Ant-Man: from misogynist to Marvel’s newest superhero
The delayed arrival of Edgar Wright’s film, scheduled for 2015, will not surprise aficionados. In the past this troubled creation has suffered at the hands of disrespectful creative teams
With Marvel’s recent announcement that Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man is finally set to hit the big screen in 2015, some might wonder exactly why it’s taken quite so long for the movie to get the green light. After all, the Spaced creator and director of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End apparently turned his first screenplay in three years ago.
Comic-book aficionados might be less surprised by the movie’s long gestation period, because Ant-Man has always been a troublesome creation who has suffered more than his Marvel contemporaries at the hands of disrespectful creative teams. The character, or at least his original Henry Pym incarnation, has never quite recovered from an infamous episode in the early 80s where he was seen backhanding his wife, Janet van Dyne (the Wasp), during a row. The storyline saw Pym being expelled from the Avengers for attacking an enemy from behind when the enemy had stopped fighting, and subsequently trying to fool his comrades into taking him back with an elaborate plan to build a robot, have it attack the superhero team and then step in to save the day. The wife-battering incident takes place when Van Dyne discovers the plot and threatens to warn Captain America et al about what is about to take place.
If that doesn’t quite tally with Wright’s plans for a comedy-tinged take on the character, one can argue that this might not be such a bad thing at all. Marvel Comics have made half-hearted efforts to rehabilitate Pym over the years, but there has been no full-scale retcon of the Captain America variety, where Steve Rogers’ 1950s communist-baiting at the height of the McCarthy era was explained away as the result of a crazed imposter taking over the famous star-and-stripes costume. The big-screen take on Ant-Man offers the chance to eradicate the character’s shifty side – seen as recently as 2010 in the Avengers graphic novel The Ultimates (where Pym persuades an army of ants to attack Van Dyne) – for good. If Wright can maintain the standards of his earlier career work, Ant-Man will be introduced with no small degree of flamboyance to a mass audience that has little recollection of his earlier misogynistic behaviour.
That certainly tallies with the film-maker’s recent comments, which suggest he’s not desperate for Ant-Man to meet the rest of the Marvel universe just yet. “I think [the first movie’s] just doing its own thing in the accepted history, but it’s still part of the other movies and always was,” Wright told the Playlist this week. “In the time I’ve been working on it, other things have happened in the other movies that could be affected in this. It is pretty standalone in the way we’re linking it to the others.
“I like to make it stand-alone because I think the premise of it needs time. I want to put the crazy premise of it into a real world, which is why I think Iron Man really works, because it’s a relatively simple universe; it’s relatable. I definitely want to go into finding a streamlined format where you use the origin format to introduce the main character and further adventures can bring other people into it. I’m a big believer in keeping it relatively simple, and Marvel agrees on that front.”
Ant-Man, with his ability to morph from the size of an insect to that of an elephant and beyond, should offer ripe material for Wright to deliver a film in which Pym is able to jettison all that unwanted baggage. But given how successive generations of comic-book writers have been unable to stop themselves flagging up his nefarious, turncoat tendencies, one wonders if it will be too long before Ant-Man is pushed once more into villainous mode. Some observers have argued he makes for a better character that way, but I suspect the majority of us would be more than happy to see Pym’s nastier aspects written out of history for good.
In related news this week, Joss Whedon has said that Avengers 2 villain Ultron might lose some of his powers for the upcoming film. “I knew right away what I wanted to do with him,” Whedon explained to EW.com. “He’s always trying to destroy the Avengers, goddamn it; he’s got a bee in his bonnet. He’s not a happy guy, which means he’s an interesting guy. He’s got pain. And the way that manifests is not going to be standard robot stuff. So we’ll take away some of those powers because at some point everybody becomes magic, and I already have someone [a new character, Scarlet Witch] who’s a witch.”
Whedon has already revealed that the superhero team’s robot nemesis will lose his comic-book origins story, in which he is created by Pym, and pick up one more suitable to his new environment. That makes sense: Wright clearly has enough on his hands with Ant-Man without having to stick like glue to the character’s own comic-book origins.