Ant-Man is coming out tomorrow.
I've written a bit about the film's release (here and here), but I'll admit he's far from my favorite Marvel character. It's not personal. It's just hard for me to be impressed when the superhero pantheon has characters like Iron Man and Thor. Even Black Widow, whose film appearances have been personally underwhelming, has had a great run in comics recently (thanks Nathan Edmonson & Phil Noto). She and Spider-Man are proof that insect-based heroes aren't automatically bombs. So why does Ant-Man seem so lackluster?
That's kind of the point of Ant-Man though. Historically, the character has always been in the lower tier. He's a decent scientist, but there are far more brilliant scientists in the Marvel universe. His suit gives him powers, but they're not super useful. Ant-Man was often the first one captured or knocked out, even in his own stories. It would be rude to call him pathetic- it's not like I'm about to put on a mask and try to save the day- but he's a bit uninspiring.
What's the point of a hero who doesn't inspire you?
This is one of the ugliest moments in Marvel comics.
While not quite as dark as DC's 'The Killing Joke', seeing the relationship between Hank Pym and his wife Janet Van Dyne (the original Ant-Man and Wasp, respectively) disintegrate is an important part of Marvel's history. These panels are part of Avengers # 213. Pym has been banned from the Avengers due to his reckless behavior. His response? Build a deadly robot only he can beat, to force the Avengers to need him. And in the process, he beats his wife.
It's actually a pretty familiar narrative of domestic violence. Man feels powerless (read: emasculated), man hurts wife instead of finding an appropriate emotional outlet. There's the additional element of metaphorical emasculation in Ant-Man's powers. He's a man that shrinks. He feels small. And when he does, he lashes out against the people that love him.
What are you supposed to do when that man is also a hero?
That's a question we need to be asking ourselves.
In the United States, 1 in 4 women is the victim of domestic violence. For women married to police officers, the number is 1 in 2.
Our heroes fail us sometimes. It's comforting to think that Captain America is going to save us all, but it's not practical. We need heroes because we need to be inspired, and believe that change is possible. But we can't put all our heroes on a pedestal. Because heroes are human, and sometimes they fail.
For anyone who was curious: Avengers # 213 ends with Hank Pym in disgrace. The robot he designed to beat the Avengers proves too much for him, and his wife ends up saving the day.
But the Ant-Man movie isn't about Hank Pym!
You're right, it's not. Disney owns Marvel studios. Are you really expecting them to make a subversive movie deconstructing heroism and indicating real-life heroes as the perpetrators of violence in our communities?
This movie is about Scott Lang, whose character arc was basically the 'stole bread to feed my family' archetype, exactly the kind of kid-friendly antihero the studio was looking for. I'm not surprised the studio took the story in this direction. Ant-Man is a ridiculous concept, one that seems impossible to market to a family audience unless you make the character funny (which is why they cast Paul Rudd instead of another Chris Evans or Robert Downey Jr.). His appearance in the Marvel franchise seems more like an attempt to satisfy Stan Lee than a sound business decision.
Go see it if you want to see it. Don't see it if you don't.
It seems like the studio is determined to make the character part of the Cinematic canon, but they're trying to disconnect him from the gross baggage of the comics. Unless you're a casual fan that's just in it for the action movies, I think you'll be one of the latter group. If you're a die-hard comics fan, you're probably a little disgruntled. And if you're a Marvel fan more excited about impressive feats and superhuman stories, this movie seems like it might disappoint you. Pirate the post-credit scenes and pretend there's nothing else being released if that's what makes you happy.