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Saturday, August 1, 2015

What Could Ant-Man 2 Be?

Edited by Robert Beach

Ant-Man is doing better than I, or a lot of critics, really thought it would. It’s still not burning down the house like Thor or Iron Man did, but it’s a solid release for Marvel that held its own against serious challengers like Minions and Pixels.  None of this is to say an Ant-Man sequel is guaranteed, especially given Michael Douglas hasn’t signed one of those multi-picture deals with Marvel, so if there is going to be a follow up, expect renegotiations there.  Still, Marvel likes success; Ant-Man is pretty successful, and they’ve been looking for something to fill the third movie slot in 2019, so if we hear sometime soon Ant-Man 2 is officially in the works, I wouldn’t be surprised.  With that predication out of the way, let’s talk about what this sequel could be.  

In the comics, Ant-Man was never a lasting character.  He was popular during Marvel’s early days at the tail end of the ‘50s, when weird sci-fi stories were still the order of the day.  He was essentially a B movie in episodic format, specifically the B movie The Incredible Shrinking Man; however, as superheroes began to dominate the comic medium more and more, Marvel quickly ran out of meaningful ideas for Ant-Man’s character. Though he could shrink, his tininess wasn’t really adventurous enough to be that compelling, so the genius at Marvel decided instead to have him grow, using his Pym particle formula to become Giant Man.  As far as ways to just do “the first one but more of it”, this strikes me as the easiest way for Marvel to go.  The comedic shenanigans to be had with a giant-sized Paul Rudd basically write themselves, and it’d be an easy way to recreate the first film’s emphasis on training and tech tutorials over outright action. It would also be a good way to put everyone, even Hope van Dyne and Hank Pym, out of their relative tech comfort zone.  

Spoilers here, but given the film’s been out for two weeks, and I’m discussing a possible sequel, that shouldn’t be too big of a surprise.  At the end of Ant-Man, we discover it is possible to return from the Quantum Realm. We also know that the original Wasp, Janet Van Dyne, could still be alive simply stuck in that microverse.  Doing a follow up that emphasizes exploring the subatomic universe of the Quantum Realm, with all its weird trippy elements in a quest to find Janet Van Dyne, would be a pretty solid way to transition Ant-Man from a tech comedy to an adventure comedy. Additionally, a venture to the Quantum Realm would be a way to keep the focus on Ant-Man’s core themes of family and unity with an interesting new angle: make the plot about physically reuniting the Pym family rather than just emotionally. Also, it’d be a good way to ground this more as Hope van Dyne’s film rather than Scott’s, which would be not a bad thing. Speaking of…

Let’s face it: the fallout to Ant-Man’s portrayal of Hope van Dyne as the proto Wasp has not been at all what Marvel hoped or anticipated.  People like her character, but they were rightly put off by the films endless cavalcade of excuses to keep her from actually being the hero despite her mountain of qualifications.  It seems the best way to solve this is to just let her take top billing for a sequel.  Ant-Man had an emphasis on a large cast and all of the main characters were well developed with an interesting and workable motivation, so I don’t see why the story has to follow Scott. Furthermore, it would be a good testing ground for doing this same thing with other Marvel heroes. Marvel obviously wants to keep making movies into perpetuity, yet it’s clear they won’t be able to wring many more films out of a lot of their lead actors like Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Evans. A good work around for that would be if they could make a War Machine movie or a Falcon movie as a way to continue the Captain America or Iron Man names without the popular actors/characters in the lead. 

This one is pretty nerdy, though I still think it’s a possibility.  In the comics, Scott Lang’s daughter Cassie eventually becomes a superhero in her own right called Stature.  Again, this comes down to wanting a great female focus and Ant-Man’s emphasis on family as a central theme of the film; however, Cassie fighting crime with her dad strikes me as a very cool movie to make. Additionally, it’d help circumvent the Michael Douglas problem should he decide he doesn’t want to be in any more Marvel movies with Scott taking the mentor role for his daughter. What’s more, there’s built-in drama with the unaddressed fact that Scott and Hope are now romantically involved. It’d be interesting to see Marvel tackle the idea of a girl like Cassie basically split between two sets of parents.   

Going back to the comics again, Scott Lang and Hank Pym aren’t the only guys to have ever worn the Ant-Man suit. There was also Chris McCarthy, a low-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and star of Robert Kirkman’s excellent Irredeemable Ant-Man comic, and there was Eric O’Grady, another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who stole the suit to seduce women. Either of these characters could work as additional size-changing protagonists or antagonists for a new Ant-Man movie, especially O’Grady given his more amoral nature.  It’d also be a solid way to connect Ant-Man to S.H.I.E.L.D. and the blossoming plot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a greater way. 

