Marvel’s Next Avengers Film #4: Ant-Man and Wasp

The latest in our series pondering Marvel's next new Avengers character looks at two of the original group's founding members...

With a sequel to The Avengers officially confirmed by Marvel/Disney, comic book fans the world over will be contemplating which of the publisher€™s other heroes could be added to the line-up, potentially getting their own solo movie as soon as 2014 €“ filling the popularly acknowledged gap in the schedule alongside Captain America 2 that summer. Of course, we have to bear in mind that Marvel Studios do not own the film rights to characters as key to their comic book universe as Daredevil, Spider-Man, Wolverine or the Fantastic Four €“ all of whom have allied with or become members of the Avengers at one time or another €“ but with that consideration in place, here is another suggestion for Marvel€™s Next Avengers Film:

Ant-Man (Dr. Henry "Hank" Pym) and Wasp (Janet Van Dyne)

Why?: On/off married couple Hank Pym (Ant-Man) and Janet Van Dyne (Wasp), were founding members of the original Avengers team in 1963 - teaming with Hulk, Thor and Iron Man to defeat Loki. It would make sense to integrate these original Avengers into the franchise at some point, especially because their dynamic (bickering husband and wife), power set (the ability to become very small... and communicate with ants), and the likely tone of their solo movie (probably more comedy than action) are distinct from those that we've seen before and could be worked into the present ensemble in an interesting way. Whilst vain and superficial Janet's day-job as a fashion designer does not scream "adventure!" (or particularly imaginative writing of a female character), scientist Hank is considered one of the smartest minds on Earth within Marvel continuity, holding his own alongside Bruce Banner, Tony Stark and Reed Richards. From time to time he's also been a massive jerk and a sleazeball. Brainy Mr. Pym invented the formula that enables the duo (and occasionally their allies) to scale down to insect size and later invented a way of doing the reverse - becoming a giant. But his main superpower is seemingly the ability to faff around changing names every five minutes, which might help explain why Ant-Man has never been as iconic or popular as his Avengers teammates. Whilst Captain America has changed his name and costume a few times over the years (who can forget Nomad?), Ant-Man's history is particularly complex. For a start there have been at least three long-lasting claimants to the Ant-Man title: Pym, Scott Lang and Eric O'Grady - the latter two both petty criminals who came by the formula by nefarious means before reluctantly becoming heroes and sometime Avengers. Meanwhile Pym himself has assumed several more alter-egos over the years, changing back and forth between them all more than once. These include Giant-Man (above), Goliath, Yellowjacket (below) and even, briefly, Wasp. There have even been several other heroes who have assumed those other handles. Writers also can't seem to settle on what this guy does exactly when he isn't talking to ants: is he a world-class scientist inventing inter-dimensional super prisons (Civil War), is he a pioneering expert in artificial intelligence (Ultron), or is he a full-time hero trainer (Avengers Academy)? As they say in sports punditry, what Hank Pym needs is "a bit of consistency". So the job of an accessible mainstream movie would be to streamline and simplify the character's history, sticking predominantly with one heroic persona and one Ant-Man character. In fact a successful Ant-Man movie might help solidify Hank's identity in the comic book universe as well as making him a household name. If I haven't dedicated as much time to discussing Wasp it's only because she's been a more consistent character over the years, sticking to the one superhero identity so far as I recall. Um... she had an affair with Hawkeye once. And I guess she was a little bit responsible for making the Scarlet Witch insane. And she's currently deceased, though that really doesn't mean anything in comic books - if they make this movie and Wasp is in it, then expect her to back in the comics too. Unlike Hank, Janet also has wings and can shoot energy blasts from her hands. Story?: Whilst I really think you've got to pick one Ant-Man and stick with him, or risk losing the audience, an interesting approach (and one oft-rumoured to be the basis for Edgar Wright's long-gestating future movie) is using the Scott Lang version of the character with flashbacks to the life of Hank Pym. This might involve our hero stumbling on Pym's old and long forgotten formula, rather than creating it himself. But doesn't this take on the story require the film to feature two origin stories where only one is strictly necessary? It might be a nice nod in the direction of the character's comic book continuity (with Pym potentially still alive in Lang's present as Giant-Man, or something) but I think it's a risk. On the plus side, if you have Lang discovering Hank's formula you don't have to spend too much time and effort explaining why he made it in the first place. Because that's a bizarre thing to have to explain. A few flashbacks showing Hank Pym inventing it and using it in ingenious ways might suffice and instead you'd focus on the much more reasonable story of why a small-time thief might want to possess this strange power - for breaking into buildings and the like. However, if it were me making this movie I'd want to tell the story of Hank Pym inventing the advanced intelligence Ultron (below) - a terrifying robot who goes on to be a major threat