Ant-Man Director Peyton Reed on Completing a Marvel Trilogy and Designing the Quantum Realm

Paul Rudd and Peyton Reed on the red carpet for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

Paul Rudd and Peyton Reed on the red carpet for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Image: Marvel Studios

Ten years ago, when it was announced that Peyton Reed was taking over Ant-Man from Edgar Wright, it was met with some skepticism. Really? The Down With Love and Bring It On guy? Sure, those movies are great, but can he really do superheroes? Well, the answer turned out to be a resounding “Yes”—and now, with the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Reed becomes the first director with Marvel Studios proper to complete their own trilogy of films. (Jon Watts recently did it with Marvel and Sony and James Gunn will do it in a few months, but, yeah.) It’s a very cool accomplishment, especially when you look at the evolution from then to now.

Then, Ant-Man was a small (no pun intended) bridge movie with lots of humor. Now, after saving the galaxy by utilizing the properties of the Quantum Realm in Avengers: Endgame, the entire new film is set there, giving Reed the chance to create his very own universe, something he was certainly excited about, especially after directing episodes of The Mandalorian.

Reed spoke with io9 about completing a Marvel trilogy, creating his own world, and the logistics of filming this seemingly infinite world. Check out all the non-spoiler content below (including video clips!), and check back next week for one more question we asked Reed about a mind-blowing spoiler.

Peyton Reed on Completing a MCU Trilogy

Germain Lussier, io9: So I don’t know if you realize, but you’re the second director to finish a trilogy of Marvel films after Jon Watts, who did it with Sony. How do you feel about that feat and how do you think the movies have played back to back to back?

Peyton Reed: Well, listen, I’m thrilled to have completed a trilogy. I love it. I mean, if you had told me when we were shooting the first Ant-Man in 2014 that we’d get to do three of them. I might not have believed you, but I love that we’re here now. And with Quantumania, I love that we were able to expand the visual palette of the movie and take the audience into the Quantum Realm, and really kind of answer a lot of the questions that we set up in the first couple of movies. That was really satisfying. So to me, it’s like, we all grew up on trilogies, right? Star Wars trilogy, Back to the Future trilogy. There’s just something satisfying about it, even in this larger MCU, to have done the trilogy and grown these characters.

And I do think, you know, obviously, if you watch the movies back to back, they do play out. I suppose you have to fill in the gaps of what Scott was doing in [Captain America] Civil War, and of course there was a little thing that happened in a movie called [Avengers] Endgame that seems important to the MCU and [Avengers] Infinity War, but I think in terms of the progression of these characters and as a family, I like what we were able to achieve because it feels organic, and particularly in this one. That Scott-Cassie relationship has always been the spine of these movies for me. And now that she’s 18, that presented this issue, as a result of Endgame. Well, this is a whole cool new, different dynamic between Scott and Cassie. And we can have fun with the idea that maybe he still relates to her as a little girl instead of a young woman. But she is a young woman and she has ideas of her own. And they kind of differ from Scott’s about what it means to be a hero. And that seemed like really fertile ground.

Ant-man Director on Creating the Quantum Realm

io9: You mentioned the Star Wars trilogy and I love your Mandalorian episodes, so you’re obviously a Star Wars fan because you did that. But this is the first time you’re getting to build a universe. It’s not the Star Wars universe, but it has a lot of those elements. What was your favorite part of designing and figuring out the universe? Was it the ships? Was it the creatures?

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Reed: I have to tell you, it was really all of it because you weren’t just creating one planet. You were creating what Janet describes as “worlds within worlds,” like this vast subatomic world. So part of it was we have to fill that world with different types of creatures and beings and even sort of humanoid characters and talk about the political structure of it. Like there’s oppression down there. There’s a war going on. So we were able to sort of take a lot of different aesthetics. Like the Xolum character, a Freedom Fighter, there’s a steampunk vibe to him. Then Veb feels like a photo-real version of Gleep and Gloop from the Herculoids or something. There are some Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy concepts. It’s like, let’s take all of these things because they’re going to make sense in this context, because we’re telling a story about all these different types of life down there who have come under the thumb of Kang the Conqueror.

Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Douglas.

Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Douglas.
Image: Marvel Studios

io9: As you mentioned, I love that you get to answer some questions from the previous movies, especially all this stuff about Janet and what happened in those 30 years in the Quantum Realm. Did you ever think when you were doing the last movie that you’d get to figure those things out, or is that never in the back of your mind?

Reed: Always in the back of my mind. I was hoping that we would have to answer this question because it’s a big question to leave unanswered, right? And also, I love Michelle Pfeiffer. Because we see her in Ant-Man and the Wasp and we see her sort of, like—she survives something down there. There’s a lot of story to be told. So the first thing when we started formulating what this movie was going to be was where we got to answer that question. And that’s going to be a fun question to answer. And also, we very, very purposefully introduced her in this movie in a domestic situation. She’s serving pizza to the family. It’s like, “Well, that’s nice. The family is together again,” but really, she’s a superhero. And as they get thrust into the Quantum Realm and you start to peel back those layers, you see, “Oh, this is her element. She’s got this place wired.” She knows those creatures and she knows this ritual and she knows to drink this thing. And that was a really fun thing and particularly fun for Michelle to play.

scott and cassie in the QR

The Quantum Realm was probably a bit more practical than you realize..
Image: Marvel Studios

io9: Oh, she’s great in the movie, which is not hard since she’s Michelle Pfeiffer. Okay. So, obviously, when you’re spending so much time in the Quantum Realm, there are a lot of CG visual effects and people are going to see that. But what’s something in the movie that’s practical that people won’t actually realize is practical?

Reed: When you’re in the Freedom Fighter village, we introduce these structures, these buildings that we come to find out are also sentient beings that have the other soldiers inside of them. There’s a symbiotic relationship there. And being on that set, we really built probably like half of those things. But when they were all on this massive set at Pinewood in London, those things were impressive to me. You knew we were going to finish them digitally but those big things were so massive and it really felt like, “Oh, the scale and scope of this thing.” And then practically, Kang’s Celestium. It was a massive 360-degree set designed by Will Htay, our production designer, and that was an impressive set to be on and to frame shots in with Bill Pope, because you had Kang’s sort of time sphere there that was his multiversal traveling vessel, but it was missing the engine core, right? It was this thing that was taunting him and kind of became his throne. But that set was beautiful.

We’ll have more from Reed next week. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is in theaters Friday.

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