5 Ways to Prep: Ant-Man and the Wasp
By George Rose
July 11, 2018
There’s no guarantee for success quite like a Marvel movie and no brand to skew to perception of success quite like Disney. It was almost two months ago that Solo: A Star Wars Story opened to $84 million and now it’s looking at maybe $215 million as a domestic total. Throughout its run it has been viewed as a disaster and crippled the brand outside of the mainline series, although some say Last Jedi started this downward spiral. It’s funny how $84/215 million are “bad” numbers for one brand and will be a momentous achievement for another. Right now, Solo’s course is one that Ant-Man and the Wasp is on target to fly through.
The first Ant-Man opened with $57 million, the lowest of the independent heroes’ origin stories (Incredible Hulk notwithstanding, seeing as how it’s technically the bastard sequel of the “non-MCU” Hulk). It ended up right around where the first Captain America and Thor landed with $180 million, proving that even Marvel’s smallest hero can battle with the best of them. Iron Man, Captain America and Thor all experienced noticeable upticks in revenue with their sequels which all benefited from goodwill after Avengers came out. With Avengers: Infinity Wars recently doing business quiet similar to the first team-up feature, we should expect the same positive vibes to give Ant-Man and the Wasp comparable growth.
Early reviews are in line with what the world now expects from Marvel, as the current 84% positive standing is among the best of the summer. The close proximity of the new release to the last Avengers doesn’t concern me so much as the ongoing domination of Incredibles 2, but nothing can stop the Marvel train from passing through town. Ant-Man and the Wasp is coming, it’s going to blow past the numbers of the first film and land right on top of Solo with a smile on its face. While the obvious difference is the budget (Solo cost at least $50 million more than Ant-Man because of reshoots), the other is franchise expectations. There’s was only one “non-Skywalker” film from Star Wars before Solo and the curiosity behind that film couldn’t be replicated. Marvel has tons of comps to work with so prepping for Ant-Man 2 should be easy.
#1) ANT-MAN (2015)
Any time a sequel is released you can expect the #1 recommendation to be the first film. The thing about the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is that they took small liberties when adapting the comic books for the big screen. Some updates were minor (Jane Foster as Thor’s love interest) while others were just plain blasphemy (Iron Man 3’s version of the Mandarin). Ant-Man doesn’t fall into the latter category but it certainly updated the mostly unknown character’s story to fit the new MCU mold. Since Ant-Man was released at the end of the Phase 2 films (after Avengers 2), it had a lot of canon it was forced to work within.
Those faithful to the comics would know that Hank Pam is actually Ant-Man and is one of the founding members of the Avengers. For the purpose of the MCU, Hank is a much older Ant-Man that was a member of SHIELD (the group of not-super humans that track enhanced humans that can later be formed into the Avengers). SHIELD consists of several side characters from different MCU features: Peggy Carter from Captain America, Tony Stark’s daddy from Iron Man and Nick Fury from Avengers are all part of this spy group.
After Hank, the O.G. Ant-Man, and his wife, the O.G. Wasp, encounter a disastrous incident he forces himself into retirement and secluded research. You see, if you shrink too small you can enter the “quantum realm” and disappear from this reality. O.G. Wasp goes sub-atomic, O.G. Ant-Man gets really sad and nobody hears from them again for a long time. That is until many years later when Ant-Man’s tech gets replicated and he has to find a new Ant-Man to take the mantle to stop the nefarious new villain from destroying the world. Hank’s daughter, Hope, wants the job but Hank doesn’t want to risk her life. Instead, he recruits a criminal with a heart of gold (Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, another example of Marvel’s perfect casting) and together they plan to save the world. What they really did, though, is save Marvel.
After opening and closing right around the primary lineup of heroes ($57 million debut, $180 million total), Ant-Man proved that the Marvel brand is bigger than any of their heroes. With their stamp of approval and the standard 80%-plus quality they consistently provide, this unexpected hero became their greatest surprise hit. Sure, a sub-$200 million total is nothing to boast about but it’s a great place to start for an otherwise unheard of hero. More shocking than it’s blockbuster numbers was the visual spectacle of the movie. Considering the city blocks that have crumbled beneath the battles of other heroes, it was wildly entertaining to see the world from the perspective of an ant. The visuals were breathtaking, the use of household objects (a toy train) as set pieces was mind boggling and the humor from the stellar cast was gut busting. It is yet another example of a superhero origin story done right and paves the way for Hank’s daughter, Hope, to become the next update of the Wasp. Simply put, I can’t wait for the sequel.
#2) MARVEL SEQUEL COMPS (2013 - 2017)
After the first Avengers came out, all sequels to prior solo features experienced a rise in both the opening and total numbers. This could have been because people were reinvested in the MCU following the groundbreaking launch of Hollywood’s first true superhero team-up (X-Men didn’t have solo features first) or because all the other origin stories were great so people just really wanted to see the next in each franchise. Regardless, the numbers don’t lie and they’re all pretty similar. Though there are definitely some exceptions to the general rules (Black Panther’s shocking $200+ million debut), many analysts are expecting Ant-Man and the Wasp to follow in line with most of the other MCU sequels. Granted, I would love the Wasp’s inclusion as both a hero and a headliner in this movie to help it breakout with Marvel’s first real inclusion of a female (sorry, Black Widow), but I think it’s going to follow the usual MCU sequel uptick.
