As a general rule, comic book superheroes don’t have parents and they don’t have kids. They’re a bunch of orphaned miracles whose responsibilities extend to saving love interests, surrogate father/mother figures and everyone in their chosen city, be it Metropolis, Gotham, Central City or New York.
And that’s what makes Ant-Man feel different. More so than any Marvel Studios film since the first Thor in 2011, Ant-Man is a family drama. Except instead of a Shakespearean tale of a king and his two sons like Thor it’s a redemptive story of two dead-beat dads trying to repair their relationships with their daughters. In this case, it’s Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the former a burglar struggling to work his way back into his young daughter’s life and the latter a tech has-been who lost his wife too soon and subsequently drifted away from his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly).
This has been the element of Ant-Man I have most responded to since the release of the first trailer. I am curious to see Marvel’s version of a shrinking movie, and how they play around with scale. I am excited to see if they can actually make me go along with a superhero whose first power is becoming teensy tiny and second power is controlling ants. I can’t wait to see what the ants look like, and how exactly this connects to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, I am most curious to meet these characters, and get a much-needed post-Age of Ultron palette cleanser where the biggest stakes will be emotional. I want to be touched when Scott Lang hugs his daughter at the end similar to the same way I was moved by the tragedy of Loki looking up at his father and pleading, “I could have done it, Father! I could have done it! For you! For all of us.”
I want to see Hank Pym make things right with his daughter Hope because then I will be so much more emotionally invested when she inevitably becomes the superhero the Wasp in a sequel.
None of the Avengers outside of Hawkeye have any kids nor should they, really. The closest we’ve come is Tony’s 10-year-old Tennessee lab partner in Iron Man 3, and Black Widow’s speech about her inability to have kids in Age of Ultron. In fact, Age of Ultron ‘ s big farmhouse sequence is all about how almost none of the Avengers really fit into a domestic setting, and unlike AoU I get the sense that Ant-Man ‘ s daughter will be an actual character instead of a glorified prop like Hawkeyes kids. If Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man make his way to the Avengers he might have to find a babysitter for his daughter before rushing to save the world, and it won’t be used as a,”Surprise! Hawkeye has a whole family you never heard about!” gotcha moment. Tony Stark was placed on a redemptive arc in the first Iron Man to make up for his past sins against the world; Scott Lang’s redemptive arc is simply to become the hero his daughter already thinks he is. I actually like that a lot, even if I may be embracing a cliche just because it seems like something new for Marvel Studios.
As it turns out, everyone who made the movie also really likes the family dynamics in the story. From Collider:
PAUL RUDD: The father-daughter aspect was the thing that I hung the whole thing on. You can have a movie that has amazing effects, and this certainly has brilliant visuals, and a lot of humor, but whenever you see something that you can connect to that’s emotionally resonant, it stays with you in a very different way. I think that’s the key to any movie, and that’s what I thought about throughout this whole film. That’s what the movie is about.
KEVIN FEIGE: That’s right out of the comics. Scott Lang’s character has a daughter named Cassie in his original origin story. In the books, it’s tied directly to his desire to help his daughter. That’s the reason he resorts to crime. We’ve never had a hero, in the 11 films leading up to this, whose motivation involved a son or daughter. That felt like a reason to do this film now. It was very meaningful for us.
PAYTON REED (Director): One of the things that I loved, from the beginning, is that one of the strengths of the movie is these two dual stories about these two fathers and their daughters, and it is very different from the other Marvel movies, in that way. In various different ways, they are not a part of their daughters’ lives and they have to, by the end of the movie, repair those relationships. In the case of Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne, they are not going to succeed in this heist unless they repair their relationship. It’s an important thing that has to happen, before they succeed. I liked the intimacy of that thematic in the movie.
Of course, it’s not just fathers and daughters. Ant-Man also lays down some father-son drama since the villain played by Corey Stoll is actually a former protégé of Hank Pym’s:
RUDD: I also think there’s an interesting father-son dynamic with Darren and Hank. This whole idea of parents and children runs throughout the movie, and I think makes it one of the things that’s most relatable.
EVANGELINE LILLY: Even with Bobby Cannavale’s character and Cassie [he plays her stepfather since Scott Lang’s ex-wife has re-married]. I thought it was really cool that there was also the stepfather-daughter relationship.
COREY STOLL (Yellowjacket): That, to me, was totally essential. Through the different drafts of the script and playing with motivations, I think we really came to the realizations that Darren is after the glory of the scientific discovery, the money, the fame, and the power, but in the end, it really comes down to the small little boy inside that just wants his father’s approval. That’s so much easier to play than desire for world domination. I can relate to that more.
Ant-Man comes out on Friday.