The Ant-Man Movie We Could Have Had

If I were a generous person, I would give Ant-Man a passing grade for being not that bad. And to be honest, it ended up a lot better than I thought it would. Despite the incredibly awful trailer that made the movie look dark, brooding, and serious, Ant-Man was actually kind of fun and light-hearted. The movie more or less did a really good job with what it had to work with, which admittedly wasn’t a lot. So sure, I could give Ant-Man a passing grade. If I were a generous person.

ant-man with antonyBut I will not be generous with this movie. I am angry with this movie. As someone who has read the comics, I cannot believe the huge disservice Ant-Man does to both Ant-Man and Wasp. I cannot believe that anyone at Marvel actually thought doing this movie the way they did was a good idea. And I also have a hard time believing that this was done for any reason other than that Wasp is a woman. While Ant-Man does a pretty decent job with Hope, Hank and Janet’s daughter—she’s practically the only female character in the movie unless you count the ants—the decisions behind Ant-Man are incredibly misogynistic and bafflingly so. And the movie would be bad enough from that alone, but Ant-Man is also one of the more racist movies I have seen in quite a while.

Spoilers up ahead.

The biggest problem with Ant-Man comes from the things that are not in it. What the story does give us is the same generic, boring self-discovery narrative we’ve seen over and over, again starring a cishet white man down on his luck who really just needs a second chance. And for reasons outside his control, he gets that second chance when he’s done nothing to deserve it. Scott Lang is a former burglar just released from prison, and now that he’s out, he wants to go straight for his daughter, whose purpose in the movie is to be his moral compass. However, when things get tough, Scott goes right back to his old ways.

Despite that, Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, still gives him a second chance. The plot that follows is rushed and, well… I had no fucks to give about Scott’s character. I did not come out of this movie invested in him at all, nor was I convinced that he changed his ways. Hank Pym even acknowledges that Scott always turns back to crime when things get a little difficult, and that he only chose Scott because Scott is expendable to him. There’s nothing in Scott’s character arc that makes me believe that’s changed at the end of the story.

It also doesn’t help that all of Scott’s friends are walking racial stereotypes. Other than Falcon, all the people of color we see are criminals, and yet also serve as the comic relief. While they did have some really funny moments, that hardly erases the badness of their portrayal. And of course, it’s Scott, our only white former criminal, who gets the chance to be a superhero. This isn’t some minor problem that I can understand the writers making—this is an obvious problem. It’s almost as obvious as having two former Jewish characters turn to a Nazi organization for help.

One of these characters is better written then the other. Can you guess who?

One of these characters is better written than the other. Can you guess who?

In the end, the only characters I really got invested in were the ants. When a bunch of insects are more compelling than the main character, that’s a problem. The main ant, dubbed Antony, also dies, in what would have been a sad and compelling death had it not been so ridiculous. Ant-Man doesn’t really establish enough of a relationship between Antony and Scott to make the death meaningful, especially when there are thousands of other ants to replace Antony. But even if the movie had done that, I’d still question this death. Antony gets shot. With a bullet. While traveling inside a swarm of ants. Either our villain is incredibly lucky, or for a normal human being, he’s the best marksman in the world. Considering that this is the MCU, that’s saying a lot. Regardless, it was stupid and unnecessary.

But as I said earlier, the worst thing about this movie is what is not in it. And that would be Janet. Janet, the original Wasp and founding member of the Avengers, is fridged before the start of the film for Hank’s manpain and to drive a wedge between him and Hope. Though the movie flashes back to show us what happens to her—she sacrifices herself to save a bunch of people—chances are that, unlike everyone else in Marvel (except for maybe Frigga, another female character), Janet won’t be coming back. The choice to make this movie about Scott and not about Hank and Janet is one of the more perplexing and insulting decisions Marvel could have made.

