On July 6, Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and the Wasp will debut in theaters, only two months after Avengers: Infinity War crushed box office records and forever changed the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some filmmakers might think it’s a daunting task to follow on the heels of one of the biggest and most successful movies ever made, but Peyton Reed, who directed both the first Ant-Man and its sequel, actually welcomes the timing. Not only does it give him a wider canvas on which to paint a new superhero adventure, but it also allows for a more intimate (and honestly refreshing) story about family bonds.
“When you see the movie, you’ll see how it fits into the larger picture,” Reed told Fandango during a lengthy conversation about Ant-Man and the Wasp to coincide with tickets going on sale (you can snag yours right here). “But I actually like that we’re allowed to operate in our own corner of the MCU and tell a story that is more intimately based, and is really more about the issues in this particular family with Hope van Dyne, Hank Pym and Scott Lang.”
We spoke with Reed about how his film connects to the events that played out in Infinity War, as well as how it separates itself from the first Ant-Man. Will we see cameos from other MCU characters? What about the post-credits scene and a third Ant-Man movie? Read on for more…
Fandango: Since Ant-Man and the Wasp is the first MCU movie post-Infinity War, the biggest question fans have is when does this movie take place? Is it pre-snap? Is it post-snap? Or a little bit of both?
Peyton Reed: Well, I would be shot by a Marvel sniper if I revealed too much information. But all I can say is the movie takes place post-Civil War, and the timeline with regard to Infinity War will become apparent as you watch the movie. That’s all I can say.
Fandango: Is it challenging to tell a lighter, more self-contained story two months after this monstrous Infinity War movie completely changes the game? Did you feel any pressure to have more answers for fans knowing what happened in that film?
Reed: No, I actually think it’s really similar to the dynamic of the first Ant-Man. If you remember, we followed, I think, two months after Avengers: Age of Ultron. Which, while not quite as dark as Infinity War, was a giant, epic, sort of dark movie, and here we came right after that as a more intimate, more comedic movie. I actually think it’s brilliant positioning for us, and I think it’s really, really fun.
Fandango: How would you say Ant-Man and the Wasp separates itself from the first Ant-Man? How are the two films different?
Reed: Well, I think they’re different in a way — particularly with Hope’s character. In the first movie, Hope was clearly the more qualified to handle the mission, but her dad just couldn’t see that and wouldn’t allow it and brought Scott in. This thing that Hope always wanted – to be a hero and to have the suit – she finally has in this movie. In this movie, she’s really a fully-formed hero, and it’s Scott who, I think, is the one who’s not so sure that he wants to be a hero because the couple of times he’s really put on the Ant-Man suit in the first Ant-Man and again in Civil War, it’s really brought him a lot of problems and a lot of complications.
I think you’re dealing with a Scott Lang in this movie that is trying to figure out basically a work-life balance. It’s like he’s trying to figure out if there’s a place in his life for being a hero. If he can figure out a way to be in his daughter’s life and not have his life as a hero jeopardize that, he’s cool with it. But if he can’t, then I don’t think he’s cool with it. That really fits these two characters. They’ve just got very different attitudes about being heroes, particularly at the beginning of the movie, and, of course, they’re estranged at the beginning of the movie. They’re really not in each other’s lives at the beginning of the movie.
Fandango: One of the things that makes this such a unique franchise for the MCU is the fact that Scott’s a dad to a young daughter and that relationship factors into the plot. Would you say this installment will also lean heavily into those family themes?
Reed: I think it’s every bit as much about family and probably more so. The central mission is really about family. But also Scott, in Civil War, ended up in the Raft, this underwater prison, and the suit was confiscated and, of course, Cap got them out of that situation. But he again found himself in a position where he might be in prison for who knows how long and away from his daughter, so I think he’s really wary of stepping back into that suit in the beginning of the movie. His central conflict is really about family, and I think that’s an important theme in our movie – even more so this time.
Fandango: A lot of people are talking about Ant-man and Hawkeye’s disappearance from Infinity War, and then we reveal that they’re both on house arrest. Do you allude to Hawkeye at all in this film?
Reed: Well, it’s really like… if you’re in violation of the Sokovia Accords, yeah, you have your own specific version of house arrest. Our movie really just deals with the price that Scott Lang has had to pay with his house arrest situation. It also allows us to introduce the character of Jimmy Woo, who’s played by Randall Park in the movie. He’s the guy who’s an FBI agent who is responsible for enforcing the Sokovia Accords. He’s really the guy who’s tasked with keeping an eye on Scott, making sure that Scott is living up to his end of the Sokovia Accords, and Scott is really nearing the end of his two-year house arrest situation.