However, who I’d really love to see come to Ant-Man 2 is Bill Foster: Black Goliath.  If they do decide to make the sequel about growing giant instead of tiny Black Goliath would be the perfect new character.  He can serve as a mentor to Scott the same way Hank did or he could act as a younger presence and a successor to Pym’s legacy in his own right.  Bill Foster is one of the most engaging and underrated Marvel black characters and it’d be really great to see him on the screen. It’d be another superb way to circumvent the issue of Michael Douglas not coming back, or alternatively having him come back but in a different manner.  What I mean is…

In Ant-Man, the movie Yellow Jacket was a crazed protégé of Hank Pym named Darren Cross driven insane by Pym Particle exposure and jealous greed. In Ant-Man the comic, he’s actually Hank Pym in a different costume suffering from mental issues so severe he’s developed a whole new personality and ends up physically abusing his wife. Now obviously that plotline is far too dark for the Marvel Universe (I don’t blame them for ditching it), the idea of Hank Pym as a villain seems like a fascinating place to take things. He’s got a direct connection to both Hope and Scott, which gives him a strong way to mess with their heads. You could even flip the earlier idea about the Quantum Realm on its head, having Pym go insane trying to bring back his wife and end up trying to shrink reality or something. There’s enough motivation already furrowed into his character for a really dramatic evil heel turn. Finally, this would solve another big problem hovering over future sequels…

I like Ant-Man the comic, but let’s not beat around the bush: all “Ant-Man” villains are terrible.  Again, this goes back to the fact Ant-Man wasn’t a superhero at first so much as a wondering scientist, so all of his villains are like incidental antagonists. That’s why I think it’d be a good idea to bring in villains from other heroes’ rogues gallery to spice things up a bit, especially because there’s no way Marvel can get to all the great Iron Man or Spider-Man villains out there. This is in keeping with the idea of Ant-Man as sort of a franchise testing ground, even though it’d be a great way to showcase weirder foes that wouldn’t work for a whole blockbuster film of their own. Guys like Hydro Man, M.O.D.O.K., Dread Knight, Grey Gargoyle, the Unicorn, or Swarm could find real purchase given the lower stakes inherent to Ant-Man’s brand of comedy action. This could revitalize re-appropriated foes like Electro or the Rhino or to revive villains left in limbo like A.I.M. Anything to avoid having to call out villains like Egg Head or The Porcupine Man because those guys only really work for comedy, speaking of which…

This is probably the longest shot on the list, hear me out.  Due to Scott Lang’s criminal past, he’s often been a character more willing and able to commiserate and empathize with low-level mercenary villains.  In recent years, this has brought him into contact with a funk corner of the Marvel universe where villains try to help each other reform.  Bringing villains anonymous into an Ant-Man movie would be a great way to enhance the criminal team dynamic of the first movie while also reinforcing Scott as the new mentor figure. Also, it’s a good way to collect up all the various low-rent villains Marvel’s been collecting in stuff like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Daredevil; that way you make the entire Marvel universe seem more fleshed out on the whole. Stories about villain life on the Z-list have always made for great comics, and in the hands of the right director, it could be a great movie too, plus a way to integrate some actual Ant-Man villains.  Lastly, there is one comic Ant-Man villain who probably could work for a whole sequel…

To me, this idea honestly makes the most sense. Hank Pym created Ultron (in the comics), so the two have always shared an innately adversarial relationship. Having him act as the central antagonist to Ant-Man 2 could actually work really well.  They could even work in the idea of Pym resurrecting Ultron, him acting as surrogate father to the metal menace. It was already set-up in Age of Ultron that the character's code is still lurking within the Vision, so he’d probably have to come along too.  Expanding the Ant-Man roster of characters to Paul Bettnay’s Android hero would also be a good call. You could even get around the issue of Ultron being too powerful for the heroes by having the actual threat of the film being to keep him from building a new body for himself.  It’d be a great way to set-up plot lines for future films. 
As I stated earlier, Marvel could easily slate Ant-Man 2 for release in 2019; that would basically make it the forerunner for all of Marvel phase 4, so upping the stakes and blazing the trail for the next defining threat of the Marvel universe could rest on its shoulders. Ultron is probably the best way to lend the film greater weight and significance in terms of continuity as well as establish the Ant-Man crew and characters as lynch pins of Earth bound Marvel stuff. That may not seem important, but by the time Infinity War wraps up, all the major Marvel heroes/stars like Thor and Captain America will have completed their contracts. This means that Marvel will be looking down the barrel of a new decade forced to redefine their universe and its characters in one way or another.  Shifting the focus to supporting heroes like Ant-Man, Wasp, or the Vision would be a great way to deal with this problem.  

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