'Ant-Man And The Wasp' Set Visit: Everything We Learned About Marvel's Upcoming Sequel

I'm standing inside Hank Pym's new high tech laboratory. Pym's secure room under his house in the first Ant-Man was pretty slick, but this two-story complex puts that place to shame. Banks of computers – some brand new, some decades old – flash as they work side by side. The place has a mixture of analog and modern technology: microphones attached to a tape player, an ancient reel-to-reel machine plopped next to a corrugated cardboard model with Pym Particle receptacles attached.

And there are some bizarre additions that make sense when you consider this lab was built by the original Ant-Man. You know those little plastic clips that keep loaves of bread from getting stale? A huge version of one of those corrals some cables hanging from the ceiling. Across the room, there's a six foot paper clip on the side of a futuristic tunnel, and oversized Erector set pieces can be seen all throughout the cavernous lab. Occasionally, I find myself walking across a massive LEGO piece slotted into the floor, inserted as if to fill what would have otherwise been a gap in a second story catwalk. An oversized shock absorber with its round circular tubing sits in the corner, seemingly holding up the building itself. It feels as if someone designed this entire lab in miniature, utilizing whatever tools and scattered pieces were within arm's reach on a workbench, and then blew the tiny version up to full size. That Hank Pym is a smart guy.

On September 14, 2017, I joined a small group of other reporters on the Pinewood set of Marvel Studios' Ant-Man and the Wasp just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. We found ourselves walking around on the single largest set Marvel has constructed in the studio's existence thus far. Speaking with the cast and crew, we learned what director Peyton Reed has planned for this super-sized sequel, and below, you can read our full Ant-Man and the Wasp set visit report. But beware – there are some plot details here that some of you may consider spoilers.

Before we dive too deeply into our Ant-Man and the Wasp set visit coverage, you should watch the most recent trailer to make sure we're all on the same page:

The Infinity War Question

As we stand on this set in mid-September, Avengers 4 is filming next door. That film and its spiritual predecessor, Avengers: Infinity War, will cast a large shadow over the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with ramifications that change the entire MCU as we know it. We visited the Ant-Man and the Wasp set well before we saw Infinity War, when all we had was director Peyton Reed's word that the events of that mega-movie won't have too much bearing on this particular adventure:

"We definitely had to deal with the ramifications post-Civil War. That was crucial to Scott [Lang] and crucial to Hope [van Dyne]. I mean, it really is fundamental in the jumping-off point about what's going on between the two of them at the start of this movie. Outside of that, what I'm really happy about is we're free to tell sort of our freestanding story. Once we establish that as the leaping-off point, this thing is going on over here with huge personal stakes and huge other stakes that are really separate of what's going on with Infinity War. So that is something that was really, really appealing to me. We have enough stuff to track in this movie without having to keep abreast of what's going on in that."

The original Ant-Man managed to be a largely self-contained piece of storytelling that didn't rely too heavily on crossovers with other MCU properties, so it stands to reason that Reed would be attracted to that dynamic again here. The filmmakers tell us that Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place two years after the events of Civil War, but will it answer any lingering questions from Infinity War? That movie's ending was so momentous, you'd think it would almost have to impact this film's story, but we'll have to wait until we see Ant-Man and the Wasp in its entirety to know for sure whether Reed is telling us the truth or protecting any surprises. For now, though, let's set Infinity War aside and concentrate on what we learned about Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Scott Lang is Under House Arrest

A lot has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the end of Captain America: Civil War, but the last time we saw Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), he was locked up in a high security prison with the rest of Team Cap. That movie ends with Captain America breaking his friends out of that floating jail, and it's two years later when we catch up with Scott here. Since Civil War, Scott Lang has tried to get out of the superhero game entirely: he entered a plea bargain with the government and part of the terms of his arrangement involved him being put under house arrest.