Janet, who is the only founding female Avenger, not only didn’t get her own solo film, she couldn’t even star in a movie with Ant-Man, her partner. Captain America isn’t a founding Avenger, and he got two whole movies to himself, but Wasp can’t even get one, apparently. Wasp is the person who finds Captain America in the ice, she’s the one who names the Avengers, and she even leads the team at one point. But not only are these things taken from her in the MCU, so is her identity as a superhero. Unlike Hank, who gets his powers through an invention called Pym Particles, Janet is a mutant. Her abilities are natural, and Hank models his invention after what she can do. He follows her, not the other way around. She is the one who leads him into being a superhero. That is not the case in the movie. In the flashback, we can clearly see that she gets her abilities from him instead. While the MCU doesn’t have mutants, per se, it still has “enhanced” people. They could have just called Janet an enhanced and she still could have been the leader in their superhero endeavors.

You deserved so much better.

You deserved so much better.

But even if Janet had to get her abilities from Pym Particles, Ant-Man would have only improved with her and Hank as the main characters. Instead of being a movie about some dumbass down on his luck, it would have been about a married couple working through their differences, with Janet in the lead and Hank dragging his feet, because superhero-ing is more her thing than his. The movie also would have been different because of who they are as people. While Janet is fun and upbeat, Hank suffers from numerous mental disorders and he’s also an abusive asshole. We could have had a story that talks about mental disorders and domestic abuse, as their story in the comics walks a fine line between what is and is not appropriate behavior toward your significant other. Though the two eventually break up over what Hank does, they still care and love for each other. They just can’t be together. Though Hank eventually gets better and the two of them make up and attempt to get back together, they don’t work out. The damage he did is too much, and because of that, Janet realizes that she cannot reconcile with him. A movie about them would have been different and unique compared to other movies out there because of this alone. And if Janet truly had to die, being able to meet her character and witness her struggles with Hank would have made her death a lot more powerful and a lot less trope-y. Instead, she’s reduced to a tool to further Hank’s manpain and not presented as the important, nuanced character she truly is.

Janet and Hank are two of my favorite characters because of their relationship issues. Lots of people in the real world are in Janet’s position. To see a female superhero overcome that would have been awesome. And lots of people suffer from mental illnesses, so seeing a character also struggling and trying to get better would have resonated as well.

The Ant-Man movie is just a giant waste of opportunity about a character no one gives a shit about. For what it has to work with, it does a semi-decent job. There’s just nothing new about it. It’s the epitome of generic. Ant-Man can’t be a good movie, because it’s not trying to be a good movie. It feels like almost no effort went into the plot. If you want to see it, there’s really no harm. There are some good things, notably Peggy Carter’s two minute cameo, and in the end-credit scene we get to see Bucky Barnes. Other than an appearance by Falcon and the ants, that’s about it. You’re not missing much if you want to skip this one and just read the Wikipedia summary.

Also, good bye, Antony. *cries*

Also, good bye, Antony. *cries*


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This entry was posted in Comics, Marvel Comics, movies, opinion, racism, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , by MadameAce. Bookmark the permalink.

About MadameAce

I draw, I write, I paint, and I read. I used to be really into anime and manga until college, where I fell out of a lot of my fandoms to pursue my studies. College was also the time I discovered my asexuality, and I have been fascinated by different sexualities ever since. I grew up in various parts of the world, and I've met my fair share of experiences and cultures along the way. Sure, I'm a bit socially awkward and not the easiest person to get along with, but I do hold great passion for my interests, and I can only hope that the things I have to talk about interest you as well.

9 thoughts on “The Ant-Man Movie We Could Have Had

  1. AWW this sucks!! I agree that leaving Wasp out was a mistake, she has been one of my favourite characters and to hear this of the new movie is really disappointing – but I wasn’t expecting much of it to begin with. May not see it now.

