If you’re a regular reader of Den of Geek and a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then of course Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige needs no introduction. Through 10 years and 20 movies — including the new Ant-Man and the Wasp — the MCU has flourished under his steady hand, going from one triumph to another and having an unbroken string of Number One opening weekends for every single MCU release going back to Iron Man in 2008.
The last couple of years in particular have been one long highlight reel for Feige and the MCU, starting with the sensational Captain America: Civil War in 2016. Since then, Spider-Man made a full comeback in last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, we were introduced to the Sorcerer Supreme and Ego, the Living Planet, the God of Thunder embraced his inner comedian in Thor: Ragnarok, and Marvel broke new political and cultural ground in the genre with the awe-inspiring Black Panther.
Then came Avengers: Infinity War earlier this spring, a powerful, universe-spanning epic that is only the first part of a story that is likely to turn the entire MCU on its head when it concludes next May in the still-untitled Avengers 4. In the meantime, however, now comes Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel to 2015’s origin story that is just as fast, funny and entertaining as its predecessor.
This time out, the story brings the iconic character of the Wasp — both in the form of Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and her mother, Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) — into the mix. She proves far more adept at this superhero business than either Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) or her dad, the brilliant but cranky Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) as they battle the enigmatic Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) and try to find Janet in the mysterious depths of the Quantum Realm.
We sat down with Feige recently in Los Angeles to talk about Ant-Man and the Wasp being a change of pace after Infinity War, bringing more female heroes into the MCU, what might be lurking in the Quantum Realm and if we might ever see the original Avengers lineup onscreen together.
Den of Geek: The first Ant-Man was sort of a bookend to Phase 2 of the MCU. Was this meant not just as a bookend to Phase 3, but also as counter-programming to Infinity War?
Kevin Feige: It’s more that. The way the first Ant-Man was after (Avengers: Age of) Ultron. We hoped Ragnarok was going to be a lot of fun, and really change the game for Thor. We knew Black Panther was breaking new ground, and was going to be a very geopolitical, cultural film, and we knew, at least based on what we were doing with Infinity War, and the end of Infinity War, that people would need something fun. Counter-programming is a fine term for it, always reminding people that the Marvel Cinematic Universe can take all shapes and sizes, no pun intended, and this was.
Peyton and our producer Stephen Broussard really believed in this, that this should just be unabashedly fun and surprisingly emotional and based in family, because, of all of our characters, Scott Lang’s focus is family. Hope Van Dyne, her focus in the first film was her struggles with her dad, and now they’re working as an amazing team now to search for the mom, but basing it in the fun of a family adventure.
It also feels like the most “family” film you’ve done, in the way the film industry defines it. I have a seven-year-old, and in most PG-13 films there are things I see that I think might be uncomfortable for her, but this one I felt like she can watch all the way through.
Yeah, me too. I’ve got a nine-year-old and a five-year-old, and the first Ant-Man was the first Marvel film we could show them, and this one as well.
There are five credited writers on this. How many permutations did this story go through?
Not as many as a lot of our movies, frankly. There were writers that did an early draft for us that had worked with us on the past film, and then there were writers we’d worked with on Spider-Man: Homecoming that came on board for the majority of the work. And Paul Rudd, as he was on the first film, was a constant voice and a constant creative collaborator on the draft as well. So, there are five names there, but it was really sort of two entities.
The last time I think an actor worked on a script before Rudd was when Edward Norton came in and did his own draft of The Incredible Hulk…
(Smiling) You had to bring that up, didn’t you?
But I’m guessing this is a somewhat different experience?
Oh, it was, and it was different on the first one. So many of the core concepts, including the Quantum Realm, came from Paul on the first movie, so he not only is the co-lead of the film and the franchise, but a huge behind-the-scenes creative partner on it in a great, great way.
Even though they may not get screen credit for writing, is that more common than people would think, especially with your long-term stars like Robert Downey Jr. or one of the Chrises?
Yeah. I would say the levels of it vary, but we rely heavily on the input of all the cast, particularly the ones you’ve mentioned, particularly the ones who have done it multiple times, of having an instinct and having a point of view. So much of what Hemsworth and I spoke about over the years between Dark World and Ultron led to Ragnarok, for example.
The Wasp is very much the center of attention here, Captain Marvel’s coming up, and we’ve heard rumors of a Black Widow movie. How wide is that playing field now? Is it possible to see characters like She-Hulk or Moondragon in the MCU at some point?
Yeah. It’s continuing to bring to life as many of the characters and many of the worlds and storylines from the comics as possible, and we’re lucky that many of those storylines in the past featured female characters that were front and center, and that were great. We’ve brought a lot of them to the forefront, and more and more every year, and I think that will continue.
Now that all the original Avengers have been introduced into the MCU, if there’s an opportunity to at least have them together even in just one shot or scene somehow, do you think you’d pursue that if it makes sense for the narrative?
I think that would be pretty cool. I think we’ve seen a lot of … We’ve come close to that. Civil War came close to it. Infinity War came close to it. But yeah, the cover of Avengers #1 (from 1963) are all accounted for.
Are there things hidden in the Quantum Realm that may or may not play a role in the MCU down the line?
Yes. The Quantum Realm, as we saw in the first Ant-Man, as we saw a little bit in Doctor Strange, and certainly as we see more in this one, is ripe with opportunity for future stories, future subplots, future characters, future plot points. It’s a cool thing, and there was a Janet Easter egg in the first movie. You can go back and find a couple frames of a silhouette of Wasp there. There are things in this one as well. When and how they apply obviously I won’t say, but in some ways, they could apply very quickly. In some ways, it could be years and years and years before we delve into some of the things that are in the background of those scenes.
Tom Holland broke a little news recently, revealing Spider-Man: Far From Home as the title of the next Spider-Man movie. The first one, Homecoming, had kind of a double meaning to it, are there multiple meanings to this title?
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. We like that it ties into the title of the first one, and like Homecoming, it works on multiple levels.
We know there’s a new Spider-Man movie coming out. We know that there’s a Guardians 3 coming out. There’s going to be another Black Panther movie at some point. Do you feel confident in what you’ve got happening in the next Avengers, that there’s still an element of surprise there? Even knowing that we are going to see some of these characters again?
I don’t think people know what they’re going to see, so very rarely am I just overly confident about anything because we’re always anxious, and nervous, and working hard to do our best. But I can safely say that Avengers 4, it’s not simple. People think they know an answer, they know how A is going to connect to B. They do not.
We won’t see an MCU movie again until next March when Captain Marvel arrives, and that’s going to play with the idea of the origin story a little bit in terms of not necessarily going A to B to C either.
Right. It ultimately could be best defined as an origin story, but the way we’re telling that story is unique, and something that we’ve been playing with, and striving at for a while, to do an origin story in a way…we don’t like waiting for the last shot of the movie to see the character that you bought the ticket to see.
You’re not doing a Hall H presentation at San Diego Comic-Con this year. Do you have an idea of when we’re going to find out the title of the next Avengers film?
I think closer to the fall, towards the end of the year.
All things being equal, the idea of time travel and alternate realities and all that kind of stuff aside, the MCU is not really designed to be rebooted, right? Can you imagine any scenario where we see the origin story of Iron Man again 10 years from now, or something like that?
We could put different people in a suit, but in a classic definition of that term, it wouldn’t make sense. I think the MCU is all about forging new ground, and forging new paths in ways that people don’t expect, and I think that’s what we’ve done over the past 10 years and 20 movies. And I certainly hope that’s what we continue to do over the next 10 years, and the next 20 movies.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is out in theaters this Friday (July 6).