The first Ant-Man felt like a fresh entry in the MCU when it released in 2015, shortly after Avengers: Age of Ultron. With every other Phase 2 movie going bigger in scale, along came Ant-Man with the smallest scale we had seen yet in an MCU movie. Pun half-intended. It was essentially a heist movie that happened to feature a superhero. This movie takes a similar approach, going for a much smaller scale than most Phase 3 movies. It’s also the 20th MCU movie. It’s remarkable enough that a film franchise reaches that kind of number, but it’s another level to reach 20 films in 10 years, and all of them being financial successes (to varying degrees of course). Only three film franchises have more movies than the MCU – James Bond (24 since 1962), Carry On (31 movies from 1958 to 1992) and Godzilla (32 official movies + 3 American adaptations since 1954). What’s fascinating about the Carry On series (all of them raunchy British comedies for their time) is that they were all produced and directed by the same two men, with a revolving cast of popular comedians.
Anyway, Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place roughly at the same time as Avengers: Infinity War. In fact, one of the post credits sequences takes place at the same time as Infinity War’s cliffhanger ending. Development for Ant-Man and the Wasp began shortly after the first movie released. Ant-Man director Peyton Reed expressed interest, saying he’d “really fallen in love with these characters”, and that “there’s a lot of story to tell with Hank Pym.” He even expressed interest in his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, cast as Janet van Dyne for the potential sequel. However from the start, Evangeline Lilly (Hope van Dyne/the Wasp) wanted to see Michelle Pfeiffer in the role. Kevin Feige also talked about how he had a number of great ideas for the next Ant-Man film. “If audiences want it, we’ll find a place to do it.” Reed also mentioned that there had been talks of doing a standalone movie featuring Hank Pym as the original Ant-Man at work in the 60’s and 70’s. I wouldn’t mind seeing that either.
In October of 2015, Marvel Studios confirmed that a sequel was in the works, titled Ant-Man and The Wasp. The scheduled release date of July 6, 2018 didn’t change. Despite never working on a sequel before, Reed was excited to work on Ant-Man and the Wasp. One reason he looked forward to it was that it would be the first MCU movie to feature a female character’s name in the title. Reed called it “organic”, and said that the title was “very much about it her specific character and arc in the movie, but it is absolutely about a larger thing.” He pushed hard to make sure Wasp received equal focus in marketing for the film. They even briefly considered the title “Wasp and the Ant-Man”, but decided it was better to stick with Ant-Man and the Wasp due to that being a common phrase within the comics.
From the onset, they wanted the sequel to feel similar to Ant-Man in tone, but to go for a completely different genre template. He wanted Ant-Man and Wasp to feel like a genuine partnership instead of a lead and a sidekick like we’d frequently seen in the MCU before. Early drafts included a Captain America cameo, but they decided against it because the events of Civil War were already referenced frequently in the film. They decided it was best to focus on the movie’s story and character arcs instead. That’s probably for the best.
In addition to the first movie’s main cast returning, they added Hannah John-Karmen as Ghost, the movie’s sort-of main antagonist. There’s also Randall Park as police officer Jimmy Woo, Walton Goggins as a corrupt businessman/black marketer, and Lawrence Fishburne as Bill Foster (Giant Man), a former colleague of Hank Pym’s. Most notably, Michelle Pfeiffer joined the cast as Janet van Dyme, so I guess Lilly won that debate over the director’s choice.
Back to Fishburne, he had expressed interest in joining the MCU for a while. Despite portraying Perry White in Batman V Superman, Fishburne always considered himself more of a Marvel guy. He approached Marvel hoping to get some sort of role, giving them a few ideas of who he could portray, before Marvel offered him the role of Bill Foster. Feige likened their rivalry to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and he wanted an actor who could go toe to toe with Michael Douglass (Hank Pym). Langston Fishburne, Lawrence’s son, stood in as a young Bill Foster in flashbacks.
Most of the outdoor filming took place at Pinewood Atlanta Studios, with scenes shot at Atlanta International School, San Francisco, and even a couple scenes in Hawaii and the Atlanta Motor Speedway. The film’s lab and quantum tunnel set was inspired by The Time Tunnel, an American science fiction TV series from 1966. It’s also the largest physical set built for an MCU so far, which Reed joked about being “a little counter-intuitive”. There’s a sequence in the movie where Scott Lang (Ant-Man) is briefly possessed by Janet to help Hank and Hope find her. They originally considered having Pfeiffer perform the scene first, but eventually let Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) invent the scene completely. I’d say he did a pretty good job – it’s a good mix of dramatic and amusing.
The movie ended up earning $622 million on a $162 million budget, earning over $100 million more than Ant-Man. It also earned an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 6.9/10. Critics across the board praised the performances of Rudd and Lilly as the title characters. Richard Roeper praised the light tone, especially compared to the dramatically heavy Infinity War. He also praised the special effects and the inventive use of shrinking and growing in the action scenes. Variety called the movie “faster, funnier and more cunningly confident than the original.” Even the less positive reviews had at least some nice things to say about it, like Time saying it’s “hard to actively dislike”, and Washington Post saying it was fun, despite being “instantly forgettable”.
Personally, I really like this one. Similar to Ant-Man, this one feels different from anything else in Phase 3. In a lot of ways this is more of a comedy than it is a superhero movie, and it’s a good comedy at that. There’s also a lot of great family drama. One thing that really works is that by this point, Scott Lang gets along with his ex-wife and her new husband quite well, to the point where they’re basically one family at this point. The relationship between Scott and his daughter Cassie continues to be a highlight, with their playtime being fun, and Cassie actually showing some maturity in giving Scott some useful advice. Could we potentially see Stature in a third Ant-Man movie? I’d be ok with that.
It’s also a story of Hank and Hope reuniting with Janet, after learning that recovering her from the quantum realm may be possible. That also brings in a bit of an adventure aspect to the story, further separating Ant-Man and the Wasp from the rest of the MCU in style.
Despite how this is more of a comedy than an action movie, there’s still a lot of great action to be seen. Wasp is very entertaining with her blast abilities and flying around in the kitchen while shrunk in a fight scene. Ant-Man’s malfunctioning suit often leads to innovative action beats, like skateboarding on a flatbed truck or running around a school at the height of a toddler. That second point is also hilarious by the way.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is a thoroughly entertaining movie, and one that will make you feel good by the time it’s over. Well, that is if you don’t watch the post-credits sequences that directly tie into Avengers: Infinity War. It’s a movie where you clearly see the growth each character has gone through since the first entry. It’s a rare movie where you actually sympathize with Ghost, the main antagonist, due to her condition. As much as it’s not the best Phase 3 movie by any means, I could see this as the Phase 3 movie I’d end up rewatching the most just because of how different it feels. That makes this an easy recommendation.
Next up is Captain Marvel, which I intend to write about some time over the long weekend. Then it’s less than a week before Avengers: Endgame releases. I’m not yet entirely sure when I’ll get to see Endgame, but it won’t be too long.