That’s a fun thing to deal with. The events of Civil War really gave us an organic jumping-off point for this movie. I like sequels that have a different jumping-off point than the end of the first movie. By that I mean it’s like between the events of the first movie and the second movie, a lot of stuff has happened, so that when you pick up with these characters, whether it’s Scott or Hope or Hank or Louise or whoever, their lives are very different at the beginning of this movie than they were at the end of the first one.
Fandango: What would you say are some of the cinematic inspirations that you took into the sequel? Any movies that you watched while you were preparing? Any movies that you sent the cast?
Reed: Yeah, absolutely. It’s kind of a weird, mixed bag. In the first movie, so much of the movie took place in Hank Pym’s house or at Pym Tech. I really wanted to open this movie up and feature San Francisco as a character even more. It’s an odd group of movies, though.
Midnight Run was a big influence just in terms of that movie is all forward motion, and the lead characters have a very simple goal, but that goal is constantly thwarted throughout the movie for various reasons. What’s Up, Doc? The Peter Bogdanovich movie just because of its tone. Obviously, it’s comedic, but it also has this insane chase through San Francisco, and we all watched What’s Up, Doc? just in terms of our movie’s version of a bizarro, size-changing car chase through San Francisco. Also, being able to create action sequences that were very specific to the city of San Francisco – that definitely intrigued me. Then after that, I think it’s got maybe a little dash of Fantastic Voyage and a little dash of The Big Lebowski, and Elmore Leonard was also an influence on this movie.
Fandango: If the first movie was a heist movie, would this be a rescue movie?
Reed: I’d say it would be a rescue movie grafted on to an “Elmore Leonard-esque” crime movie… that’s also a comedy and also a family drama rolled into one delicious pastry that you can enjoy.
Fandango: Talk about the Quantum Realm. What kind of role — and how big of a role — will it play in this sequel?
Reed: Well, we got a little taste of the Quantum Realm in the first movie, but it’s definitely a bigger player in this movie. Without spoiling too much, we certainly get to explore and see more of what the Quantum Realm is and the vastness of what the Quantum Realm is and the infinite possibilities of what the Quantum Realm is. Visually that was really fun to create, because we really had free rein and license to make it whatever we want it to be and also figure out what, in this particular story, what parts of the Quantum Realm we were going to explore.
Fandango: We got our first look at Michelle Pfeiffer recently in a character poster. What can you say about her character in this film? How much do we see her? Will we meet a character that’s very much changed from her time spent in the Quantum Realm? What can you offer up about how she relates to the film?
Reed: Well, I can’t say too much except that she’s a huge part of the movie. The whole movie is really predicated on this question of, is Janet Van Dyne potentially still alive in the Quantum Realm, and if so who is she? Who is she after 30 years down in the Quantum Realm? That was another fun thing to try and figure out, and how it plays into our story.
Emotionally, particularly for Hope Van Dyne, the prospect of being reunited with her mother is emotionally daunting. In this movie, Hope has become a hero in her own right, and I think it’s probably caused her to miss her mom more than she ever did, because there are very few role models. If you’re a costumed hero in one of these movies, and the one who would be the obvious choice is no longer with her. I think for Hope, it’s a very, very personal mission.
Fandango: Talk about the villain in this movie, Ghost. What is her agenda, and how would you say she’s different from other MCU villains?
Reed: Well, Ghost in this movie played by Hannah John-Kamen, and I think she’s a really compelling antagonist because essentially our heroes and our villain want the same thing. They have very different ways of going about it. Ghost in the movie is a bit of a victim, as you’ll find out when you see the movie. This power that she has, these powers, are really as much an affliction as they are powers. They’re absolutely as much a burden as they are an asset. That created a very compelling character for our heroes to go up against.
Fandango: That’s interesting. We don’t really see many villains in the MCU where their powers are a burden on them.
Reed: Yeah. There’s a certain amount of pain involved with Ghost and her power set, and suffering. I think that’s a crucial part of this character, and how she fits into the story.
Fandango: What about Laurence Fishburne? We know that his character had been Goliath. How is he involved in the film, and do we get to see him as Goliath?
Reed: Well, I’ll first start out with we wanted to have Bill Foster. I was always a fan of the comics and of the Bill Foster character. I pushed pie in the sky, I was like, “God, is there any way we can get Laurence Fishburne to play this character?” Because we needed somebody who was going to be bit of a foil to Hank Pym. These two genius scientists — each guy thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room, and that seemed like a really fun dynamic.
