by Georgianna Pisano-Goetz ’15, contributing writer
Marvel continues to report up-to-date information regarding their cinematic universe into the next decade, most recently announcing key actors to take on Ant Man. The Ant Man film will tentatively be reaching theaters July 17, 2015 a mere two months after Avengers: Age of Ultron. For those unfamiliar, Marvel has diced up its thematic releases into phases, the first of which concluded with the first Avengers film.
The second phase began with Iron Man 3 and will conclude with Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ant Man will be the first entry in Marvel’s Phase Three. Before Cap and Thor fans revolt, be assured that the heroes introduced during the first and second phases will remain active in the third. Iron Man, Captain America and Thor will most definitely be making appearances in the third Avengers film. Writers have already been attached to Thor 3 and Captain America 3 despite neither hitting theaters yet.
Ant Man will be the only new hero heading his own film within the foreseeable future, despite the already existing other options, including the Hulk, Black Widow, or Hawkeye. This may seem like an unlikely scenario for those unfamiliar with the comics, but rest assured that Ant Man has already had a long and storied history with the Avengers.
In fact, Ant Man and his wife, the Wasp, were founding members of the team in the comics. That may not be a surprise, since it was rumored that Joss Whedon attempted to work the Wasp into his original plan for The Avengers. The Wasp and Ant Man even have similar powers (shrinking ability).
So why not introduce a headlining female hero? The casting of Wonder Woman into Batman Versus Superman opened up a conversation about the miserable state of affairs for female superheroes headlining their own films (or lack thereof). DC Comic’s abysmal handling of the situation created the perfect opportunity for Marvel to display the diversity they’ve fostered in their comics as well as in their cinematic universe. However, recent casting news pretty much shuts out the possibility of a Wasp-headlined film.
When Paul Rudd was confirmed as Ant Man, many ill-informed reports confirmed him inaccurately as Hank Pym. Doctor Henry “Hank” Pym is the original Ant Man from the comics. Biochemist Dr. Pym discovers subatomic particles that can alter size, which he concededly names Pym particles. He works them into a helmet that he wears as the superhero Ant Man who can shrink down to the size of an insect. Paul Rudd will not be playing Hank Pym. In fact, Michael Douglas has been cast to play Hank Pym.
Rudd will play the second Ant Man introduced in the comics, Scott Lang. Lang is a petty crook who steals Dr. Pym’s Ant Man equipment in an effort to save the life of his ailing daughter, Cassie. The choice to focus on the second Ant Man incarnation is an interesting one for two reasons. On the one hand, Marvel is creating a movie about legacy. The film could flashback to Hank Pym’s stay as the pint-size hero and create a sense of inheritance around the mantle. On the other hand, those familiar with the comics already suspected that the Ant Man film would center on Scott Lang before casting even began, given the nature of Hank Pym’s storyline.
In 1981, the trajectory of Hank Pym’s Ant Man changed forever. Ant Man’s writer at the time, Jim Shooter, has written about the defining moment when Hank Pym became a wife beater — contrary to what Shooter had written in the script. Shooter’s storyline with Pym had been following the lead of a jealous spouse as the Wasp found more and more success in the lab and in the Avengers. The storyline was popular and drove a lot of feedback. As he tells it, he wrote a passage where Hank Pym throws his hands up in despair, gesturing, “get away from me” as he argues with his wife. The artist on the issue, Bob Hall, drew the scene as Hank Pym directly striking his wife purposefully.
Thus began the tragic story of Hank Pym, wife beater. The event would haunt Pym for the rest of his career, causing him to change hero identities, go into depression, suffer PTSD, and fall in love with a shape-shifting alien posing as his wife (hey, comics everybody), the reveal of which would drive him further in his downward spiral.
So those familiar with the history of the character and following the themes of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe heavily suspected that Marvel would instead turn to Scott Lang’s bad-guy-turned–good. This trope is familiar in the comics and hinted at in the films as both Black Widow and Hawkeye both premiered as villains who later joined the Avengers. Lang’s tenure of Ant Man is certainly interesting, fun, and much more light-hearted than Hank Pym’s.
The bad news out of this decision is that it leaves no place for the Wasp to enter as a current super heroine in position to headline her own film. Yet another middle-aged white dude will star in Marvel’s film, which is really counter indicative of the diversity they’re lauded for portraying in their comics.
Edgar Wright (The Cornetto Trilogy, Scott Pilgrim versus the World) will be directing Ant Man, which he co-wrote with Joe Cornish (Attack the Block). Both have proven themselves as capable of emotional, hilarious, and occasionally dark but always fun films. Rudd and Wright feel perfectly matched for a young and energetic film sure to enrich the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Junior Georgianna Pisano-Goetz is a staff writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.