Covering the film industry on a daily basis presents challenges. This is hardly a complaint. More of an observation, and one I was reminded of beautifully over the weekend. Because we cover every step of production for the major blockbusters. It’s very easy to forget that movies can still surprise people. Can still delight people. Can still shock and awe, in the best possible ways.
This popped up on a lazy Saturday evening, when my 10-year-old son Brendan was searching for a new movie to watch. We both realized together that he’d yet to see Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man and the Wasp. (Scheduling prevented him from coming to the press screening with me, and then life just continued to get in the way until now.) And because we’d recently watched the Avengers: Endgame trailer together on the day that it dropped, I realized it’d be pretty important to watch Wasp — especially that mid-credits scene — so that he understands fully what’s going on when Endgame finally opens in April.
And he really dug Ant-Man and the Wasp (and I was reminded that the sequel is a ton of fun). Paul Rudd’s father-daughter relationship with Abby Ryder Fortson is delightful. Peyton Reed and his team came up with very creative ways to use Hank Pym’s shrinking and expanding tech in action sequences and fights. Hannah John-Kamen is a formidable threat as Ghost. And Michael Pena’s “truth serum” bit remains one of the funniest routines in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But the real joy came in the mid-credits scene. By now, I’m virtually numb to it. I’ve watched the scene a dozen times, combing Michelle Pfeiffer’s dialogue for hints about what might happen to the stranded Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). “Don’t get sucked into a time vortex” essentially translates into “Scott Lang will get sucked into a time vortex.” Got it.
But when Hank (Michael Douglas), Janet (Pfeiffer) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lillie) turn to dust, I turned to look at Brendan… and his face was something like this:
It was magical. Somehow, it was far better than the time I saw the scene play out on its own. Because even in that moment, I was borderline prepared for it. Ant-Man and the Wasp has to have some consequence for our heroes heading into Avengers: Endgame. The surprise was seeing what it might be. But Brendan, I can tell you, had NO idea it was coming. And it blasted him through the wall.
Personally, I needed that. While I remain ridiculously impressed with the magic spell that Marvel Studios has been able to cast over audiences for the better part of 10 years, there is an element of grind that comes with nitpicking every ounce of footage and speculating on numerous directions that the overall story can go. Brendan was able to avoid all of that (as he should), and just enjoy the story for what it is, and what it can deliver.
And it makes me envious of all of you out there who are avoiding every piece of Avengers: Endgame marketing. Godspeed!