But you needed someone with some gravitas to sit across a desk from Michael Douglas and carry some real weight. When Fishburne said, “Yeah, let it roll.” That was a thrill to me. You’ll see in the movie that Hank Pym and Bill Foster have a common background in S.H.I.E.L.D. That they worked on this project a lot together. As for how that plays out in the movie, I can’t get into it too much without spoiling stuff, but he’s a very, very complicated character in our movie.
Fandango: In terms of things you can’t get into without spoiling too much, the first movie had a fun little Avengers cameo. Should we be on the lookout for fun things in this one as well? Cameos maybe?
Reed: Well, you absolutely can be on the lookout for fun things. In terms of cameos, I think anything I can say may give away too much stuff. I’m parked on the side of the road, and I can see the Marvel sniper in a building above me just waiting for me to give the wrong answer.
Fandango: But fans should generally be on the lookout for Easter eggs. Would you say there are some fun Easter eggs in the movie?
Reed: Well, yeah, Easter eggs are always a fun thing to put in these movies, because it’s just part of this gigantic tapestry of the MCU. There’s all this overlap. Even though the Ant-Man movies take place in San Francisco in their own little corner of the MCU, there’s obviously cross-over and things that appear in some very, very small ways and then in some more significant ways.
Fandango: I’m not going to ask you what the post-credit scene is, but did you direct it, or was there another director from the MCU who directed it?
Reed: I did direct the post-credit scene, yes, all me. I hope that’s not a spoiler.
Fandango: What would you say will surprise fans the most when they watch this film?
Reed: I really am so proud of Evangeline’s performance in the movie. I think it was very important for her to come in and create a really three-dimensional character with Hope and, also, to have Hope start at a point that’s very different from the point she ended up at in the first Ant-Man movie. Because now she’s developed the wasp suit with her father, and their relationship is much better than it was in the first movie because of the resolution that took place in that movie. She’s really a different person. She’s the same person, obviously, but she’s a more evolved version of herself, and that was really fun to create that character with Evangeline.
Fandango: Was there anything that you were able to do in this movie that maybe you had wanted to do on the first movie, but you couldn’t for some reason, and you were able to include it in this film?
Reed: Yeah, absolutely. In Civil War, the Russo brothers, obviously, got the big Giant-Man reveal. Once I got over my incredible envy of that, it occurred to us, we’ve got a long way to go in this movie. We came up with ideas of how to really expand this notion of a size-changing technology that Hank Pym has developed, and that Hank and Hope have refined over the years, so that was really fun.
You always have these visions, whether they have their origins in the comic books themselves or just origins of when you’re developing the various stories from the first movie and from this one. There are always individual images and sequences that you have in your mind like, “Oh man, it would be great to do this.” I think I was able to cram almost all of them into this movie.
Fandango: Did you feel, personally, more ownership over this film? The first film there was that Edgar Wright narrative that had been there for a couple of years prior. Did you feel like coming in right from the start, did you feel more ownership over the sequel in any way?
Reed: Well, listen, I’m glad you said the Edgar Wright narrative. Obviously, [with the first movie], Edgar and Joe [Cornish] had written this draft, and it just so happened that I had a very compressed prep time on that movie. But I feel a great ownership of that movie. Obviously, I directed every frame of that movie. Having said that, to be in on the ground floor on this movie from the very beginning and the development and to be able to guide these characters even further… that felt really, really satisfying on this movie.
There were certain things in the first movie that were obviously baked in that had been there for a while. When Paul [Rudd] and Adam McKay and I were working on the other drafts of the script of that movie, we changed a lot of stuff, but the essential thing that Edgar and Joe had come up with it — the idea of Ant-Man as a heist movie — was always there and was always great. Yeah, I feel ownership over both movies, but this one, it was very satisfying to be in from the ground floor.
Fandango: Are you going to come back for the third one? Do you want to finish out the Ant-Man trilogy?
Reed: I’m actually superstitious about whether there’s going to be a third one or not, and everybody always plays this stuff very close to the vest. I’ll certainly say if there’s a third Ant-Man, I would love to be a part of it. I’ve really grown to love these characters and really feel an ownership over these characters, and I’d be thrilled.
Ant-Man and the Wasp hits theaters on July 6. You can snag your tickets right now here at Fandango, and when you do, you’ll get a free poster, as seen below.