Marvel’s Ant-Man gives us a woman, a man, and an ant-suit. Both want to wear the suit. The woman knows martial arts, can talk to ants, and already has the high-tech secrets to a master plan to save the world. The man is likeable thief Paul Rudd. The movie is called Ant-Man. Guess which one gets to wear the suit?
While still enjoyable and fun, Ant-Man left me with one burning question: why couldn’t Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), Hank Pym’s (Michael Douglas) daughter, have been a hero?
Early on, Hope brings the stirrings of an evil plot to her father’s attention. Hank Pym starts looking for a new person to wear the Ant-Man suit he created and save the world. When Hope first confronts her father about how she should be doing the job she sums up in one sentence why she is the best choice (I’m loosely quoting here): ‘I know everything about everything gimme the suit.’ Pym’s reply: “Nah I’ve got a complete stranger in mind…he doesn’t know shit about my insanely weird tech but he’s a pretty qualified thief.”
Additional requirements were given in the thought bubble I assume was above Pym’s head off-panel (aka assorted exposition): “also this guy has like a heart of gold what with giving money from poor to rich- so heroic. And we both totally have daughters we are sooo connected this guy is just so damn worthy.”
Pym also says he wants to keep his daughter safe- so she can’t do this dangerous job. But he’s cool with her spending every day working with a homicidal maniac – a position that, arguably, would be infinitely safer with the aid of a super suit.
I liked Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, but Hope’s existence means that Scott is unnecessary to the plot. In the script, Scott does nothing but slow down the world saving. Hope already has all of the tools to take down the Yellowjacket. Most of the middle portion of the fim is a montage of Scott being taught everything she knows in a very short time span. The script shows us exactly how superfluous he is and yet, the writers never treat Hope as a real contender for Ant-Man.
Making this worse, we find out at the end that she and Rudd could both have suited up in this movie, as there was an extra suit hidden away in Pym’s basement, fitted with boob cups no less. One of the things this movie suffered from was never straying too far from the Marvel superhero movie formula- a duo would’ve been new. Why couldn’t we have a shared origin story where she becomes Wasp, the female shrinking hero straight out of the comics?
But let’s go back to the movie that is and not what could have been. In the film we have (yet not the one we deserve), there just is never a satisfying reason for Scott do this job. Is it because he’s more-what- motivated because he has a daughter? In a film pushing the father-daughter relationships why couldn’t daughter (Hope) protect father (Hank) out of-I dunno- Love? Is it because Scott has that special heroing (robin hood complex) vibe? Hope keeps actively showing she wants to bring down the bad guy-like a hero does.
Does it bother me that there haven’t been any female led Marvel films? Sure. But the reason why this film was a worse offender than any of the others is because a superhero origin story usually tells you why THIS guy is a hero. In the other films- fictional as they are with the equal potential to have any lead- the story that the studio created was one that told you why each and every protagonist was the protagonist. Whether they created their own situation, were chosen/trained/involved in a freak accident, their scripts concisely show us why we’re watching them and not any white macho schmuck.
Ant-Man, fun as it is, doesn’t tell us why Scott Lang is a hero. He’s like alright for the job. He’s a nice guy and fun to watch on screen….you know like anyone. And sure he has special skills, none of which were helpful for this really specific job. Everything he did, he had to be taught by someone who already knew how to do it at all- who was (unlike her father) physically up to the task…one of these people isn’t necessary.
The origin story’s purpose is to answer why THIS guy is right for the job of wearing the suit and instead a good portion of the movie beats us over the head with why someone else is.
Every time Hope asks her father (and the camera), “why aren’t I the one doing this,” I’m just nodding along. This movie isn’t even sexist, but in the context of the larger MCU where every hero is a white man- the cheeky ‘why isn’t this movie about me’ feels more like a slap in the face than a joke. Because it would never be about you is the real answer. The movie being about anyone else is only a joke if she was a real contender which– according to this script for exactly zero reasons–she’s not. “About damn time” says Hope in the post-credits scene….except about damn time would’ve been at the very start of this film and a minimum of a decade ago.