With fans still reeling from the apocalyptic events of Avengers: Infinity War, the next movie on the Marvel slate, Ant-Man and the Wasp, may serve as the perfect palate cleanser. Once again directed by Peyton Reed, the second standalone film for the world’s smallest superhero (or biggest, depending on what button he pushes) takes place sometime after the events of Captain America: Civil War but before the Avengers’ cataclysmic battle with Thanos the Mad Titan.
Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas all return as Scott Lang, Hope Van Dyne and Hank Pym respectively, as they initiate a search into the subatomic Quantum Realm for Hank’s long-lost wife and Hope’s mother Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) while on the run from the authorities. Meanwhile, a new threat emerges in the form of the phase-shifting villain Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), leading Hope to suit up as the Wasp alongside Scott/Ant-Man.
With its breezier tone, Ant-Man and the Wasp should have quite a different feel from Infinity War (although we’re pretty sure that the exploration of the Quantum Realm could result in some clues about the direction of Avengers 4). Judging from our visit to the Ant-Man set in Atlanta late last year, the world of Marvel’s new power couple has — pardon the pun — expanded in all kinds of ways. Here are some of the things we learned from our visit:
What is Ant-Man Up to These Days?
When we last saw Scott, he was about to be broken out of The Raft prison barge by Captain America (Chris Evans). Since then, however, he’s been caught by the government and living under house arrest in San Francisco for his role in the events of Civil War. “He’s living with Luis (Michael Peña) and he’s just trying to stay on the straight and narrow for these last few hours of his sentence and he’ll be a free man,” executive producer Stephen Broussard tells us as we browse through concept art in the movie’s Pinewood Atlanta production office. “Free to live his life, to be a father to his daughter. But of course we wouldn’t have a movie if something didn’t come crashing down.”
What was The Inspiration for the Second Ant-Man Movie?
While the first Ant-Man was a heist caper, Ant-Man and the Wasp draws its inspiration from “one bad night” pictures like After Hours — stories in which all kinds of crazy things happen to the characters over the course of a compressed amount of time. Peyton Reed says: “When we first started talking about what Ant-Man and the Wasp would look and feel like and the kind of movie we wanted to make, I definitely started talking about things like After Hours and Go and these things where there’s a lot of forward momentum. There’s almost a road movie quality to the movie in that way.”
Ant-Man, Giant Man…and Variable Man?
We saw Scott Lang shrink in Ant-Man and we saw him turn into Giant-Man in Civil War. In Ant-Man and the Wasp, he finds in some scenes what might best be described as a middle ground. “It’s not the most exciting name but we refer to it internally as Variable Man,” says Stephen Broussard. “So much of the fun of this is like, when it works, it’s cool – and sometimes, when it’s not working, it’s just as much fun to watch.” He adds, “We’ve established (shrinking/expanding) as a concept. So how do you keep twisting it and turning it on its head and messing with it? There’s a little bit of that.”
Into The Quantum Realm
The search for Janet is a big part of Ant-Man and the Wasp. “(The Quantum Realm) is another thing we just barely scratched the surface of in the first movie so we’re kind of expanding on what that is,” says Broussard. “It’s this really trippy place down there, as glimpsed in the first movie, but what does that mean? How deep do you have to go? So we’ve kind of dug into that a little bit more and try to define what it needs to be for the film and for what Janet has experienced down there.”
Getting There from Here
In the first Ant-Man, Scott Lang just pushed the regulator button on his suit until he was small enough to freefall into the Quantum Realm. Now there’s a quantum vehicle and a tunnel-like aperture in Hank’s lab that they can enter the Realm through. “One of the things that I went back and looked at as inspiration was Irwin Allen’s (1960s TV series) The Time Tunnel,” says Reed. “There was a design for that thing which was literally a tunnel. I liked the idea that there was a physical thing that you could look at.”