to humankind in loads of comics and has the potential to do so in a future Avengers movie. In the comics Ultron is one of the most feared villains, with recent Avengers arcs implying that his eventual big, world-ending win over humanity is inevitable. What's more Ultron is the inventor of long-standing Avengers member Vision, creating that synthetic man as a weapon against the Avengers. An Ant-Man movie that sets up Ultron and Vision would be an entertaining watch in its own right, but also a tantalising set-up for several other movies - and another future Avenger. Likelihood?: As mentioned briefly above, Edgar Wright has long been attached to direct an Ant-Man film, though the fact that his next project was recently confirmed as not Ant-Man has shed a certain amount of doubt on that project - at least in the short-term future. As it stands the project has been in development hell for eight years. Though it seems that, one way or another and with or without Wright, an Ant-Man movie is happening. It's even still a possibility for 2014 and the next Avengers movie. However, a huge stumbling block in bringing the Pyms to the big screen has been their relative pop culture obscurity. Iron Man might not have been a household name prior to his 2008 movie, but he was a more popular and famous character than Ant-Man, whilst Thor (the myth if not the Marvel character), Captain America and the Incredible Hulk need no introduction. Ant-Man has not even been a particularly popular character in the comics over the years, with little success maintaining an ongoing series in recent times. There are also fears about the fact that this hero's power effectively takes us into Honey, I Shrunk the Kids territory - it's difficult to see how a man who turns himself (and his wife) small in order to communicate with ants is going to play as anything other than comic. And whilst the Marvel Studios output to date has combined action and comedy elements, notably in the very funny Avengers movie, it's a potential gamble making a film within Marvel's cinematic continuity which seems to tip the balance in favour of comedy. Casting?: I was about to nominate Sam Rockwell for the part of Hank Pym, but then I remembered he's already in the Marvel films as Tony Stark's evil business rival Justin Hammer. With Rockwell out of the picture how about Armie Hammer? Seen in such diverse films as The Social Network, Mirror Mirror, J. Edgar and set to find even greater fame in The Lone Ranger alongside Johnny Depp, Hammer has acting chops and an undeniably powerful presence despite his youth. Hank Pym is a blonde, square-jawed sort of guy, so Hammer fits the bill there nicely. I'd also be interested to see the part given to Ben Foster - a sort of scruffier, edgier young blonde actor. It'd be a very different interpretation either way, but both would be interesting. As for Wasp, Selma Blair would make a great Janet Van Dyne - you could feasibly cast her as a fashion-obsessed socialite without making her seem like an airhead stereotype. Blair has the short, black hair and pixie-like quality to inhabit the character as seen in the comic books, without seeming at all fay. If they decide to involve Ultron and Vision then both, being synthetic, could be done using CGI with motion capture (as worked so well for Hulk). That way they would be able to look almost identical to the comic book versions of the characters and both could be voiced by an actor of any shape or age based solely on whether or not they'd make for a cool robot voice. Alec Baldwin as a sneering, self-important Ultron and cool, cold David Duchovny as Vision. Incidentally, all the above choices would fit with the current Marvel Studios policy of recruiting very good actors who wouldn't (at present) cost superstar wages and would perhaps be willing to sign multi-picture deals. Director?: Edgar Wright is the probable director of this movie, with his name long-linked to the job - a fact confirmed on several occasions by the likes of Stan Lee and producer Kevin Feige. The assumption is that any Edgar Wright Ant-Man film would be comic, though that's not necessarily set in stone, with (you'd think) Wright not yet having the clout to do whatever the hell he wants with a property like this. More likely his appointment would be like Kenneth Branagh - a slightly left-field choice who puts some of their stamp on the movie whilst ensuring it fits in with the other movies. If Wright drops out then Marvel could do worse than to approach directors from their previous films who, due to time constraints, opted against making the straight sequels. Again, Branagh did a great job on Thor and was only put off directing next summer's entry by the feeling that the whole thing had to be done in such a tight window, with a release date already set. One of the achievements of Thor was that something which could have been ridiculous was so well grounded, getting the balance between self-aware humour and po-facedness exactly right. That's a combination you'd have to say Ant-Man is going to need. Let us know your thoughts about an Ant-Man movie in the comments below and check back soon as we reveal more candidates for Marvel€™s Next Avengers!If you missed it, here are our first three entries in this series:#1: Ms. Marvel#2: Doctor Strange#3: Luke Cage and Iron Fist
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A regular film and video games contributor for What Culture, Robert also writes reviews and features for The Daily Telegraph, GamesIndustry.biz and The Big Picture Magazine as well as his own Beames on Film blog. He also has essays and reviews in a number of upcoming books by Intellect.