This article will cover both upcoming Marvel movies: Ant-Man and Avengers II: Age of Ultron.
Yet more news from Marvel. That’s right, barely a fortnight after Guardians of the Galaxy hit theaters worldwide the first image of Paul Rudd as “Ant-Man” has been released. I’ll tell you what, from the plot synopsis and gathering buzz around the internet and studios it sounds interesting.
This film will largely follow the second incarnation of it’s titular character, a man called Scott Lang. Scott is an ex-convict who while attempting to go legit ends up under the employ of the legendary entomologist and inventor, Hank Pym. Through a sequence of events Scott ends up taking on the mantle of his mentor’s former superhero identity: Ant-Man. Under this old persona Pym was an active crime fighter in the 1960’s and 70’s and worked closely with the now-disbanded S.H.I.E.L.D before being forced into retirement for reasons he keeps close to his chest. Unsurprisingly, Pym amassed no shortage of enemies through his crime-fighting career and when his past catches up with him Scott is compelled to take on his mentor’s mantle and rise to the occasion. Although Scott leaps at the chance to finally do some good with his life he finds that old habits indeed die hard…
Although you may scoff at the name “Ant-Man” his powers are actually quite remarkable. The main forte of Ant-Man, both incarnations of the character, is that he has the ability to increase or decrease the size of his body while giving himself strength to rival the Hulk. A secondary and surprisingly effective stratagem Ant-Man possesses, the second half of his namesake, is that his helmet enables him to communicate and control all-manner of insects through subsonic waves. However, like all superheroes Ant-Man has his limitations. His powers are tied to his suit and without it he, like Iron Man, is just an average human. The technology was created by the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym, and has been safely guarded by him even long after his retirement. During his various missions Ant-Man has proven to be a master of stealth and subterfuge and has also proven to be a more-than-capable combatant when going up against some of the stronger members of Marvel’s universe.
All this beggars the question though: where does Ant-Man fit into the Marvel cinematic universe and what does the casting, or non-casting of certain characters tell perceptive audience members about the story itself? The casting of two characters in particular is revealing. First there is the casting of Corey Stroll as Darren Cross, also known as the “Yellowjacket” – who according to Stroll himself is “A former protégé of Pym, who takes over Pym’s company and acquires the Ant-Man technology to create the Yellowjacket suit.” Followers of Cross’s stories known that he, even more-so than Lang, treads a very fine grey line between being an anti-hero and an outright ruthless vigilante. Whether Cross is a reluctant helper or a gradual antagonist is open to guesstimates as there’s a few angles the director could take on his character.
Second, and even more interesting is the casting of Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne, the daughter of Hank Pym and his deceased wife; Janet Van Dyne. The fact that Hope’s mother Janet, who fans will know took on her own superheroine identity of “The Wasp” and fought alongside Hank Pym in the 1960’s and 70’s, is absent from the cast of the film is ominous and points to the possibility that Hank gave up on his crime-fighting lifestyle when Janet died through something he may or may not have done. The fact that Hope is opting to use her mother’s maiden name rather than her father’s surname, potentially out of resentment, makes this even more plausible.
However, what I’d argue is the most important aspect of this film and its relation to the wider ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ is that it is scheduled for July 17th, 2015, two months after Avengers II: Age of Ultron hits theaters, so it is safe to assume that it will be the first film in Marvel’s ‘Phase Three’. The timing of Ant-Man after Age of Ultron is odd because according to Marvel lore Hank Pym also creates Ultron, the titular antagonist the Avengers will be squaring off against. However, and according to director Joss Whedon, Pym will not have had a hand in creating Ultron in this instance… so who does?
I would not be surprised to discover that, in response to the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D, Tony Stark (Iron Man) puts his own retirement (seen at the end of Iron Man 3) to use and creates an army of self-repairing androids lead by one that contains the A.I of his suit in his stead… an A.I which was showing signs of becoming corrupted by Stark’s post-traumatic stress disorder throughout his last outing. It seems likely, to me, that Ultron begins Avengers II as a benign substitute for Iron Man but eventually becomes fully self-aware and realizes the flawed philosophy that he is known for in his story-arcs: the nihilistic belief that humanity is inherently flawed therefore he must save it from itself by exterminating it. The catastrophic fallout from Ultron’s ensuing rampage on earth and the revelation that Stark was in-part responsible would make him an outcast and would force him to leave the Earth entirely while what’s left of The Avengers attempts to re-build earth and re-assemble its ranks. If, during Age of Ultron, Ultron manages to escape into outer-space and forms ‘The Phalanx’ – one of the biggest threats the newly established Guardians of the Galaxy ever faced Stark would also feel obligated to chase Ultron and rectify his mistake…