HEAT VISION

'Ant-Man and the Wasp' Is an 'Infinity War' Palate Cleanser

There's a method to Marvel's madness in releasing such an upbeat comedy trailer immediately after its biggest 'Avengers' yet.

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War]

The drawback of waiting until the week after Avengers: Infinity War opens to release the new trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp is that the latter might seem a little inconsequential in comparison to the epic threatening half of all life in existence. A little…small, in fact. But perhaps that’s a feature, not a bug.

(OK, I’m done with the puns now.)

Let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way first: Despite the teaser yesterday, there’s absolutely nothing in the trailer to answer the question of where Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) were in Infinity War. In fact, it looks very much like the new movie is entirely divorced from Infinity War, happening either before or after that storyline is finished — finally, Marvel’s movies catch up with the kind of confusing continuity problems of its comic books! — unless the loss of half of all life on Earth turns out to be far less of a big deal than Infinity War’s finale made it appear.

That’s unlikely to be a problem to most, although there may be some fans wondering why the story has leaped backward in time instead of continuing forward from the cliff-hanger they saw in the last Marvel movie. Captain Marvel, too, is set in the past of the Marvel Cinematic Universe; it’s a conceit born of necessity, to keep the tension of Infinity War alive through to its follow-up, despite the fact that there are two more movies in between. It’ll be interesting to see if either movie actually addresses this, through a framing sequence set in the “now” of the Infinity War cliff-hanger or something similar; the idea of seeing a tearful Paul Rudd comfort his daughter by saying, “Remember before half of everyone died, we had fun?” Seems, if nothing else, at odds with the tone of the trailer or the idea of Ant-Man and the Wasp as a light-hearted action comedy, but who’s to say it won’t happen anyway?

Nonetheless, Ant-Man and the Wasp, judging by this new trailer, feels very much like an intentional antidote for, or at least alternative to, the grimness of Infinity War’s downbeat ending. As such, it’s a smart move: Appealing to those who may have been turned off by the potential loss of their favorite heroes, while also (in theory) showcasing the tonal diversity available in Marvel movies: “We can do cosmic drama and goofy comedy!” (This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been following Marvel to this point, of course; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 balanced both, albeit to lesser degrees than either Avengers: Infinity War or Ant-Man and the Wasp; the same could be said of Thor: Ragnarok.)

Instead of Ant-Man and the Wasp being an unwelcome diversion from the scale and story that left audiences stunned and in awe of Avengers: Infinity War, perhaps it’s better considered as a palate cleanser and proof that Marvel has more to offer — a recognition of Marvel’s imperial phase, if you will — before audiences dive back into the core narrative with next year’s Captain Marvel.

That this also allows the studio to pull back from the need to constantly top itself at the box office — a feat that is almost guaranteed to be impossible after Infinity War’s mammoth opening — shouldn’t be ignored, either; when this movie inevitably has a smaller opening weekend than the other two Marvel movies this year, the studio can just shrug it off, saying, “This was always meant to be a smaller movie, not on the same scale as Avengers or Black Panther….” Really, it’s all win-win for Marvel at this point — which is exactly where the studio wants to be as it celebrates its 10th anniversary.

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