Entertainment Magazine

Ant-Man 101: Paul Rudd & Michael Douglas Are Aboard, But Who Are Scott Lang & Hank Pym? Where’s the Wasp?

Posted on the 15 January 2014 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

If you kind of make a living writing about pop culture yesterday was not a good day to get sick.  There were new trailers for Game of Thrones and Outlander,  Joseph Gordon-Levitt talked about Sandman, and everyone clamored to find meaning in the largely meaningless Golden Globes.  Plus, there were still some juicy Star Wars: Episode VII rumors to sort out, and, oh yeah, Michael Douglas has been cast to play Ant-Man in Ant-Man even though Paul Rudd is already around to do that.  Wait, what!  Let’s talk about that one.

First, let’s clarify if you don’t already know the details: Michael Douglas has been cast to play Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man.  This then means that Paul Rudd will play Scott Lang, the second Ant-Man from the comics.  You can read Marvel’s predictably pleasant, non-revealing press release here (they’re sure happy to tout Douglas’ multiple Academy Awards as both an actor and producer).  This news vindicates Devin Faraci of BadAssDigest.com who has been trying to warn us for quite some time that Scott Lang would be the lead character of the film, not Hank Pym.  However, it’s not like Ant-Man director Edgar Wright exactly hid this fact, telling SuperHeroHype back in 2006 (altogether, Wright has been working on getting this thing made for a decade now) “the plan would be to prominently feature both Pym and Lang, showing Pym as Ant-Man in the sixties and then flashing-forward to Lang’s journey to become the hero.”  Plus, just last week Wright further tipped his hand by posting to his website a photo from the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes episode (“To Steal an Ant-Man”) which depicts Scott Lang’s origin story:

avengers-animated-ant-man__span

Honestly, if you have Netflix and want to know everything you need to about Ant-Man without reading the comics just go find Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (it’s on there for instant streaming) and watch the episodes “The Man in the Ant Hill,” “Ultron-5″/”The Ultron Imperative,” “To Steal an Ant-Man,” and “Yellowjacket.”  They are faithful enough to the comics so that you pretty much get the gist.  Heck, they even fully embraced Hank’s psychotic break which resulted in him adopting an alternate personality and new superhero moniker, Yellowjacket, which is some fairly heavy stuff for a kids cartoon.

Lacking that, you could check The Hollywood Reporter’s handy dandy breakdown of Ant-Man’s comic book history, summarized below:

  • There have been three different Ant-Men in Marvel Comics continuity: Hank Pym, Scott Lang and Eric O’Grady. Only Pym and Lang have been mentioned in conjunction with the film adaptation.
  • Pym debuted in 1962′s Tales to Astonish “The Man in the Ant Hill.”  In this initial appearance, Pym was a scientist who discovered a size-changing formula that he tested on himself, but he became convinced it was too dangerous to exist in the world so he poured his discovery down a drain.
  • Pym returned 8 months later in “Return of the Ant-Man” in which he used his size-changing formula (and a newly-created helmet that allowed him to communicate with ants) to battle communist spies hell-bent on destroying America.  What caused Pym’s change of heart?  Mostly that Marvel wanted to create more superheroes, and Pym’s first story sold well.
  • Pym’s girlfriend and eventual wife, Janet Van Dyne, became The Wasp after getting size-altering abilities from Hank.  The two helped co-found The Avengers.
  • In the late 1960s, Pym created a sentient robot named Ultron, which was kind of like Skynet but cooler.  Ultron became a major foe to The Avengers, and will be the main villain of The Avengers sequel but apparently in no way associated with Pym.
  • Pym’s time as Ant-Man and an Avenger is mostly characterized by him frequently either voluntarily leaving the team (since he’s more of a pacifistic than man of action) or being expelled (due to frequently getting manipulated and brainwashed by enemies…or hitting his wife).  This troubled history included multiple mental breakdowns and alternate personas for Pym, i.e., Giant-Man, Goliath, and Yellowjacket.
  • In 1979, Scott Lang was introduced as an electronics expert who has to become a professional thief to save his terminally ill daughter. Lang steals Pym’s ant-man suit and technology to help break out from prison the only doctor who can cure his daughter.  Lang succeeds and tries to return the suit to Pym and turn himself in, but Pym is impressed by Lang and allows him to just continue being Ant-Man.
  • Lang was killed in the 2004 “Avengers Disassembled” storyline, but was revived in 2012 in “Avengers: The Children’s Crusade” due to time-travel.  The price of his return was the death of his daughter, which left him a tragic figure obsessed with living up to her legacy.
  • O’Grady succeeded Lang after his death, with a rather boring origin story – he’s just a SHIELD agent who steals the Ant-Man technology from SHIELD’s lock-up.