When Ant-Man and the Wasp begins, Scott is wearing an ankle bracelet and living with Luis (Michael Pena), hoping to stay on the straight and narrow for just a few more hours so he can be the family man he's always wanted to be. Scott, Luis, and their buddies Kurt (David Dastmalchian) and Dave (T.I.) from the first movie have formed a company called X-Con Home Security in San Francisco. "Who better to protect your house than ex-convicts?" quips executive producer Stephen Broussard. That business serves as the end goal for Scott Lang – he just wants to keep his head down and stay clean long enough to work at a legitimate company and be a good father for his daughter, Cassie. But Scott's plan to go legit is interrupted by Hank and Hope, who need his help for an important quest of their own.

Where Have Hope and Hank Been?

"They're on the run," Broussard tells us. The ending of the first Ant-Man involves the father/daughter pair as part of a team who implodes Pym Technologies headquarters to prevent Darren Cross's evil plan from being enacted, but that drew the attention of the government, who now know about Pym's shrinking (and growing) technology and consider anyone with access to that tech a superhero. The government essentially demands that they sign the Sokovia Accords, but as Broussard reveals, "Hank Pym being Hank Pym, who never wanted Stark to have his technology [in the first place], said, 'Thanks but no thanks' and had to go underground a little bit."

Ant-Man and the Wasp - portable

There are buildings you drive past every day that you never notice: bland, uninteresting-looking, basic architectural layouts that look just like the building next to them. For Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), the design of those buildings becomes a way for them to hide in plain sight. "Hank Pym, as an engineer, the idea is that he's created a building that he can use his shrink tech on. And shrink it, and put it in a parking lot, and also have it move when he wants to move it," explains production designer Shepherd Frankel. That high tech lab I was mentioned earlier? That's all housed inside one of those boring-looking buildings, which is perfect for blending in. Hank and Hope primarily use a van as a means of transport while they're on the run, but if they find an empty lot somewhere, they can set a shrunken version of the building down on the ground, blow it up to full size, and then work without drawing too much attention to themselves.

But Hank didn't build the lab all by himself – he had a little help from some old friends. "One of the reasons there's so much color in the [lab] set: not unlike building a particle accelerator, where there's millions and millions of parts, Hank as a scientist knows how to systemize things, and have his army of helpers – which is his ants – code and move things around and place it," Frankel says. Yep, the ants are back, too.

Hope’s Increased Role and The Mission at Hand

But what exactly are they doing? It turns out they're looking for Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer). As we saw in the original Ant-Man, Hank's wife and Hope's mother was lost in the Quantum Realm years ago, but since Scott Lang briefly entered that microscopic dimension and returned alive, they're inspired to try to find Janet. The lack of that mother-daughter relationship has left something of a hole in Hope, and as you may have noticed, this movie has a certain heroine in its title, which means we're going to be seeing a lot more of Hope van Dyne this time around. "It's not 'Ant-Man with the Wasp'," director Peyton Reed tells us. "It's 'Ant-Man and the Wasp,' so it's important to tell those stories separately and invest in each of the characters' journeys and arcs in the movie...the mission that is happening with her, entirely separate of Scott, is vital and it's her mission. It's not her dad's mission. It's her mission. Now Hank and Hope are working together, but it's really Hope leading the charge."

With Hope's increased role comes a renewed excitement from the actress who plays her. "I think what's exciting about playing the Wasp now is there is this incredible satisfaction in Hope, something that she has been waiting for her whole life, which is essentially an affirmation from her father has come," Evangeline Lilly says. "And it came in the form of this mantle, of this suit. Now that she's wearing it and she's exercising those muscles that she has wanted to exercise all her life, she's in a really different place emotionally when we start the film. And hopefully you'll be able to see that and feel that instantly."

Ant-Man and the Wasp - Evangeline Lilly and Paul Rudd

Lilly is also excited about the suit she has in this film. The Wasp suit we saw in Ant-Man's post-credits scene was a completely digital creation, but this time, the actress went through hours of costume fittings to develop a practical suit that fit perfectly. Her suit functions differently than Ant-Man's in the new movie and comes with a significant upgrade, much to Scott Lang's chagrin.