  2. I was against this movie for all the reasons you said in this article – I was talking to some non-comics friends and they were like “Oh you’re just being a Marvel comics snob” but no…Ant-Man is Hank and Jan. Take them out and why do I care? Oh, that’s right, I don’t. Wasp is my favorite favorite favorite female heroin from Marvel because she’s so strong emotionally and yet so girly and just not afraid to be who she is and I always loved her and Hank’s relationship because they were both so different. But this weird…attempt at capturing the awesomeness that is Ant-man and Wasp on screen? Ugh. I was just planning on reading the wikipedia article, I’m so glad you have put everything I was feeling about this movie into words.

    As I said when I first saw Hope in the movie – No Jan, no thanks

  3. Scott was arrested in the first place for taking money from a corrupt corporation and giving that back to the people they stole it from. So, yes Scott does deserve a second chance.

    Who cares if they’re criminals? They’re not bad people. Every single Marvel movies supervillain has been a white guy, usually a privileged one. Personally I find that more offensive than PoC being criminals who are also a heroes, especially considering the main character is a criminal who is also a hero. They were all willing to sacrifice themselves for what was right and they all were heroes. In the group there was also two PoC and two white people. They were also all comic relief.

    Unless you wanted them to make Janet an Inhuman, there wasn’t enhanced people prior to Iron-Man beyond Captain America, as far as I know.

    I know that I’m not interested in a movie about abuse. I imagine neither was Marvel. Because that just sounds like a reason to not root for the Janet/Hank relationship.

    Janet wasn’t fridged. She’s still alive.

  4. Agree with everything in the article, but I’m surprised you didn’t mention the truly horrible job it did with Hope’s character. She is 1) a trained martial artist, 2) the bad guy’s confidante and colleague, 3) a share holder in the Pym company, so she knows the building inside and out, and 4) she’s able to control the ants effortlessly. AND YET, she does not get to wear the suit, when she should have been the OBVIOUS choice. Instead, Hank trains Scott to do it, because he loves his daughter soooo much he doesn’t want her to get hurt! Bull-fucking-shit. You know what would have happened if Hope had been a dude? He would have rebelled against Hank Pym, stolen the suit, saved the day, and then had a tearful reconciliation with his father because “I know I scared you, Dad,” and “I should have trusted you, son.” BUT NO. Hope trains Scott, reestablishing the detestable trope of “strong woman trains man so HE can be the hero.” (See: the Lego Movie, Edge of Tomorrow, etc. At least both of these movies had vaguely valid excuses, but Ant-Man didn’t even try.) Also, Hope calls Scott “princess” when he complains during his training, because why not add a little internalized misogyny to the mix? Of fucking course, Scott gets the chick even though Hope obviously has nothing but contempt for him through the movie. And finally, the first post-credits scene was a goddamn insult to the audience, with Pym suddenly going like “you know what, daughter? now that the movie’s over, I’m fine with you taking risks! Here’s an awesome Wasp suit for you!” Couldn’t he have had this change of heart DURING THE MOVIE? Like “okay, Scott is lame, this isn’t working. Hope, time for ya to suit up.” But no, no, nooooo. Also, the science was stupid even for a Marvel movie (if the suit reduces distances between atoms…. how can you become subatomic??) and the plot made no fucking sense (why bother doing all this Mission Impossible-y shit if they were just gonna blow up the whole building at the end?) Basically: UGH.

    • I noticed all that during the movie, and I thought about mentioning it in the review, but by the time I got done writing it, I didn’t care enough. I agree with everything you said. Hope really should have been the hero, and it was annoying how the movie kept going out of its way to sideline her.

  5. All they had to do to fix the sidelining of Hope would be to follow the Pacific Rim structure. It wouldn’t even require sidelining Scott, since Raleigh and Mako are partners and co-protagonists. Scott helps Hope and Hank re-connect, and then she should have gotten the Wasp suit to pull off the heist with Scott’s help, not left it to the effin’ credits. Hell, even a slightly more unbalanced pairing like Edge of Tomorrow did would have sidelined Hope less. It’s so frustrating.

    (Also making Scott a POC would have turned so many of the problematic elements around into interesting thematic springboards.)

    But learning about how they retconned Janet’s powers makes it 10 times worse.

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