Goofy humor, a smaller scope, father-daughter relationships—there are lots of things that set Ant-Man apart from the other franchises in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In Ant-Man and the Wasp, though, director Peyton Reed wanted to add at least one more thing to the list.
“One of the things that’s different to me about the Ant-Man movies, and Ant-Man and the Wasp in particular, is that it’s a generational story,” Reed told io9. “You’re telling the story of the original Ant-Man and Wasp and our new Ant-Man and Wasp, [so] it was important to really service that aspect of the characters.”
Ant-Man and the Wasp partially looks into the past of the MCU with deeper explorations of the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (played once again by Michael Douglas) and the Wasp, Janet Van Dyne (played by Michelle Pfeiffer). Two characters who, when they were younger, had been superheroes in this world for years... until tragedy struck.
“I like the idea that it works as a generational hero story because we’ve seen actors of that era, like Jeff Bridges and Robert Redford, in these movies primarily as villains,” Reed said. “And I love the idea that with Michael and Michelle we’re seeing this other generation of heroes. It excites me.”
Of course, it’s not the first Marvel movie to do this. Films like Captain America: The First Avenger and TV shows like Agent Carter have explored the heroic past of the MCU before. The upcoming Captain Marvel will do that as well. But Ant-Man and the Wasp does so partially because the original film dictated as much.
“After the first movie I promised Michael a couple of things,” Reed said. One was I want to explore some different sides of Hank Pym at certain points. I want him to lighten up. I wanted to give him some more laughs in the movie. But also I wanted to remind the audience that at one point Hank Pym was the hero and give him a little more action.”
We won’t spoil exactly how that happens but suffice to say it’s also related to a revelation from the first film, that Hank’s wife Janet has been missing in the Quantum Realm for 30 years. Now, because Scott Lang managed to enter the realm and come back, Hank and his daughter Hope know they can safely look for and find their lost family member
“[Michelle] was my dream casting,” Reed said. “In the first movie we see [Janet’s] eyes in that flashback but the mandate [for casting] that was ‘Let’s get someone who looks like Michelle Pfeiffer.’”
For the sequel, they actually did get Michelle Pfeiffer. It wasn’t the actress’ first time in a superhero movie (she famously played Catwoman in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns), but Janet’s debut has much, much larger implications on not only Hope and Hank, but the MCU as well.
“We had lots of conversations, [most] of which I can’t talk to you about,” Reed said. “[But we also] talked a lot about the overall universe, about this story and these characters... [as well as] about what Janet Van Dyne’s character was [30 years ago] and now in our movie.”
The “now” in Ant-Man and the Wasp is mostly about Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). To everyone involved, they are the Ant-Man and Wasp of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But that’s not to say Hank and Janet will stay on the sidelines in this film or in the future.
“Early on, I talked with Michelle about ‘Was she just going to be Mommy Wasp? What’s she going to be?’” Reed said. “I was like oh no, no, no. She’s going to be something different. Something far more interesting. She was the Wasp but now she’s passed the mantle to her daughter.”
“And with Hank, it’s the technology.” Reed continues. “It is about the explorer side of Hank. The curious, scientific mind of Hank—that, I think, is what I want to see progress.”
So could audiences, hypothetically, see two Ant-Men and two Wasps fighting side by side in the future? It’s an idea that person in charge, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, admits he loves.
“That would be fun to see at some point,” Feige told io9.” There are a couple shots of all four of them in the frame, just a few, towards the end of the movie that always gets people excited. It gets me excited. So we’ll see.”
Ant-Man and the Wasp is now in theaters.