THIRTY-FIVE films throughout cinema’s history have grossed more than a billion dollars, including two Marvel movies this year. But none has ever been a live-action comedy.
That backdrop of lowered expectations for comedies — in the wake of serious-minded MCU behemoths — suits “Ant-Man and the Wasp” director Peyton Reed just fine. He also is happy to guide a “smaller” superhero movie.
“I actually like that,” Reed told The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs, of how his “Ant-Man” sequel slots into Marvel’s year as a humbler midsummer entry — merrily doing less than half the box office of its bigger MCU cousins.
“Interestingly, it echoes precisely what happened to us three years ago,” Reed said. “The first ‘Ant-Man’ came out after ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron.’ And certainly coming after ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ [this year], there’s almost no bigger movie than ‘Infinity War’ in terms of its ambition, its scope and everything. I love the [co-directing] Russo brothers, and it’s a testament to them to be able to pull that off and make it seem so effortless.”
Three years ago, Joss Whedon guided “Age of Ultron” to $1.4 billion in worldwide gross. This year, the follow-up “Infinity War” has grossed $2.04 billion since its April release.
“Infinity War’s” success followed the huge February debut of Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther,” which had a global gross of $1.35 billion. (As one metric of their massive success, both of those Marvel movies had domestic debuts north of $200 million.)
Compare that with the lower trajectory that the “Ant-Man” franchise is allowed to fly along.
The first film grossed $519 million worldwide. The sequel has grossed $169 million globally since opening last week, putting it on track to comfortably pass the half-billion-dollar mark. (“Ant-Man and the Wasp” also was the 20th of 20 MCU movies to open at No. 1 in North America.)
“I have always sort of liked where we sit,” Reed said. “I don’t know if you can call any Marvel movie an underdog . . . but if there is one, I think it’s us. I like the positioning — it really allows us to have fun.”
It has also appeared fitting that the MCU’s smallest superhero is handed the smallest expectations. As much as any Marvel movie, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” often plays like a comedy, with cutting humor traded by superheroes fighting on the same side, as well as side characters who specialize in fast banter — dynamics that similarly run through “Thor: Ragnarok” and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films.
“There are the superheroics in the movie, obviously, but I really do like how it kind of deals with — and maybe even celebrates — the smaller, more personal act of heroism,” Reed said of “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” which returns Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly as the title characters, a.k.a. Scott Lang and Hope Van Dyne.
“Just the fact that [with] Scott Lang” — an unlikely, non-genius hero and literal stay-at-home dad — “I like that it embraces that aspect, and kind of has that relatable quality.”
Reed says the film’s earthbound environment enhances that relatability.
“I like that it keeps intact that thing that I loved as a kid when I first saw Richard Donner’s ‘Superman: The Movie,’ which is: We’re in present-day Manhattan, in this Metropolis, and this is what it would be like if someone came down from another plane and became Superman. So you’re in the real world, but with this extraordinary figure within it,” Reed said.
“To me, l like that we’re not in outer space or on [Thor’s] Asgard or anything like that. It’s San Francisco, and it’s the regular kind of mundane world — but we hopefully are envisioning it from some radically different perspective and seeing these bizarro things that are happening under all our noses. And that’s always intriguing to me.”