What seems pretty interesting in the current state of the MCU – especially now with Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania kicking off Phase 5 – is how the multiverse saga, which features storylines that involve multiple variants of characters (with our new villain Kang, played by the wonderful Jonathan Majors, being a prime example), will play to general audiences. Now, look, this isn’t referring to die-hard Marvel fans. And I’m certainly not referring to myself. But I do wonder what Marvel thinks about all this. Because, like in politics, they can’t just play to the base and hope to still expect casual fans to show up with these fairly complicated storylines going forward. (At least, they are much more complicated than, “guy builds a suit,” or, “frozen World War II hero is back and still wants to fight evil.) So, I’m just curious how they plan to do that.
Stephen Broussard has been a producer on five prior Marvel movies and two of the Disney+ offerings. He was a producer on the previous Ant-Man and the Wasp, but Quantumania is a whole different kind of movie. The last two Ant-Man movies were both released after an Avengers movie and would get described as “palette cleansers.” That is not the case this time out as Quntumania has to set up the new MCU villain, Kang. And set up everything to come in this next phase of Marvel movies. But, again, what about the person who just liked the prior two Ant-Man movies and doesn’t follow the rest?
The two Ant-Man movies before were always referred to as palate cleansers. No one’s calling this one that.
We had what I describe as a healthy chip on our shoulder about that. We knew it was a certain type of movie that had come after these giant Avengers movies. And we challenged ourselves because we were lucky enough to get a part three, to get that next at bat, to say, what if we were epic and big and huge and the entire MCU turns on the events of this? That felt like a reason to do it, if you’re lucky enough to get a third time at bat.
The first two movies set up Scott Lang’s world with all these quirky characters. Was it difficult to give them all up for this one?
It was difficult in the sense that, once we decided to do it, we had to go and do it. You know what I mean? And it’s fun to think about and to talk about, but then, in practicality, you’re building an entire world. And cracking a narrative that makes sense. But it was exciting. I mean, structurally, it’s very different than a lot of Marvel movies. It’s almost like a Jurassic Park movie or something, where you get pulled into this adventure.
Literally, they get pulled in.
Exactly. Wizard of Oz looms large, obviously, and it’s something we talked about a lot. But it was kind of about embracing what it is and embracing that worldview and that tone, which I think is readily apparent as you point out on those first two movies and dropping that. Can you mash that tone up, and that point of view up through Scott, into this big weird sci-fi epic?
The other two Ant-Man movies are really unique. But this one has to tie in with the other movies, it’s setting up a lot of stuff. So this has to be different than what’s worked before.
It does, yeah. And it’s scary. You’re sort of stepping out on the ledge of what’s worked before.
Right, because this has worked before, and this is what people like about these. And I do wonder about the person who may not keep up with everything in the MCU, but likes Ant-Man. For that person a lot has changed.
I mean, we’d sort of approach those movies… the key is to enjoy it, and having fun with the movie. That is the job of that movie. And the more movies we have in our rearview mirror, the more we have to be mindful of that, I think moving on. And looking backwards and of course looking forward with anything it sets up. But we try to be very mindful of that. I’d be curious… I imagine, given your profession, you’re probably well versed in kind of where we are at…
I am, yes.
I mean, I did talk to some people, the more casual people in my own life, and they seemed to understand it. We put the film up in front of audiences, and we asked the question of like, “Well, how many of you have seen Loki?” I also got to work on that a little bit. And about half of them had seen it, half of them hadn’t. But, “How many of you enjoy Jonathan Majors?” And every hand goes up. Everyone really just gets the gravity of who this guy is.
And if you want to go deeper, if you want to make the connections, I think they’re there for you. That’s kind of always been what the MCU is about. But if you want to just have the thrill of the visceralness of what Jonathan is giving you in the moment, I think you get engaged with a film like that as well, too. And it’s unique. It’s a unique question to be asked to the MCU, but we’re mindful. We’re mindful of it. That’s what I’ll say going into it. We don’t take it lightly, or dismiss it.
You mentioned Loki, which kind of serves as instructions for how variants and the multiverse work. But you know not everyone watched that. So every movie, you have to now re-explain variants and the multiverse. So how do you do that? Is it just going to be exposition in every movie going forward? I’m sure you’ve thought about that.
It’s a fair question. I mean, what I would say is that all movies are sleight of hand. Every movie, regardless of the genre, is a magic trick of sleight of hand. And if you look at any movie too closely, you can pick apart the logic, or, “Would the character do this?” But a movie is successful, or is a failure, based on how much they’ve hidden the sleight of hand. You know? Whether that’s exposition, whether that’s character motivation, stuff like that.
But we’ve gone from a guy who built a suit to, “Hey, there are multiple universes now. There are multiple variants of each character.” It’s a lot.
It is a lot.
And I certainly understand it. But I’m worried about someone like my uncle.
Totally. Well, look at this film. How does this film open? This film opens up with a conceit about Scott Lang has written a memoir about everything he’s been through. And it reminds you of the things that he’s done, and the movies he’s been in. And it’s also tied into character. It’s not just this expositional tool, “Previously, on Ant-Man…” It doesn’t play like that.
Yeah, it’s a good one.
It sets up his entire journey for the film. Which is, “My race is run.” “Hey, guess what, dad? Your race is not run.” It’s thematically interesting. And gets beyond that, it’s hilarious. Not to toot our own horn, but I think it’s a really funny sequence. And audiences have told us that. It’s a really fun sequence. So to answer that question, for this movie in particular, it’s very intentional with that problem, right? You have to get a lot of backstory about where Scott’s been, a lot of backstory about the MCU.
It’s very clever.
You get it couched in humor and character, and that was the answer for this movie. To future movies, that question will be asked, and will be answered in ways that are entertaining. Time travel, in Endgame, it’s very complex, and we couched it in Back to the Future Part II. And then I’m like, Okay, I get it. I remember Scott saying, “Back to the Future is bullshit.” But you know, it’s a sleight of hand.
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