"I don't have a button [that triggers a size transformation]. My suit is an upgrade from Scott Lang's suit that he was wearing, because he was wearing Hank's original suit from the 1960s. So what we were able to do with technology and my suit, I have blasters on my wrists. I have my wings. Essentially there is like a reaction system to what I am thinking. So I don't have to do anything physically to activate shrinking, wings, blasters, growing, none of that. I just think it and it happens."

Did you catch the word "growing" thrown in there? That could simply mean returning to normal size, but then again, it might also mean that we could see Giant-Wasp at some point in this sequel.

(Side note: I asked one of the costume designers if Ant-Man gets any wings of his own in this movie, and the answer is no. When asked if there's a functional explanation for why he wouldn't have the same upgrades as the Wasp, the designer responded, "There isn't a functional explanation, but it is addressed in the film in a humorous way. He's not happy about it...So, there are moments when he's like, 'Come on wings, lasers, how come?'")

Ant-Man and the Wasp - Michael Douglas

Back to the mission: a massive communication station has been constructed in the mobile laboratory, and the father/daughter team has been blindly sending out messages hoping to reach Janet. The centerpiece of the laboratory is a brightly-lit, futuristic-looking tunnel, complete with a track leading into it and a multi-passenger vehicle poised to enter. It's clear just from looking at it that this vehicle – with a bubble cockpit slightly reminiscent of the Batcopter from the 1966 Batman movie, jet engines strapped to its rear, and what look like oversized ski pads underneath – is meant to transport Hope and Hank into an alternate dimension.

Back to the Quantum Realm

As for what that realm will physically look like this time around, at the time of our set visit, that was still up in the air. "We're still working on exactly where we want to drive it on this one," says VFX supervisor Steph Ceretti. "We're going there, but we don't want to redo the same thing that we've done. We want to evolve it and have an experience that is even more immersive in this one...the thing that we did in Doctor Strange [with the "magical mystery tour" sequence] that we will keep doing here is that we want things to be all the time fluid and moving and evolving and being alive. All these environments are not physically solid. They evolve. And they are part of the story and everything kind of melts and changes."

But the Quantum Realm won't look exactly the same as anything we saw in Doctor Strange. Broussard tells us full scenes need to take place down there, so not everything will be fluid. "It can't be a black void like you had a little bit in the first film, so it's gotta be landscape-y, but how do you make it still feel at scale? How do you make it feel microscopic with the camera treatments and the relationship of the horizon and stuff like that? Figuring all that out has been a bit of a head trip, but it's pretty cool. It's not Lawrence of Arabia. It's not a giant desert because that triggers scale cues in your head, but you still have to feel like it would be scale appropriate if you're down there, and finding that balance between the small and the epic has been the challenge."

“One Bad Night”

Marvel Studios has made a habit of slotting superhero fare into previously-existing genres (Spider-Man: Homecoming is a John Hughes comedy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a '70s-style political thriller, etc.), so what genre are we going to see explored here? Reed told us there are some romantic comedy elements to the movie, but the more accurate description we heard in terms of genre was what they're referring to as "one bad night" movies. Allow executive producer Stephen Broussard to explain:

"The first film was a heist film, right? It was kind of this crime movie, and we like that the Ant-Man franchise kind of lives in this crime-adjacent world, and so a lot of the films that we started talking about just as like inspiration – and kind of how we want to approach it and how we want to do something new the same way the heist movie felt new to the MCU – I don't really know if it's a genre unto itself but movies that have always been kind of 'one bad night,' when something just goes terrible and just kind of spirals out of control. After Hours is a great touchstone. I like Go. Go is a great movie. You know, Adventures in Babysitting for the lighter fare. It just feels like it started so simple but then it kind of just goes up and up and up, and then you have a character trying to race to put it all back in the box before they get caught."

