Ant-Man 2 is not Ant-Man 2. Well it is. But it’s also the Wasp’s first film. Except that it’s not that either, as her origin story sort of happened in the first Ant-Man. What it definitely is though, is a sequel-cum-launchpad for a new super-team in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with both Scott Lang and his entirely flightier new partner sharing top billing in the first Marvel film with a split-title, and with a female hero front and centre.
There’s little to be officially known yet, but by reading really intently between the limited number of lines we’ve been given, there’s actually a fair bit to ascertain, or at least plausibly speculate upon. Plot, cast, crew, and possible implications for the wider MCU. There’s a little dash of all ahead, so strap in and get ready to dive deep.
Peyton Reed is returning, after stepping in to replace Edgar Wright on the first film. This is unsurprising. After Ant-Man’s first director walked over creative differences, just a few months before shooting was due to start, the film had ‘shambles’ written all over it. But Reed inherited the project – which had been developed by Wright and writing partner Joe Cornish for 11 years – maintained its original DNA, and turned it into one of the most unique and successful films on the Marvel slate to date. He knows what he’s doing, and having turned around the first film in such tricky circumstances, he was a shoo-in for the second.
Ant-Man and the Wasp initially picked up three writers, Gabriel Ferrari and Andrew Barrer – production writers on the first film - and Paul Rudd himself. It’s likely that those writing credits will expand as the production goes on, though. Any film of this size has a habit of going through multiple re-writes by multiple writers in order to iterate and fine-tune, and indeed, the first film’s final credited writer, Adam McKay, was the fourth person to work on the script. McKay has expressed interest in Ant-Man and the Wasp, telling Marvel that “if you need me, I’m here”, so don’t be surprised if he, and several other names, eventually end up on the film’s credits.
The only confirmed actors we have so far are the rather obvious Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, and Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne. It’s highly probable though, that Michael Douglas will be back as original Ant-Man Hank Pym. Douglas has been outspoken about his enthusiasm for a sequel, and his return would be more than welcome, given that his Pym saw him more funny, likable and charismatic than he’s been on-screen in years. And for all the focus on Scott and Hope, Hank is very much the glue that holds the team together. Besides that, Pym's decades-long knowledge of the Marvel universe is invaluable in story-telling terms.
As for other mooted actors, it’s all conjecture at the moment, but if Hope’s mother, Janet van Dyne, manages to return – more on that in a bit – then Douglas has suggested his wife, Catherine Zeta Jones, whereas Lilly has backed the idea of Michelle Pfeiffer. As for any Avengers who might turn up, that’s anyone’s guess, but with Scott having met (and punched half of) the extended family in Civil War, and the larger threat from Thanos heating things up, it’s more likely than not.
We’re definitely not looking at a heist movie this time, but don’t expect anything traditional. Because while we’re getting a definite change of pace with Ant-Man and the Wasp, according to Reed, the first film’s distinctive crime-caper vibe is being replaced by something “much weirder”.
This, we are fine with. The only way you can successfully change a formula as delightfully off-kilter as that of the first Ant-Man is to go further down the rabbit hole. It would be a tragedy of scandalous proportions to see Lang, van Dyne and Pym go the route of traditional, posturing superheroics. But where exactly are they going to go?
Well, one distinct possibility is the Quantum Realm – that entire universe of the impossibly minuscule that Scott nearly gets trapped in at the end of the first film. We know that Hope’s mother – and original Wasp - Janet van Dyne, might well still be alive there, having become trapped in the sub-atomic world during a Cold War mission. Reed has said that exploring the new Wasp as a hero in her own right is a major priority now that she’s suited up, stating that the sequel will “show her fully formed and what she is as a superhero. Her power set, how she fights, and what are the injustices that matter to her that she wants to right.” The ‘death’ of her mother is a major driving force for Hope in the first Ant-Man film, and if things are going to get weird as well as personal, then the rescue of her long-lost parent would make for a very neat dovetail.
The Wasp isn’t just a guest star
Yep, don’t go thinking this is a case of ‘Ant-Man, featuring The Wasp’. You might be forgiven for expecting such, given Marvel’s long, hard, muddy road to conceding to make it’s Black Widow movie, but it’s mercifully not the case. The sequel is going to be a genuine double-bill, with both heroes taking equal prominence. It’s not about one or the other, or even one with the other, but rather the team the two of them make together.
“Part of thing [sic] that we’re going to explore”, says Reed, “as shown in the comics, is how [they] are such a great duo and partnership. Part of that, in any partnership, is how they relate to each other as people. Where will their personal relationship be at that point, and what will be their fighting style together?” Get ready to see the two as a unit then, with the new Wasp taking a big step up to the main Marvel roster and asserting her big-league canonicity alongside Cap, Tony, Nat and the rest.
The release date
Ant-Man and the Wasp is currently set for July 2018. July 2 in the UK, and July 6 in the US, to be precise, continuing the current trend for Marvel films being released on the eastern side of the pond a little before launching in their homeland. Though given the number of times Ant-Man was pushed up – and how often tentpole movie release dates shift in general - don’t be surprised if you ultimately end up seeing it in a different week, or even month.