[Editor’s note: This article contains some spoilers for “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”]
Storytelling in the interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe is notoriously difficult, but the standalones have their own challenges. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” catches a break in not having to weave a dozen storylines and callbacks, but director Peyton Reed was still obliged to find a way to balance his lighthearted world with the weightier one audiences experienced a few months ago with “Avengers: Infinity War.”
“We knew what was going to happen in ‘Infinity War’ early, early on,” Reed said. “We didn’t quite know how or if we were going to address it in our movie. It’s tricky because we knew we wanted our movie to be standalone, and we knew if we dealt with it in the way that ‘Infinity War’ dealt with it, it didn’t totally feel like our movie, and we wanted to deal with it in the tone of ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp.'”
The choice to not have Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man (and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye) appear in “Infinity War” was explained away ever-so-briefly during that film’s first act, leaving plenty of room for Reed and his collaborators to build out their own story, one that kicks off with Rudd’s character nearing the end of a house arrest hinted at during the previous film.
Instead of leaning into the connections between the films, Reed and the film’s screenwriters (including star Rudd, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Andrew Barrer, and Gabriel Ferrari) opted to push away from them. If you’re looking for hidden clues about what’s about to turn into the so-called Infinity War inside “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” you’re not likely to find them. Reed wants audiences to enjoy the film at hand.
“I think people come to this movie looking for clues, like, ‘How does this tie in? How does this tie in?’ And after a while when it doesn’t tie in, they just start to get caught up in the movie, and accept our movie as our movie,” Reed said.
Still, the film couldn’t totally ignore the constraints of existing inside a much larger ecosystem. While the film itself isn’t caught up in MCU mania, it does contain a pair of post-credits scenes that nod to the imminent “Infinity War” events and that do the heavy lifting of tying it back into the bigger franchise.
“I like the idea of wrapping our movie up the way we did,” he said. “And then dealing with the ‘Infinity War’ issue in a way that felt very specific to the tone of our movie.”
Reed was understandably cagey about those scenes, but he loaded them with fun nods to the rest of the film, including putting Michelle Pfeiffer in casual attire and shrinking down a seemingly massive contraption. It’s zippy, fast, and very “Ant-Man.” It also offers some serious misdirection, so that when “Ant-Man and the Wasp” connects to “Infinity War,” audience members still buzzing from Reed’s film are forced to contend with a significant piece of MCU information.
“The elements that we introduce in that mid-credits scene, we wanted to sort of get the audience thinking about, ‘Oh, this the first time I’ve seen Janet Van Dyne in street clothes, and they’re doing some sort of thing, and there’s Luis’ van!’ and ‘Oh, they’ve shrunken a Quantum tunnel. This is cool!’ Throwing all these elements at once. And then, ‘Oh, Scott’s in the suit!’ and then ‘… Oh, what are they doing?’ So they weren’t necessarily immediately thinking about what was about to happen.”
He added with a laugh, “I’m being deliberately vague.”
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is in theaters today.