Did you see Marvel’s “Ant-Man”? Going by the box office, you more than likely did, which honestly isn’t surprising. It’s a Marvel movie; they could release Avengers-themed condoms and sex toys personally approved by Stan Lee and those things would be sold out by 3 p.m. No, what was surprising about Ant-Man wasn’t that it was pretty good or that it made money, but instead the source of some of its humor. Which means I’m gonna have to get into the movie, so spoiler warning from here on out. Nothing major, but doesn’t hurt to put it up nonetheless.
Alright so in “Ant-Man” it’s established that Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym was a superhero from the 60s to 80s, but retired after the death of his wife the Wasp, aka Janet van Dyne (they never explicitly say her code name, but c’mon). Janet’s death created a rift between Pym and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), who works with her father in the present to stop Cory Stoll’s Darren Cross from selling Yellowjacket armor. But instead of Hope donning the suit herself, Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang is given the seal of approval by Pym while Hope has to help train Scott. At the end of the film, Pym shows her the experimental suit that he and Janet were working on that he’s now decided to give to her.
In action movies, a female character generally falls under two roles: she’s either a love interest for our main hero that either dies or gets kidnapped and “won” at the end, or she trains him to become as great as she is and either dies or is “won” at the end. If you need some examples, look at “Edge of Tomorrow,” “The Lego Movie,” and, in some aspects, “Guardians of the Galaxy.” In “Ant-Man,” it’s made clear that Hope is much more capable of using the Ant-Man suit; she knows how to fight much better than Scott, she knows the layout of Cross’ building, and has perfect control over the ants. The only reason she isn’t wearing the suit is because her dad is afraid of losing his daughter like he lost his wife, with a side dish of Scott rationalizing to her that he’s expendable and therefore Pym has nothing to lose if Cross kills Scott. Depending on your point of view, that line of reasoning is going to be rock solid or flimsier than a wet t-shirt worn by Chris Evans, clinging around his abs and… wait, what were we talking about?
In any case, the film’s whole stance on Hope is that “yeah, she’s awesome, but she can’t do all this cool stuff herself because reasons,” and that naturally has people pissed off. Also not helping matters is that MCU honcho Kevin Feige saying that Hope as Wasp was in an early draft of the upcoming “Captain America: Civil War” alongside Ant-Man, but had to be cut because of concerns that the film would be too bloated.
…No one tell him.
Bloat apparently wasn’t a concern when the writers added in Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, War Machine, Vision, General Ross, Iron Man, Black Panther, Baron Zemo, Crossbones, Martin Freeman, and Spider-Man. Granted, some of those characters like Panther, Crossbones, and Iron Man are essential to the story, but how the hell does Wasp get the cutting board while still finding room for Spider-Man to show up outta fucking nowhere going through reverse puberty?
This would be a fairly minor issue in and of itself if people weren’t still talking about Black Widow being forcefully sterilized in Age of Ultron and Widow being left out of a lot of that film’s marketing because vaginas are boy repellent or something like that. Of course, Ant-Man already had an uphill battle to fight with frustrated fans because he got his own movie before Widow, which a lot of fans view as a huge “WTF?!” Combined with the fact that the ONLY female-led film, “Captain Marvel,” got pushed back to 2019 (because fucking Spider-Man), and it’s easy to say that Marvel doesn’t care about women or people of color. Frankly, I can’t fault people for that and I’m inching closer to that mentality myself. It’s straight up bullshit and baffling that no one at Marvel ever looked at the films for Phases 2 and 3 and said, “Hey, could we try making one of these a solo film with a female or POC lead instead of a white dude?” How the hell does Buttsniff Crackhouse’s “Doctor Strange” movie before “Black Panther” when T’Challa will be making his first appearance in a movie that comes out before Strange?
What’s even weirder about this whole ordeal is that “Ant-Man” is about legacies. Like a lot of Marvel Comics heroes and villains, Ant-Man is a legacy character; four people have taken up the mantle. Wasp has always been Janet, but the two of them are like Batman and Robin in that they’re a package deal and you can’t entirely do one without the other, so why wouldn’t Wasp be in the movie? Why not do a dual origin story for them both? Why not go all out and have Marvel’s “Ant-Man & Wasp: The Next Generation,” since that’s basically how the film ends? Again, it’s not like Hope doesn’t know how to handle herself, so all she (or rather, the film) had to do was have her break into the room with the Wasp suit and take the suit on a joyride of her own. It would’ve been a stroke of genius for them to completely downplay all of that in the marketing and then come midnight release, everyone’s talking about what a welcome surprise it was. It was as simple as pouring a damn bowl of cereal, but nah, let’s just go with the “can’t do it until dad says so” route. It feels like Marvel very clearly taking the piss out of themselves while not doing anything to correct their own problems besides saying “hey, this could happen, depending on how much money we make!”
Eventually, Marvel has to do what DC is doing with Wonder Woman in Batman v. Superman marketing—put up or shut up when they talk about representation. They can’t say, “oh hey, we may do something in the next decade” or, “yeah, it’s something we’ve considered,” they’re gonna have to actually announce, “hey, here’s your Miles Morales movie” and, “hey, “Ms. Marvel” TV show is coming a few months after the “Captain Marvel” film.” Words are just words, so it’s time to make like those fancy art papers and show us.
(Ant-Man property of Marvel Studios)