So, here’s what happened after the Avengers (2012) came out:
IRON MAN 3: $174 million debut (+36%) and $409 million total (+31%)
THOR 2: $86 million debut (+30%) and $206 million total (+14%)
CAPTAIN AMERICA 2: $95 million debut (+45%) and $260 million total (+47%)
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2: $147 million debut (+55%) and $390 million total (+17%)
That’s an average jump in opening of about 42% and an average jump in total of about 27%. If we apply these numbers to the first Ant-Man, than the Wasp-y sequel should end up with about $81 million for a debut and $229 million as a total. Worst case scenario is Thor 2 - which was the least of those four sequels in terms of both quality and percentage jumps - then we can expect a $74 million debut and a $205 million total. Oddly enough, this is exactly what some analysts predict because of Jurassic World 2 and Incredibles 2 competition. If it hits the jackpot and goes the road of Captain America 2 (since it has a better final number jump than Guardians 2), then we can expect a $83 million debut and a $265 million total. With these three comparisons (low, average, high), we should expect a debut between $74 - 83 million and a total between $205 - $265 million. In a perfect world that’s ready to continue supporting strong females as they enter the heroic workplace (Wonder Woman last year, Captain Marvel next year), it sure would be nice to see the high end of these expectations get met.
#3) CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016)
After Avengers 2 proved that a team of heroes can’t save the world without making a big old mess, the team fell apart at the start of Phase 3. Iron Man copped out and decided to link up with the government to follow their rules while Captain America was all butt-hurt over Hydra’s infiltration of SHIELD, so he didn’t trust any group with political leaders involved. In the first Ant-Man, our tiny hero had a great fight sequence with Falcon which would later make them friends. Because Ant-Man is friends with Falcon, and Falcon is friends with Captain America, it only made sense for Ant-Man to jump into the Civil War on the Captain’s side. Since he resisted Iron Man and his band of merry law abiders, Ant-Man was basically in contempt of the government and had to go into hiding like so many of the other Avengers that joined the Captain’s team. That’s where Ant-Man and the Wasp picks up. I have a feeling the Wasp suits up to help Ant-Man out of trouble and then they’ll team up to go looking for the Wasp’s mom who’s still lost in the quantum realm.
#4) HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS (1989) AND HONEY, I BLEW UP THE KID (1992)
I was born in 1985 so, yes, I was in the group of youngsters that fell in love with this franchise. In the first film, a bumbling scientist (Rick Moranis) builds the tech that can make people tiny. It is in this movie that we get a glimpse into the older practical effects that can be used to make a person the size of an ant. You’ll learn that a lego makes for great safety and a vacuum cleaner is your new worst enemy. With special effects now having taken over cinemas, it’s great to go back to when actual set pieces were built to make a man only an inch tall. The same can’t exactly be said for the sequel, which indeed relied more heavily on special effects as this time the kid grows large, but the outcome is the same for where Ant-Man is headed. Though many expected Ant-Man to learn new powers in the sequel, it was actually revealed in his Civil War appearance that the man with tiny tech can also turn himself into Giant Man. Though his scenes were brief, we’re sure to get a much bigger look at Giant Man’s powers this time..
#5) BATMAN RETURNS (1989)
In Ant-Man we have Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym and Evangeline Lily’s as Hanks daughter, Hope Van Dyne. We never got to see the actress inside the original Wasp’s suit, which leads to the epic reveal in the upcoming sequel. While we know mommy dearest makes an appearance in her suit, we’re not sure if this is in flashbacks or if she gets recovered from the quantum realm. Regardless, we know who’s playing her and it was in line with Marvel’s reputation for stellar casting. Enter Michelle Pfeiffer, the woman behind the leather that made Batman Returns one of the greatest superhero sequels of all time.
Although bouncing between DC Comics and Marvel movies is sometimes viewed in poor taste (greedy actors, pick a side!), there’s no better woman to suit up for a super-sized sequel than Pfeiffer. Her take on Catwoman was sexy, seductive and psychotic. The roles has been played by many actresses over the years (Halle Berry and Anne Hathaway), but Pfeiffer’s takes the cake. The Marvel brand is lucky to have such a legendary actress from such a legendary superhero film join their ranks and I pray to God that we get a chance to see her kick butt in another leather suit. With two lady Wasps and a female villain to boot, Marvel is doubling down on getting the world accustomed to women with Ant-Man 2 before their first real heroine takes center stage next year in Captain Marvel. Is this girl power? No, it’s group power! And that’s just what Ant-Man and the Wasp need to take down the competition.