Ant-Man may be a more modest Marvel movie than most, but the movie still comes stuffed with secrets, in-jokes, and surprise twists. While most moviegoers will focus on the movie’s A plot, where Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) recruit thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to wear the Ant-Man suit and conduct some sabotage for them, attentive fans will notice all sorts of Easter eggs in the margins. Here, director Peyton Reed explains all of the fun surprises and major questions you may have had after watching Ant-Man.
Again, that’s after you’ve watched Ant-Man. SPOILERS, in other words.
Peyton, let’s start with one of the biggest surprises: Janet Van Dyne is alive! You took a lot of heat from fans who thought that because Janet wasn’t in the movie, you had “fridged” an important character; that is, you killed off a woman to further a man’s arc. We learn, though, that Janet is actually lost in the quantum realm after saving the world from a nuke. Was it frustrating to endure that controversy while keeping Janet’s fate secret?
The secrecy is a huge part of these movies, I have now found out firsthand. I have a love/hate relationship with spoilers. As a filmmaker, you want to maintain as much mystery as possible so that people will be exhilarated and surprised when they’re in the theater. Having said that, in 1980, I read the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back two weeks before the movie was released. I was such a fanatical Star Wars fan that I couldn’t help it, and so I knew the big secret before I went to Empire Strikes Back on opening night, and it did not affect my enjoyment of the movie at all. I was still exhilarated even though I knew the secret! It was a lesson to me, in a weird way, that even if you knew the information, it didn’t necessarily spoil it. And now we’re in a culture where that’s almost unavoidable.
You came onboard after the original director, Edgar Wright, had departed, and you rewrote the script with Adam McKay and your star, Paul Rudd. Did the Janet story line change in your version? There’s one flashback where we get to see her suited up as the Wasp …
In the original drafts I think there was one reference in dialogue to Janet. She didn’t appear in the movie. When I came on, there was definitely some stuff that I wanted to bring to it, and same with McKay and Paul. McKay, who we all know is hilarious, is also a huge Marvel nerd. So there were a handful of things from the comics that we wanted to work into the movie. As far as Janet goes, it felt organic because the Hope-Hank dynamic is a integral part of the story. The movie really is about two father-daughter stories, and a crucial part of the Hope-Hank story is this lie he’s been telling her about her mother. So there was never a notion that she would be fridged, at all. We went back and forth about it, and I think Adam wrote at least three versions of this flashback Hank recounts about Janet, but we also brought the quantum realm into the movie, which was never in the early drafts. That mostly came about because Adam and I love that psychedelic part of Marvel Comics. We thought, “There’s gonna be a lot of shrinking in this movie. What if we got to the third act and we took it even further?” We found a way to work that into the story with the self-sacrifice that Scott makes to save his daughter, but it also leaves Hank Pym with this realization that Scott got out of the quantum realm, something he didn’t think was possible. If we’re fortunate enough to do another one, what’s Hank going to do about that? Is he going to try to find her? It’s deeply romantic.
In the end-credits tag, Hank gives the Wasp costume to Hope, and she says, “It’s about damn time.” That line feels like a nod to audience frustration that it’s taken this long to get more female Marvel superheroes.
Absolutely, yeah. And I like that the movie takes its time with her arc, because she’s a troubled character at the beginning. But right off the bat, she tells her father, “Give me the suit and let me finish this,” and he says no. I suppose the movie really could be called Ant-Man and Wasp, if you wanted to spoil things.
Tell me about the cameo from Anthony Mackie’s Falcon, who Ant-Man tussles with during one break-in. How did you decide to include him?
That was not in the original script, and when we were talking about increasing the heist movie tropes, McKay said, “There’s always that moment where the heist is in place and the plan is ready but, oh shit, there’s one more thing we’ve gotta get!” In our movie, it’s the signal decoy, and Hank has to send Scott to this old Stark warehouse to get it. Unbeknownst to Pym, that old piece of land became — at the end of Age of Ultron — the new Avengers facility. So McKay pitched that he has to fight an Avenger, and we’d just seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier, so McKay suggested the Falcon. It seemed like the right character — not a marquee character like Iron Man or Thor, but the right level of hero. And the kid in us was excited: This hero has these certain powers and this other hero has different powers, so if they fight, who’s gonna win? That’s what I love about the whole Marvel thing: Mackie’s in Winter Soldier, a pretty serious-minded political thriller, and then he comes into our movie and he’s doing light comedy. Then he’s going to be in Captain America: Civil War, where he’ll be serious again.
Last question: Ant-Man’s trusted flying ant-steed Antony collides with a bullet fired by the villainous Cross. Is he really dead?
I’m here to report that Antony is dead.
But look, here’s the bright side: The average lifespan of a carpenter ant is maybe 12 weeks, tops — more likely, 6 to 8. I feel like he really lived his life to the fullest. He literally made a name for himself. He’ll be looked back on very fondly. I thought, “Can we make a relationship that’s like Lone Ranger and Silver or Roy Rogers and Trigger?” It’s absurd, but we committed to it and loved it to a point where we wondered, “Can we actually get an emotional response from a giant bullet knocking into this ant?” Never mind the physics of how good a shot Cross is to pull that off.