Exclusive – Feige: Marvel Studios is ’emboldened’ for more diverse stories
In Ant-Man and the Wasp, we catch up with Earth’s tiniest heroes. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is so close to completing his house arrest sentence when Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) show up to enlist his help after making a breakthrough in finding Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer). Since he owes them for blowing their tech’s cover at the airport in Germany to help Cap, he once again dons the suit but this time joins Hope as she finally steps into the role of the Wasp.
In anticipation of the film’s release, we got to talk to the president of production at Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, about closing out the year on a fun note with director Peyton Reed’s follow up to Ant-Man, and how Avengers event films aside, the producer looks toward Marvel’s future following up the groundbreaking Black Panther with Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Captain Marvel in 2019.
SuperHeroHype: Ant-Man and the Wasp felt like it had its own story concurrent to the action of Infinity War without being directly tied to the events of it. Was that part of it at least planned? To be that breather from Infinity War but still its own fun family action genre movie?
Kevin Feige: You’re exactly right about the placement of the movie. As we plan our schedule of movies, we take into account all the movies that have come before and the movies that come after, not just for any story elements that connect which there always are some but for just that–for the tonal differences, always reminding audiences that Marvel studios and the MCU does different types of movies. Different sized movies, different tonal movies and we love the notion of the one-two punch of Infinity War and Ant-man and the Wasp, something in which the universe itself is shattered and many audience members are shattered when they leave the theater and then here is the antidote to that. It’s something fun and family and emotional and funny.
SHH: Speaking of the different directions Marvel films go in, it’s ever-expanding and something we’ve seen for a long time in genre film is this idea of justice being the end result. In the history of these films justice usually means someone gets arrested or taken out–meeting their ends ultimately. Can you talk about the themes of transformative justice in Ant-Man and the Wasp that takes a different approach to it?
KF: Peyton Reed and our producer Stephen Broussard wanted to explore a non-traditional villain, particularly knowing that we were coming off of Thanos and Killmonger. Both who are excellent villains and who have their own reasons. But having a villain be somebody that seems very scary and very dangerous when you first see that masked visage coming through a wall. But then that mask comes off and you learn more about it: they’re someone who has an origin and a connection loosely to the science and the past of our heroes. It becomes tragic and it becomes somebody who just wants to stop hurting.
CS: Yes, Ghost is someone with stakes maybe even greater than the heroes we know and that makes the dynamics in the film so complex. It fits to within the various facets of the film and the parental relationships at play like between Hank and Hope searching for Janet as well as Scott and Cassie dealing with his house arrest. Was bringing that forward the intended focus for this film?
KF: That was something we very much liked from the first movie was this sense of fathers and daughters. Hank and Hope do not have the best relationship in the early parts of the last movie, they had been estranged over his obsession with finding Janet. The stuff with little Cassie and Scott was a lot of fun in that first movie. We wanna see Cassie’s point of view as she’s getting a little older and her feelings toward what her father does. So that was very much in the early development of the movie where we wanted to take things and including the villain in that. And going into this film dealing with mother and daughter relationships and exploring that in much deeper ways than any of our other movies did because family and the notion of these family relationships is something very special for the Ant-Man series.
SHH: Now, I do wanna talk about the last 10 years and even a little before then. I grew up on what would become that age of Superhero films from Raimi’s Spider-Man, the X-Men and into what would become the MCU. As a first-generation American these were the stories that were the most accessible when going out to movies with my family. And a lot of genre films were so relatable because they were coded to represent marginalized communities and were essential to get people to empathize and see the perspectives of others in a way that reflected it’s time. But now, looking at the success of Black Panther and the near future with Captain Marvel and the Black Widow film, would you say that more is being put into action to also include Marvel’s heroes from marginalized communities like Kamala Khan, Miles Morales, and America Chavez?
KF: Absolutely. Yes. It was the path that we were heading in any way because they’re great stories from the comics. The success of Black Panther, like a lot of things with the history of Marvel Studios, has just emboldened us to just continue doing that and to continue heading forward with that. And you’re bringing it to a great point that that’s what genre films are. That’s what I loved about genre films–science fiction films is you’re telling these very serious, very real stories–the X-Men are a great example of that–any great science fiction stories where you’re dealing with things like alien races or wars but you’re really talking about contemporary society. You’re really talking about people which is what I love. It gives you something fun and entertaining to watch on screen because that’s what I wanna see when I go to the movies but you’re getting a message. Empathy is a great word that you’re saying and Ryan Coogler used to say something great when people would ask him, “Will non-people of color be able to see this movie?” and he was like “Yes. I’ve watched white characters for so long and connected with them.”
SHH: All you have to do is extend yourself.
KF: I think Black Panther proved that will be the case, I think Ant-Man and The Wasp will prove that, and I’m hoping that Captain Marvel will prove that. Even in rough dailies of Captain Marvel and seeing what Brie is doing in that costume–even before the effects are on. Seeing her flying, using her powers–you get inspired by that. I sit up and wanna feel more heroic when I see her doing these things. And I think that’s the audience-film relationship. And it’s going to work and including someday in the future with the other characters you mentioned.
SHH: Talking about seeing Brie in costume and Black Panther, recently I got to check out the meet and greet at the Disney Parks with Panther and the Dora Milaje–and what got me was seeing the kids meet these characters.
KF: It’s amazing. The Dora Milaje and Panther in particular.
SHH: Yes and the thought of more of that is so exciting since the announcements of the Superhero expansions at the parks. What can you share about the progress on that and your role working with Imagineers?
KF: The parks have announced upcoming things and as you know it takes many years to make a movie and it takes even longer to do things in parks. I love the parks, I love the Haunted Mansion, I love Pirates–I love them all. I love Tower, which is why I was like, ‘if we’re gonna change Tower of Terror to something it’s gotta be great’ and I think Mission Breakout is incredible.
SHH: I don’t do drops but I brave that ride to see the story!
KF: It’s really cool and I think it’s a great first example of what Imagineers can do with the MCU. They know what they’re doing over there at Walt Disney Imagineering but they do come and give us updates and it’s fun to be a small part of that process. It’s a continuation of it, I love movies and then I would go to the parks and experience it on another level. That’s what’s so great about it. Whether it’s riding a ride surrounded by the characters or it’s waiting in line seeing the Dora march out and Panther arrive–it is pretty incredible.
Ant-Man and The Wasp opens July 6th!