The Antagonists

There wouldn't be much of a movie if our heroes were able to go on their mission unimpeded, so what kind of people do they come up against this time? It turns out that the casting of Walton Goggins in this movie has another layer to it: Goggins was one of the stars of FX's Justified, a modern western based on the works of author Elmore Leonard, and Ant-Man and the Wasp is taking a page from the Elmore Leonard playbook when it comes to its bad guys.

"I'm a big Elmore Leonard fan, in the way that there's all these sort of colorful characters kind of colliding with one another," says Broussard. "That feels crime-adjacent, to use that term again, and so we wanted to populate this movie with a lot of antagonists. Not so much people that are like villains or supervillains, but like obstacles in the way. They have their own agendas, their own journeys. They're not trying to take over the world but they're clearly standing in the way of our heroes, and Elmore Leonard was such a master at that. The Get Shortys of the world. Everybody is in a circle trying to get somewhere else and just colliding in the middle and that was a huge inspiration for the tone and the framework of where this movie could go."

As for who those antagonists will be, we know Goggins plays Sonny Burch, who, in the comics, serves as the chairman of a weapons designer firm called Cross Technologies (associated with the first movie's villain, Darren Cross), but the filmmakers kept mum on what exactly that character's involvement will be here (or even if he'll serve the same function in the movie). And we also know that Hannah John-Kamen is playing a new interpretation of Ghost, who, from the sound of it, is one of the most mysterious characters in Marvel Studios history.

Who is Ghost?

The comic version of Ghost was created by Bob Layton in 1987, and was primarily an Iron Man villain. This time around, the character is being gender-swapped. I'll let Broussard take it from here:

"Traditionally in the comics, Ghost was a character of mystery. You didn't really know the alter ego of that person. You didn't know their real name. We thought that was a cool opportunity to create a character that was all about mystery: what are the origins, what is the backstory, what are the goals and agendas of this person? It was a great vehicle for the kind of the story you wanted to tell because Ghost in the comics itself was a mystery. So very different from what has come before in the comics, but in ways that kind of – sorry, if it feels like I'm hedging my bets, I'm just trying to police myself here. Suffice it to say that she is on a path and she is on a mission at odds with our heroes on this journey, but of a similar goal, of a similar aim, at the worst possible time for Scott Lang."

The comic version of Ghost is a skilled hacker with a suit that can turn invisible, and Broussard confirmed that her power set will remain the same in the movie...but that's about all we know about her. In multiple interviews throughout the day, nobody – not even John-Kamen herself – was allowed to tell us anything more about her. Here's an example of how part of that conversation went down:

Can you give us any sort of adjective about the movement of your character?

John-Kamen: Yeah. Definitely, uh...(long pause) ghosty. (laughs) That's all I'm gonna give you.

Enlightening, right? We were even shut down when we tried to ask one of the costume designers about Ghost's costume. But that won't stop us from speculating a little about the character in just a minute.

Odds and Ends

Here are some bullet points of other interesting things we learned about the movie:

1. While we've seen Ant-Man and Giant-Man already, this movie will see an in-between size that's internally referred to as "Variable-Man," and it sounds like that will be the result of Scott Lang's suit not functioning properly. "So much of the fun of this is when it works, it's cool, and sometimes when it's not working, it's just as fun to watch," says Broussard.

2. We assumed from all the talk about the Quantum Realm that a good percentage of the film will take place there. But according to Evangeline Lilly, "that's not true." When she asked a publicist if she was allowed to expound on that topic, Lilly was shut down. So how much Quantum Realm will we be seeing in this movie, then? Does it mean that the mission's goal is achieved relatively quickly, and the rest of it takes place in a normal dimension?

