defeat the villain conclusively and undo his multiverse mess, the other heroes will surely be alerted. Maybe Kang is why Captain Marvel comes back to Earth, or perhaps the Guardians begin their third solo adventure run ragged by the Conqueror’s conquering. It’s even worth considering that Kang vs. Ant-Man might’ve been brought forward because Majors’ bad guy connects directly to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Marvel didn’t want to leave that thread dangling too long.
Marvel’s famous secrecy means few outside Kevin Feige’s inner circle know what truly lies ahead for Kang the Conqueror’s MCU journey. The infinite permutations of evil Kang variants only complicate matters, since different versions of the same enemy could ripple throughout future MCU projects – both on the big screen, and on Disney+. Nevertheless, putting Ant-Man & The Wasp Quantumania into theaters sooner – and accelerating the time scale of Kang’s MCU conquest – could be interpreted as a subtle indication of the long-term plans Feige has in store for his time-traveling menace, and Marvel wanted as much time as possible to begin building Jonathan Majors’ Kang as the MCU‘s next big threat.