11:16am PT by Richard Newby
How 'Ant-Man and the Wasp' Sets Up Marvel's Future
[This story contains spoilers for Ant-Man and the Wasp.]
It’s no secret that Marvel Studios has had massive success this year, even more so than usual. With Black Panther exceeding expectations ($1.3 billion worldwide) and Avengers: Infinity War being the first comic book movie to cross the $2 billion mark, the Marvel Cinematic Universe certainly did its share to captivate audiences before summer blockbuster season had even kicked off.
The studio’s third and final release of 2018, and its 20th film in its ongoing cinematic universe, has been touted as a reprieve from the game-changing and world-ending stakes of Black Panther and Infinity War. But there’s nothing small about Ant-Man and the Wasp as the microscopic Quantum Realm, introduced in the first film, is given greater significance. While a lot of the film’s buildup has centered around the long overdue co-billing of a female superhero — Evangeline Lily’s Hope Van Dyne, aka the Wasp — expectations for Ant-Man and the Wasp rested squarely on the charm of Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man. While successful ($519.3 million and 82 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), the original 2015 film didn’t exactly move the needle of the MCU other than introducing a few new characters. It would be forgivable to expect Ant-Man and the Wasp to be another peripheral, if enjoyable, entry. But director Peyton Reed’s sequel doubles down on the most successful aspects of the first pic, makes better use of the talents of Lily and Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym, and covertly introduces three major developments that could change the future of the MCU just in time for its promised shift in the aftermath of next year's Avengers 4.
Here are some of the possibilities:
Jimmy Woo and the Agents of Atlas
When we reunite with Scott Lang in Ant-Man and the Wasp, he is under house arrest for violating the Sokovia Accords in Captain America: Civil War (2016). Lang is monitored under the watchful, though good-natured eye, of FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park). Jimmy Woo is actually one of Marvel’s oldest characters, having first appeared in Marvel Comics’ predecessor Atlas Comics in 1956. A Chinese-American secret agent, Woo fought communism in the pages of Yellow Claw, before Marvel reintroduced him as an Agent of SHIELD in 1968. Cited by curator Jeff Yang in his 2014 Japanese American National Museum exhibition, “Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986,” Woo is one of the few early positive Asian depictions in the world of American comic books.
Woo eventually became the head of the Atlas Foundation, a group of secret agents comprised of 1950s characters like Gorilla-Man, Namora and the Human Robot, who combat the forces of science and magic. In an alternate reality, Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, Woo is partnered with Sharon Carter. Although SHIELD is no longer operating on a large scale in the MCU, Woo’s budding, if cautious friendship, with Lang in the film may point to the FBI Agent seeking a larger playing field and finding a replacement for SHIELD in a world where the old rules of espionage no longer apply. The odd-chemistry of the Agents of Atlas would fit well with Park’s comedic background and take on the character. Plus, if we can see Sharon Carter, Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp), make a much-needed return, it’d be nice to see her interact with Woo and maybe show him the ropes. With representation becoming an increasingly necessary conversation, Marvel could take the opportunity to launch its first Asian-American led film with Randall Park’s Jimmy Woo.
Ghost and the Thunderbolts
Ant-Man and the Wasp takes an interesting approach to its antagonist, Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), in a way that departs from any of the character’s comic book depictions. In the comics, Ghost’s alter ego is a mystery, and his powers of intangibility and invisibility stem from his suit rather than biochemistry. The film not only changes the character’s gender, and gives her a name, Ava Starr, but also makes the character’s motivations personal. An Iron Man villain, Ghost’s comic storylines have largely been of the impersonal corporate sabotage and theft nature. The film avoids the Iron Man connection, and instead makes Ava the daughter of Elihas Starr (Egghead for those looking for a Marvel deep cut), who loses her parents in an accident that gives her powers stemming from the Quantum Realm.
Used as a black-ops Agent of SHIELD, Ghost has been forced to infiltrate and kill for the government, with the promise of a cure. In the aftermath of SHIELD’s collapse in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), she’s been left to her own devices. With the help of the Agent formally known as Goliath, Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), she tries to find a cure from the constant pain of her intangible form. In a break from the hero vs. villain tradition, Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) actually does use her powers to cure Ghost, at least in part, since the film’s mid-credits scene has team Ant-Man looking for more Quantum Realm power to aid Ghost’s condition.
The survival of Ghost places the character in an interesting position, where she’s forced to live with the evil things she’s done while not being a villain. In the comics, Ghost served as a member of one iteration of the Thunderbolts, a team of villains looking to redeem themselves as heroes. It’s worth noting that Goliath also served as a member of the Thunderbolts, though not Bill Foster’s version. The original team was led by Baron Zemo, and we know from Black Panther that Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo is alive and in captivity after the events of Civil War. It’s easy to imagine a post-Avengers 4 world where the Avengers are no longer around and Zemo sees this as an opportunity to build what he considers a better team. If Zemo and Ghost are any indication, a team of psychologically damaged characters out to redefine the world on their own terms seems like too good a setup for Marvel not to have something in the works.
Although Scott’s daughter is only 10 in Ant-Man and the Wasp, she makes no secret of her desire to be a hero like her father. Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) makes it known that she wants to partner up with her father, though Scott makes it clear he’d be a horrible dad if he let her do that. It would seem that any superheroing for Cassie would be a long way off. But here’s where things get interesting. Throughout the film, the Quantum Realm is described as a place where the rules of time don’t apply in the same way. In the pic’s mid-credits scene, Scott gets trapped in the Quantum Realm after Thanos’ snap kills Hope, Hank and the recently returned Janet.
There’s already rumors that there will be a time-jump between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 and the possibility of time travel. Logic points to Scott somehow escaping the Quantum Realm and discovering that years have passed since his disappearance. His time in the Quantum Realm may have also taught him how to navigate it so that he and the Avengers could travel back in time and prevent Thanos’ seizure of the Infinity Stones. So how would Scott escape to achieve all of this? It seems likely that Cassie would have spent years searching for her father, and gaining her own handle on Pym tech and particles. There are also unconfirmed rumors that an older actress will play Cassie in Avengers 4.
In Marvel Comics, Cassie Lang served as a member of the Young Avengers and went by Stature, and currently Stinger. Exhibiting powers to grow and shrink similar to her dad, she protected New York alongside teenage superheroes, Patriot, Wiccan, Hulkling, Iron Lad, a resurrected adolescent Vision and Kate Bishop, a female version of Hawkeye. Just as the events of Avengers 4 could presumably lead to a world where the Thunderbolts could rise as the new premier superhero team, the Young Avengers seem just as likely. The Young Avengers could become a way for the MCU to make use of familiar character names and concepts while also showcasing the larger legacy in which they exist.
For an allegedly small movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp makes the MCU’s future seem a whole lot bigger, and provides enough material to speculate upon while we brace for the long wait until the next MCU entry, Captain Marvel, in 2019.