3. Expect Wasp to move differently than Ant-Man when they're both in shrink mode. "We're trying to push it a little bit further in terms of what we do in the micro world, what's happening at the ant level," visual effects supervisor Steph Ceretti says. "So we're trying to have the cameras a little more active and to use these moments more as a really strong action piece.  So we're really pushing on that, the photorealism of it as well, we're reworking the ants and all that stuff. Obviously, now, we have two characters. We have Ant-Man. We're still flying with his flying ants and all that stuff. But we have Wasp, and she has a fully new way of moving and evolving in that micro space. So there's a lot of things that are, in terms of camera moves and things that they didn't do on the first film that we're trying to explore a bit more."

4. While our handlers were guiding us toward one part of the set, I noticed a few stunt performers rehearsing a fight scene on the lab set. There were two female performers and one male, and their movements and fighting styles led me to believe they would be standing in for Ant-Man, the Wasp, and Ghost. So don't be surprised if Ghost makes a violent entrance into Hank's lab at some point in the movie.

Reading Between The Lines

During our chat with director Peyton Reed, someone asked him what the main mission of this movie is, and I think his answer might contain a hint at something that has larger ramifications in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: "Well, I'll answer that in two parts," he said. "The big mission is to find Janet. What that means ultimately for our characters on a personal level is one thing, and what it means for the larger world is another thing, and all the other things are really stumbling blocks on the path."

What could finding Janet mean for the larger world? This is pure speculation on my part, but considering Marvel's history with "killing" characters and resurrecting them, I wonder if this could have anything to do with the ending of Avengers: Infinity War, where a massive number of major Marvel characters were seemingly wiped out. Perhaps they were just transported to an alternate dimension – maybe even the Quantum Realm itself. If that's true, then Reed's comment about "what it means for the larger world" could factor in to Avengers 4. Maybe Ant-Man and the Wasp will use the knowledge they gain in this movie to return to the Quantum Realm again in Avengers 4 to try to save some lost heroes?

Ant-Man and the Wasp - Laurence Fishburne

Meanwhile, while we know the film is populated with various antagonists, could Laurence Fishburne's character be this movie's main villain? Reed told us "there is a big bad that has a very unique relationship to our characters," and Fishburne's character just might be the person who best fits that description. The actor is playing Dr. Bill Foster, a professor of quantum physics at Berkeley who is a former colleague of Hank Pym. In the comics, that character used his scientific know-how to help Pym return to normal size when Pym was stuck in Giant-Man mode, and Foster eventually managed to reverse engineer the effects of the Pym Particle and used them to take on the identity of Goliath. But don't get too excited: one of the movie's costumers told us Fishburne doesn't suit up in this film. Still, you don't hire a veteran actor like that to play a supporting part and give him nothing to do, so I suspect there's more to him than Marvel wants us to know at this point.

Speaking of which: could Bill Foster be Ghost's father? Ghost's identity was the most tightly-guarded secret on our entire set visit, so perhaps there's a familial connection that the filmmakers are trying to preserve? The lineage would make sense in terms of the age of the characters, but since Ghost's motivations are so shadowy, we're just left speculating about scenarios in which this could play out. Perhaps Ghost is only a perceived antagonist, but she's actually morally justified (trying to steal back the Ant-Man suit because she believes Pym stole it from her father, who could be its true inventor?). Or maybe she's against our heroes at first but eventually teams up with them to bring Foster down in the third act. It's still too early to know, but the bread crumbs leave a tantalizing trail.

And finally, this is likely something that will be revealed early on in the movie, but the actual way Scott ends up reuniting with Hank and Hope was kept from us while we were on the set. But during our interview with Michael Douglas (our full interview with him and many of the other actors will be published soon), the once-and-future Hank Pym let a small detail slip that I don't think he was supposed to: "[Hank and Hope] get a signal through Scott," he said. "We get a signal that [Janet] might still be alive." He was the only person to reveal that bit of information, so I'm wondering if Janet's signal arrives through the Ant-Man suit, which Scott swiped to fight in Civil War.

We'll find out about all this (and much more) when Ant-Man and the Wasp hits theaters on July 6, 2018.