US: Mar 2015
They’re making a movie about Ant-Man.
I saw the teaser on TV. It came at the end of Agent Carter, which was really quite good. Agent Carter, I mean. It was fun and exciting, serious but joyful. I’m already hooked.
The teaser for Ant-Man, on the other hand, was kind of disappointing. I was looking forward to and had imagined it was going to be bombastic and fun, like the trailers for the original Iron Man or last summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Instead, it was kind of quiet, predictable. Michael Douglas did a voice over as Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man. Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, the current Ant-Man, looked tired. He tried a couple of jokes but they fell kind of flat.
Sometimes the movie is better than the trailer. Maybe this will be one of those times, but I don’t know.
Ant-Man seems like a tough nut to crack. Edgar Wright worked on it for a long time and then went away. Apparently he couldn’t crack it. I don’t know what happened there.
I mean, it is a pretty silly concept – all Incredible Shrinking Man – all Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Plus, Ant-Man can talk to ants, sort of like Aquaman talks to fish. He can get them to do whatever he wants them to do. He rides on their backs, commands their tiny armies, flies the winged varieties through the air.
Pretty “ri-goddamn- diculous”. (To gratuitously quote John Wayne.)
Scott Lang’s character is, arguably, even tougher than Hank Pym’s. Pym is, after all, a superhero of the brilliant scientist variety – part Tony Stark’s Iron Man, part Reed Richard’s Mister Fantastic. We’ve seen that before. Genius inventor, cool gadgets and super powers.
Lang, on the other hand, is a thief. He didn’t achieve superhero status through the brilliance of his own mind or through the hand of blind fate. He went out and he stole it.
Plus, his motivations aren’t very superheroic. He’s not driven by a sense of justice, or a sense of guilt, or a sense of destiny.
He’s just a dad who’s trying to do what’s right for his daughter. Sometimes that means being a thief, sometimes that means being a superhero, sometimes that means being a “bit of both.” (To gratuitously quote Star-Lord.)
There aren’t many superheroes who are superheroes just because they are trying to be good parents. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, superheroes hardly have any families at all, unless you count Thor’s Asgardian family, but that’s a little different isn’t it?
Lang’s Ant-Man is just an ordinary guy who happens to have a suit that allows him to shrink and command ant armies. He uses these powers to do the same kinds of things the rest of us ordinary shumcks do, without any power. He tries to make a little money to give his daughter a good life, tries to be there for her when she needs him. It’s not about him. It’s not about justice or vengeance or destiny. It’s just about her.
This is why making a movie about him seems so hard. It’s not just the ridiculous shrinking and ant control powers, it’s the ordinariness of it. Using what comes your way, scratching out what little luck you can find to do what’s right for your family isn’t the plot of a superhero movie. Minus the shrinking and the ant control, that’s just my life. Probably yours too.
That’s why I love the first issue of Nick Spencer’s new Ant-Man comic. He gets this about the character, I think. He gets that this Ant-Man’s origin, and thus his motivation, are rooted in his parenthood. And, along with artist Ramon Rosanas, Spencer tells a story in this first issue that I am convinced would indeed make a fine film, even without all that bombast that we’ve come to expect from Marvel movies. This story has all the Ant-Man stuff, all the ridiculous shrinking, all the ant armies under mind control. It has snarky humor. It has action. It has fun.
What it doesn’t have is a super villain. (Well, it has one rather inconsequential one.) What it doesn’t have is a world-ending threat. What it doesn’t have is some heavy sense of justice, right over wrong, vengeance is mine saith the Lord. It’s just the story of a man, a dad, who needs a job in order to take care of his daughter.
I can identify.
Of course, other superheroes have children. Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman have two. Batman, I suppose, has had a whole succession of them – and, like George Foreman, he gave them all the same name. But these heroes don’t act like real parents. Reed and Sue hire a witch to take care of their offspring while they go off to save the world, or pack them up and take them along for the ride. Batman, well what Batman has done to his kids is just plain weird.
But Scott Lang, Ant-Man, in this story acts like a real dad. He bends the rules as far as he can to do what he needs to do for his daughter. He gives up his dreams, and a lucrative career, just to be with her. He learns that living small (in his case, really small) can sometimes be better than living large if it means that you get to be there by her side, watch her grow, dry her tears, all that stuff.
Nick Spencer’s Ant-Man, shrinking power and ant control notwithstanding, isn’t much of a superhero.
That’s okay. It really is, because so far he seems like a pretty good dad.
I’d watch a movie about that.