Hitting theaters Friday, just months after Avengers: Infinity War collectively gut-punched Marvel fans everywhere, Ant-Man and the Wasp brings audiences back into the quirky world of reformed criminal and accidental superhero Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). Picking up three years after the first Ant-Man, the movie finds Lang on house arrest for his involvement in the events that played out in Captain America: Civil War.
This is as much Hope's story as it is Scott's, and further driving that point home is the simple fact that, as we hit the 20th movie in the MCU, this is the first entry featuring a female character in the title. "It felt logical, not in terms of answering any lack of female heroes—although, we're hoping it does that," Reed explains. "My introduction was as a kid to the comics. Hank and Janet—Ant-Man and the Wasp—they were a duo! They're on the cover of the first Avengers, she names the Avengers in the comics and it felt like the logical progression."
A new addition to the film is Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet van Dyne, the original Wasp. This is the first comic book movie the actress has appeared in since her performance as Catwoman in 1992's Batman Returns. According to Reed, Pfeiffer was not only at the top of his list of actresses to play the part of Janet—she was the list. "As far back as the first Ant-Man, there's a flashback where we see this missile thing—the moment where she goes into the Quantum Realm—and you don't see her face when she's on the missile in that movie, but through the mask, you do see her eyes. We had to cast someone in the first movie to be her eyes! My marching orders for casting were: Find someone who looks like Michelle Pfeiffer. That's how I always envisioned what the original Wasp would be."
If we dealt with [Infinity War's events] in any more overt way early on, it would've just hijacked the movie.
For all intents and purposes, it's safe to call the first Ant-Man film a heist movie. Staying true to that narrative tone, Peyton Reed explains Ant-Man and the Wasp still very much exists in that crime genre. Playing out on the streets of San Francisco, the director used a handful of crime-story classics as tonal references for his film, from the works of Elmore Leonard to movies like Midnight Run and After Hours, along with the Steve McQueen car-chase staple Bullitt. "There was a little hint of The Big Lebowski in Scott Lang in this movie," Reed adds. "He's literally wearing a bathrobe the first time he comes to see Hank again."
Another film that comes to mind upon viewing Ant-Man and the Wasp is the 1987 science-fiction comedy Innerspace. While Reed admits to rewatching the sci-fi classic Fantastic Voyage while in pre-production, the Dennis Quaid/Martin Short vehicle only crossed his mind after principal shooting was completed. "Only after the movie, when we were editing, did someone mention Innerspace, and I rewatched it," Reed explains. "I had completely forgotten about the chase. Also, the thing we did in the school scene, with Rudd being like two or three feet tall, was exactly like the scene where Innerspace had Kevin McCarthy shrunken down. I had totally forgotten about all of that, and it got to a point where I was like, 'Oh, my God—did we just remake Innerspace?!'"
I had totally forgotten about all of that, and it got to a point where I was like, 'Oh, my God—did we just remake Innerspace?!'
By design, the Ant-Man movies have been comedic outliers in the MCU. Three years ago, Ant-Man hit theaters right after the heaviness of Avengers: Age of Ultron. With the heartbreaking events of April's Avengers: Infinity War still in the hearts and on the minds of many, Ant-Man and the Wasp breaks the monotony, shrinking the story's scope back down to focus on the themes of family and science that were first touched on in the first film. It's starkly different in subject matter and tone than Infinity War, and according to Reed, this was the plan all along.
The director continues: "So finally, we hit on this structure that you see in the final movie that just made sense to us. It felt like our movie's version of dealing with the events of Infinity War. And we liked the idea of sort of creating this tone and these resolutions at the end of our movie that are almost too neat. They wrap up in a bow. And then we have this fun colorful title sequence and then, Oh wait, there's a tag! We liked the idea of that structure."
While Thanos' plan of destruction may have a lasting effect on a global scale within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man and the Wasp dials things down for a welcome, albeit brief, respite. At its hilarious core, this light-hearted Ant-Man sequel is a story about family—more specifically, it's a story about fathers and daughters.
"Out of all this stuff, his main thing is to be a good dad," Reed says. "It can seem like kind of a Pollyanna-ish thing, especially in this day and age, and this moment in time, but it's something that's really important to me in these movies. It's this notion that heroism isn't always putting on a supersuit and doing something ... It's the little acts of heroism. And really, there's nothing more heroic in the year 2018 than a guy being a great father to his kid."