Lab in a Box
In Ant-Man, Hank worked out of his basement. But now Hank has installed a vast new lab in a non-descript office building that he can shrink down to the size of a small suitcase on wheels. “We thought he could create a facility that has everything he needs inside, but that he can hide in plain sight,” explains production designer Shepherd Frankel. “So we started talking about the buildings that you drive by every day that you never notice. The places you go to get your accounting done. The places where you are like, ‘Wait, is this my dentist’s office or my dermatologist’s? Was this building always here?’”
Inside Hank’s Lab
The massive lab set, which we toured, is made out of found objects like pieces of Erector sets, oversized laundry clips, a giant lightbulb, an old reel to reel recorder and Lego blocks. The quantum vehicle resembles a helicopter, while the quantum tunnel lights up. Through a glass partition is a control room with Hank’s notes scattered across the arrays of knobs, buttons and switches (sorry, we didn’t see any good spoilers). “You give (Hank) a box of stuff, and he can assemble things together, ’cause he is constantly trying to figure out how to do what he needs to do,” says Frankel. “We wanted this lab more than anything to feel very analog, and super beta…You can feel like it’s being built as he goes.”
The main antagonist of Ant-Man and the Wasp is Ghost, the enigmatic phase-shifting criminal who can pass through solid objects after stealing Pym tech. First introduced in the pages of Iron Man #219 (June 1987), the character’s true identity and background have remained a mystery for 30 years. Although Ghost has been male in the comics, in the movie the role is played by Hannah John-Kamen (Ready Player One). “(Ghost) has a very unique relationship to our characters,” says Reed. “We’ve adapted the character from the comics in a way that we feel is really unique to our movie and very much tied into this universe. She becomes a really crucial part of the story in a way that I can’t really reveal yet.”
Ant-Man Has Gotten a Suit Upgrade…
Head of Specialty Costumes Ivo Coveney says that Ant-Man’s suit in the first film — which deliberately had a retro look — has been brought into the 21st century. “The last one deliberately had the feel of a motorcycle suit and was slightly baggy,” explains Coveney, who adds that the new suit is a continuation of the upgrade Lang got in Civil War. “It’s a massive change between what we did on the first one to Civil War. And then from Civil War to this, it’s just refinements and cleaning it up and honing it down.”
…But Wasp Has Gotten an Even Better One
As for the Wasp, whose prototype outfit was glimpsed at the end of Ant-Man, Evangeline Lilly says she doesn’t have to push any buttons to make things happen on her costume – similar to the nanotech that Tony Stark employs for his Iron Man armor. “Essentially there is a reaction system to what I am thinking,” the actress explains. “So I don’t have to do anything physically to do activate shrinking, wings, blasters, growing, none of that. I just think it and it happens.”
The Search for Janet Van Dyne
According to Michael Douglas, Hank and Hope “get a signal” from the Quantum Realm indicating that Janet might still be alive after disappearing into the subatomic dimension 30 years earlier. “I think he’s just obsessed with this love of his life, truthfully,” says Douglas about playing the original Ant-Man again. “It’s all about a deep love…but 30 years a long time.“
As he was with the first film, Paul Rudd was involved with the scripting of Ant-Man and the Wasp. “Quite a bit,” he confirms when asked if he’s contributed again. “We’re constantly trying different things and Marvel is really cool about that. They say ‘Let’s try this, let’s look at this idea. Let’s try and pursue it and if it works, great, and if it doesn’t, we’ll have other options.’”
Infinity War? What Infinity War?
Peyton Reed says that the “jumping off point” of the movie is the tension between Lang and Hope (and Hank) over Lang’s adventures in Civil War, given Hank’s distaste for Tony Stark and the Avengers. But how do the events of Ant-Man and the Wasp tie into those of Avengers: Infinity War or Avengers 4? “We’re free to tell sort of our freestanding story,” remarks Reed. “With huge stakes, personal and otherwise, that are really separate of what’s going on with Infinity War…we have enough stuff to track in this movie without having to sort of keep abreast of what’s going on in that.”