Why 'Ant-Man and the Wasp' Holds the Keys to Marvel's Future

Though the sequel won't have the scope of 'Avengers: Infinity War,' it is laying groundwork the studio could mine for years.

Tuesday’s trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp may point to a vastly smaller scale than what audiences have recently witnessed in Avengers: Infinity War, but that doesn’t mean the next entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe won’t be grappling with some big ideas. The film is a necessary reprieve from the gloom and doom of Thanos’ cosmic balancing act, but Ant-Man and the Wasp has its fair share of heavy lifting to do in terms of ushering Marvel into a new realm.

Peyton Reed returns to direct the sequel to his 2015 film, which saw ex-con Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) teaming up with former SHIELD inventor and adventurer Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his estranged daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), to reclaim Pym’s company with the help of shrinking technology and the ability to communicate with ants. The first film was plagued by preproduction issues that saw fan-favorite director Edgar Wright step away from what had been a passion project for nearly a decade. Despite the wariness of fans going in, with some assuming that Ant-Man could be Marvel Studios’ first critical and financial disappointment, the film went on to gross $519.3 million on a $142 budget. While Ant-Man didn’t quite break out in the same way as Marvel’s other foray into more offbeat comic territory, Guardians of the Galaxy, it's safe to say Ant-Man made an impact. Lang’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War, while not serving the story, did lead to one of the most talked about moments of the film with Lang becoming Giant-Man, if only briefly. In his latest adventure, rumored to take place not long after his appearance in Captain America: Civil War and before Infinity War, Ant-Man teams up with Hope Pym, who has now adopted a secret identity of her own as the Wasp.

If the Wasp wasn’t already enticing enough, this sequel also seems to showcase a more kinetic style from the film's director. While the first Ant-Man felt like it too closely tried to follow Marvel’s house style, especially when comparing the style to Wright’s, this teaser showcases a more dynamic visual style as well as a kinetic sense of action. With this newfound energy, a new take on classic Iron Man villain, and a story that will seemingly rely on the consequences of Lang’s actions in the first film and Civil War, Ant-Man and the Wasp has all the makings of a film that will surpass its predecessor in every way.

Lang’s choice of sides in Civil War was an odd one. For a character who, up until that point, had relied on using his newfound abilities so that his daughter could see him as a hero, it seemed somewhat out of character for him to take Captain America’s side and risk being imprisoned and labeled as a terrorist. It appears that Reed’s film will tackle this issue directly, with the trailer hinting that Lang has given up being Ant-Man until certain events force him to suit up again. It will be interesting to see how this decision will impact his relationship with his daughter, who seems to have her own designs on becoming a superhero. Comic fans will know that Cassie Lang (Abby Ryder Fortson) eventually suits up as the Young Avenger called Stinger, formally Stature. And while we’re talking about the relationship of fathers and daughters, then look no further than the central figure of the film: the Wasp.

Many felt that Lilly’s Hope Pym didn’t get her due in the first film, and if this latest trailer proves anything, it’s that her journey will be just as important as Scott’s, if not more so. Much of the trailer is focused on the Wasp’s unique abilities and fighting style — “she seems more intense,” Scott says. There doesn’t seem to be any reservation in making Wasp the cooler character of the pair, even if her name doesn’t come first in the title. Her relationship with her father appears to have evolved from the first film, with the elder Pym no longer doubting in his daughter’s abilities to survive as a hero. Of course, this could all be turned upside down with the return of Hope’s mother. While we know that Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) will be central to the film, the trailer doesn’t give us a glimpse of her or reveal how she’ll manage to escape from the Quantum Realm, which Lang traveled to in the first film after going sub-atomic.

The Quantum Realm opens up a whole new universe for Marvel to uncover. While it appeared briefly during Ant-Man and Doctor Strange, the trailer points to a full exploration of this other dimension with someone traversing this space in a ship of some kind. While the rules of this place, which so far has been shown as an accessible point through both magic and science, aren’t defined yet, rumors suggest that the Quantum Realm will play a major role in Marvel’s upcoming slate, including next year’s Captain Marvel. If the Quantum Realm is Marvel’s means of exploring other dimensions then this may prove to be our first glimpse at Marvel’s multiverse, and if we’re thinking long-term — it’s easy to imagine a certain fantastic family emerging from this place.

As exciting as the Quantum Realm seems to be for Marvel’s heroes, it’s also ushering in new threats in the form of Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), introduced in Iron Man No. 219 in 1987. Little is known about Ghost’s true identity, but his power set of invisibility and intangibility has made him a sought-after tool for spy work and corporate sabotage. Ant-Man and the Wasp changes Ghost’s gender, and presumably her origin, but it looks like her powers will remain the same, even if they come from a different source. She’ll pose an interesting threat and her unique power set will certainly allow for some visually clever action sequences. While Scott’s buddy and partner in crime Luis (Michael Pena) says, “she wants to take over the world, or whatever,” there’s presumably much more to her motivation than that.

After the title, we get a stinger that introduces us to Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), who reveals he once partnered with Pym as Goliath. It seems likely that we’ll see Foster grow into Goliath in the film, but if the size comparison banter between he and Scott are any indication, he’ll be significantly smaller than comic readers are used to seeing. As Marvel begins to flesh out the time period between Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Iron Man (2008), it doesn’t hurt to hope we see a flashback of Foster, Pym and Van Dyne teaming up in their heyday.

While it will certainly be nice to take a breather from the massive landscape of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man and the Wasp doesn’t look like it’s waiting on pushing the MCU forward.