Pym’s genius scientist background made him an ideal choice for frequent collaboration with Tony Stark, ala the way Downey, Jr.’s Stark interacts with Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner in The Avengers.  However, that is something which also made Pym seem like an odd choice for his own feature film.  Wouldn’t he kind of overlap with Tony Stark?  Plus, since the writers of the comics clearly never had any idea what to do with the character and took him in needlessly dark and complicated directions why would a feature film adaptation fare any better?  And how on Earth do you take Ant-Man’s most significant creation, Ultron, and put him into an entirely different movie, Ultron’s creation presumably attributed to Tony Stark?

Ant-Man

Now, the running rumor – remember, it’s like 18 months before this film comes out – is that Pym will actually be the villain of the film, indicating Wright and co-screenwriter Joe Cornish are just going to take Pym’s darkness from the comics and run with it.  This would set him up as a cautionary tale, the first hero to go full on evil in the Marvel cinematic universe (does Loki count?).  Then again, the Marvel movies have always shied away from the darker elements of their characters’ comic book histories, e.g., doing a seriously half-hearted attempt at Tony Stark’s “Demon in the Bottle” alcoholism story in Iron Man 2.   Edgar Wright can go dark, but he usually buries it beneath the comedy (see the climax of The World’s End).

Of course, this is still about a guy who wears a helmet which allows him to control ants.  If they focus on Scott Lang and not Hank Pym, they could be going the Green Lantern route where Hal Jordan sort of just lucked into becoming a superhero, and as such was more than willing to continually mock the silliness of everything around him.  That didn’t work out so well for DC, but Paul Rudd would be better at it than Ryan Reynolds.  It’s sincerity that might prove challenging for Rudd to deliver.

Wasp

The Wasp As She Appeared in The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, voiced by Colleen O’Shaugnessy

The big question remains (as pointed out here and here) what does all of this mean for The Wasp?  The Hank Pym Ant-Man was usually a duo of some sort with The Wasp.  So, some were holding out hope the film would feature Ant-Man and Wasp as co-leads, possibly more excited about Wasp than Ant-Man.  Do you just change comic book continuity and make her Scott Lang’s love interest?  Or do you cast an older actress to play her alongside Michael Douglas, thus presumably destroying her viability as a major cinematic character from this point forward?  Would Joss Whedon let that happen considering how much he wanted to use her in The Avengers?  

Most everything Marvel has done with their movies has been incredibly risky, and other than their two failed Hulk films they’ve managed to pull everything off beautifully.  Now, they have become so big and are so respected they managed to sway Robert Redford to show up in the Captain America sequel and Michael Douglas to star as an elder version of one their original superheroes in Ant-Man.  So, it would be foolish to doubt them now.  However, as a fan of Edgar Wright’s (Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) I expect him to deliver a insanely fun movie, albeit hopefully cutting back on his seizure-inducing kinetic editing.  But we still have a long ways to go to get there, and just like many of the other big 2015 films the rumors are going to start piling up fast.  Heck, in the time it took me to write this The Hollywood Reporter indicated Latin actor Michael Pina was close to joining the cast of Ant-Man in an unspecified role.

However, because I have no personal connection to Ant-Man I am not particularly dismayed by potentially focusing their film on the second Ant-Man instead of the first.  These are the same people who made The Mandarin into a drunken British actor in Iron Man 3.  I am more interested in what this all means for The Wasp.  What about you?

The Avengers is set to premiere on July 31, 2015, directed by Edgar Wright from a screenplay he co-wrote with Joe Cornish.  Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas are the only currently confirmed cast members.  They should start filming sometime around April of this year.  No word yet on whether or not longtime Wright comedy life-partner Simon Pegg will appear as he has in most of Wright’s films.


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