What Ant-Man Means for the Marvel Cinematic Universe
During the two-hour premiere of Agent Carter last week, Marvel pulled back the curtain on the first official trailer for Ant-Man, their end-of-Phase-2, beginning-of-Phase-3 movie (still not 100% sure what they’re considering it). If you didn’t get a chance to watch it, you can check it out here.
Pretty awesome, right? Yes, yes it was. But there’s a lot more to Ant-Man than just a kick-ass trailer. It has some interesting implications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) at large.
Let’s start off with a quick explanation of the character. In the comics, Ant-Man is not a mantle held by one man, but rather several different characters. The original, and most famous, is Hank Pym, a brilliant scientist and one of the founding members of The Avengers. While Pym has held many different superhero identities over the years (Yellowjacket, Goliath, Giant Man, etc.), Ant-Man was his first and arguably most important. As Ant-Man, Pym could shrink down to the size of (you guessed it) an ant, while retaining his strength from his normal size. In addition, with the help of his helmet, he can communicate with insects, allowing him to utilize them as allies.
Now, that’s all well and good, but here’s the Shyamalanesque twist in this story: Hank Pym is not the main character of this movie.
“What?” I know you are asking yourself. “Ant-Man isn’t the main character of the Ant-Man movie?” Well, yes and no.
Remember earlier when I said that several characters have been Ant-Man? Marvel’s movie is going to focus on one of those other characters: Scott Lang. Lang is an ex-convict and single father who stole the Ant-Man suit from Hank Pym in order to use it to rescue a doctor that could save his dying daughter Cassie. After he saves the doctor and the doctor saves his daughter, Lang attempts to return the suit to Pym and turn himself in for the crime, but Pym, recognizing Scott’s good intentions, allows him to keep the suit, so long as he uses it for good.
The movie seems to take a similar path in Scott Lang’s origin. At least according to the trailer, Pym passes the mantle of Ant-Man on to Scott, a convict who does what he does to provide a better life for his daughter.
What does all this mean for the future of the MCU? It leaves the universe open to a number of distinct, interesting possibilities.
First, this will be the first movie in the MCU to focus on the relationship between the main character and their child. Up to this point, not one MCU film has starred a character who is a parent, and Marvel could not have picked a better character to buck this trend with. Scott Lang, while a self-proclaimed terrible husband, is a single father who would do, and has done, anything for his daughter. This includes such feats as burglary, superheroics, returning from the dead, etc. He loves his daughter Cassie more than anything else on the planet, and there is nothing he will not do for her. This is a relationship that will clearly be front-and-center in the film, as evidenced by the multiple shots of her in the trailer, with Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym telling Paul Rudd’s Lang to “become the hero your daughter already thinks you are.” Marvel is clearly tugging some heart strings with their relationship, but it also opens the door for more diversity in the story-telling and treatment of the characters in future films.
Speaking of future films, let’s take a look at the rest of Phase 3: Black Panther. Captain Marvel. Doctor Strange. Inhumans. Sure, we’ve got some sequels in there (Captain America: Civil War, anyone?), but Phase 3 is very firmly establishing some new players into the MCU. What we don’t know yet, however, is if Marvel is planning on turning all of these new properties into franchises, or if one or more of these are simply one-off films. Now, history tells us that Marvel will turn every movie they make into a franchise complete with sequels. But does it have to be this way? There’s nothing that says that because Marvel makes a film, they have to make a sequel out of it (except money; if it makes an absurd amount of money, yes, it is getting a sequel). I personally wouldn’t mind seeing a well-done, character-driven one-off film in the MCU. It’s not outside the realm of possibility; just because Marvel isn’t making sequels of a franchise doesn’t mean they can’t use the characters. While I don’t pretend to know the inner workings of Hollywood, I can’t see an actor such as Paul Rudd signing a big, multi-film contract with Marvel. At least in a starring role, that is; It would be fun to see Scott Lang pop up every now and then in other character’s movies, even if just to reinforce that he’s still out being a superhero even though we aren’t following his every move. Of all characters, this kind of treatment would work well for Ant-Man; Scott Lang is not a “shoot Galactus in the eye with a lightning bolt” kind of hero. His stories are typically on a much smaller scale (both literally and figuratively). It would do the MCU some good to narrow their focus a bit every now and then, as excellent features like Captain America: The Winter Soldier have shown us.
This may seem a little on-the-nose, but one aspect of Ant-Man that has me the most excited is the entire concept of size-changing. Not since Honey, I Shrunk the Kids has a film about size-changing been relevant to mainstream audiences (at least not anything else that immediately comes to mind). Now, I don’t want to sound too optimistic, but I’m thinking Ant-Man is going to be a bit more enjoyable than Rick Moranis wide-eyeing and open-mouthing his way through a late 80s comedy. I apologize profusely to anyone who is a die-hard HISTK fan, but that’s just my opinion. Think of all the cool things the film could do with the perspective set to “ant-sized:” giant bugs (which the trailer has already shown us will be present), things that normal people take for granted being either incredibly dangerous or awe-inspiring, etc. There is an unmissable opportunity to inject some of that classic Marvel humor into the film by having Ant-Man and Yellowjacket slugging it out in a ridiculous fight scene while ant-sized, with people around them not even realizing what is happening.
I’ll admit, when Ant-Man was first announced, it was the first Marvel film I was ever truly skeptical about (yes, even Guardians of the Galaxy; I have not been shy about my love of that team). After seeing the trailer, however, I realize that by know, we should all put our faith in Marvel. They could make a movie about a plastic bag blowing across the street and it would make $600 million dollars and be loved by everyone who watches it. Ant-Man looks awesome, and I will gladly admit that I was wrong about it. Of course we will have to wait until the movie comes out to make a true judgment about the film, but at this point, I’m not going to doubt Marvel anymore. I’m along for the ride at this point and loving every minute of it.