Local Spreads Wings to Pen ‘Ant-Man’ Sequel

Evangeline Lilly and Paul Rudd in Ant-Man and the Wasp | Photo via IMBD

After all the death and destruction wrought in Avengers: Infinity War, some have called Ant-Man and the Wasp, the most recent entry to the Marvel universe, a breath of fresh air.

Andrew Barrer is OK with that assessment.

With his writing partner and friend since their days at New York University Gabriel Ferrari, Barrer joined the writing team at the helm of the script for the sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man, starring Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, a thief-turned-superhero who takes down bad guys thanks to a suit that can make him the size of an — you guessed it — ant.

The first film set the tone for the franchise, with its quippy dialogue and technological hijinks. Barrer and Ferrari came on board for production rewrites for the first film, but this time around, they got to help write the story from the ground up — which could be a little difficult considering how intricately woven the larger Marvel universe is.

It may not be surprising, then, that Barrer noted the writing process included a lot of outlines and a lot of meetings before even getting to the script.  

In between Ant-Man and its sequel, for instance, Lang played a part in Captain America: Civil War, which meant the writers had to consider not just where Lang’s story left off in his own universe but in the larger storytelling as well.

“What’s fun about that, though, is then you’re not locked into a storyline where it’s like, ‘OK, we ended here, we have to start here,’” said Barrer, a Germantown Academy alumnus who went to Congregation Beth Or growing up. “We actually get to think outside the box a little bit and come up with an opening you wouldn’t have seen coming based on the first movie.”

For him, getting to work on the screenplay with Ferrari and joining forces again with director Peyton Reed was an exciting experience.

And the mostly positive reactions the film has gotten thus far from both critics and audiences hasn’t hurt, either.

“To some degree, this release is kind of like the end of a pretty long journey for us,” he said, “and knowing that people liked it and the audience reactions and critic reactions have been really gratifying, and it was a very nice way to close out the whole experience.”

Andrew Barrer (right) with Gabe Ferrari and their agent David Karp at the premiere of Ant-Man and the Wasp | Photo provided

One of the key reactions to the film is not just about Ant-Man, but about his titular partner, the Wasp, aka Hope Van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lilly.

It’s the first time a female Marvel superhero has been named outright in the title, and the writers were conscious of that fact.

Making a film that centers on a female hero with the same weight as her male companion in a universe where someone like Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow can be a key player in all the action with the Avengers without receiving a standalone film of her own created a unique responsibility to do it right.

“The guiding principle was this is not a sidekick that we’re writing; we’re writing a fully realized superhero who’s so good that she could go it alone, and this is the story of her choosing to partner up with Ant-Man,” Barrer explained, adding she might even be the better superhero.

He cited a moment in the post-credits scene of the first film in which Hope’s father — Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), creator of the Ant-Man suit and technology — shows her another suit he and her mother had been working on, and he tells her it’s for her and to suit up.

“It’s about damn time,” she answers, her eyes lighting up.

“That was kind of like a mission statement in a way,” Barrer said. “It’s like, OK let’s earn this. It is about damn time she gets to suit up, so let’s make sure that we give her sort of motivations that are the stuff of a main character and not just a flimsy side character. … We definitely wanted to earn the fact that we were that first movie with a female title and thanks to Peyton [Reed], I think, it was definitely a focus from the very beginning.”

While the film’s success has certainly been rewarding, Barrer is already looking for what’s next. He and Ferrari got themselves on the map with a screenplay they wrote together after college called Die in a Gunfight.

Barrer always knew he wanted a career in writing. An avid movie fan, he took an introductory course to screenwriting in college and has since learned the ropes along the way.

“The path to screenwriting, Gabe and I used to joke it was sort of like the wedding of philosophy and studio art,” he laughed, referencing their majors.

The duo are already working on a few future projects, including recently optioning a book about “Dr. Feelgood” Max Jacobson.

In the meantime, Barrer splits his time between New York and Doylestown, where he and his wife live nearby her family in Southampton and his in Huntingdon Valley.

His Jewish upbringing gave him a wide-ranging perspective on life, which probably comes in handy with writing and filmmaking.

“I was raised with a religious consciousness, but it didn’t close me off to other experiences or other ways of thinking,” he said, “and in some ways it was maybe the best of both worlds because I didn’t live a narrow existence growing up. But I do think that Judaism is well-tailored for that kind of upbringing.”

For now, he’s basking in the positive reactions Ant-Man has garnered as he looks to the future.

“It’s funny, when you have something like this come out and you experience the feeling of people enjoying your work, it actually, I find, it makes you hungrier to get to the next thing,” he said. “It’s a good feeling to have something out there that makes people happy and people enjoy.”

mstern@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0740


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