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Last week's debut of Ant-Man and The Wasp kept the Marvel Cinematic Universe on top of the box office, but this weekend is probably going to be a bit more difficult, with Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation and Skyscraper duking it out for supremacy as early as Thursday night. Much like the first Ant-Man movie, it's a success, but not one that's seen as integral to the success of the MCU. But don't let the numbers fool you, as Scott Lang's exploits are more important to the workings of Marvel Studio's blockbuster printing press than you'd expect.
Ant-Man and The Wasp is just as breezy and less story driven as its predecessor, leaving the film to serve as a sort of break for folks still recovering from the harrowing events of Avengers: Infinity War. And yet, that's one of the exact reasons that Peyton Reed's latest comedy hit is vital to the overall framework of Marvel's extended exercise in storytelling. If Kevin Feige allowed all of his films to take on the darker, more serious implications of 2018's biggest hit so far, he'd be allowing the entire universe to slip into a grimdark state. And we all know what happens when you let your comic movies run too dark for too long.
While both Ant-Man films may be a bit lower in stakes, they excel when it comes to another keystone to any good cinematic universe's development: the characters that inhabit the universe. While Scott Lang may be a goofy lead in his two solo efforts, his development in such a role only helps him become a better comedic relief when thrown into films like Captain America: Civil War. Those sort of skills are going to be sorely needed when Paul Rudd makes his Avengers 4 debut, as that film will be resolving the dark finale of its predecessor, with a presumed eye towards brightening the entire franchise up again.
Perhaps the most important implication of films like Ant-Man and The Wasp is that if Marvel Studios can take a chance on a film once described as a super-powered version of The Thin Man, there's nothing the studio should prevent themselves from experimenting with. Maybe Scott Derrickson can be given some free reign to take any sequel to Doctor Strange further into the realm of horror. Perhaps we can get a romantic drama, with Captain Marvel trying to settle down with a more Earthbound counterpart. The sky's the limit, so long as Marvel Studios keeps putting out the hits, and cashing the blank checks the movie-going public lets them write.
Diversity is the key to any ecosystem's survival, and film franchises are no different. You can't just keep putting out the same films all of the time, and think that the audience will come back with open wallets. With 20 films under their belt, and a full decade of experience in setting, reshuffling, and tweaking their house of cards, Marvel Studios knows full well that they've got an opportunity to push the genre of comic book films to greater heights. But in order to continue the fine work they've done, they'll need to keep taking chances like the ones they've given to Ant-Man's adventures.
So while there are plenty of newer offerings to come to theaters this weekend, and all of the weekends between now and Captain Marvel's March 8, 2019 release date, don't forget to take Ant-Man and The Wasp for a spin -- if you haven't already. You might be surprised how much fun it is, and you'll be doing the powers that be a favor by rewarding their attempts at keeping things fresh.