Ant-Man and the Wasp set visit

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.

Ant-Man and the Wasp - ankle bracelet

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.

Ant-Man and the Wasp - Hank and Hope

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.

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