While Marvel Studios’ Avengers franchise (and appendages) tends to garner the most ink, I have to say I find development on the studios’ secondary properties far more fascinating, as it demonstrates their willingness to continually expand the boundaries of what we can expect from the ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe. There’s Guardians of the Galaxy on the way later this year – adding into the mix a twist of deep-space derring-do in the Star Wars vein – and then we have Ant-Man debuting in July of 2015, written and directed by Edgar Wright and starring Paul Rudd in the title role, which promises to… well, I’m not entirely sure what it promises, but the mere fact that we’re getting an Edgar Wright flick in the same world as The Avengers has my mind awash with the possibilities.
One of the most interesting developments in this very long-in-coming project (Wright was brought aboard by Marvel in April of ‘06 – almost eight years ago!) is the news that legendary Hollywood icon Michael Douglas has been enlisted to join the cast as original Ant-Man Henry “Hank” Pym. Pym, who first appeared in “The Man in the Ant Hill,” a 1962 short story by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, is one of the foundational characters of the entire Marvel super-hero line, having not only co-founded the Avengers, but also served in a variety of heroic roles (Giant Man! Goliath! Yellowjacket! Dr. Pym! Okay that last one wasn’t as impressive…) over the publisher’s long history.
Anyway, what makes the Douglas casting especially fascinating is in what it helps brings into focus about the rest of the film. For one, we learned that Rudd, who many assumed would be essaying the Pym role, was in fact going to be Scott Lang, the second Ant-Man, introduced in 1979’s Marvel Premiere #47. (No word on whether Wright also has plans for the third Ant-Man as well… boy, there sure are a lot of Ant-Men bouncing around the Marvel U!) This in turn clarifies the film’s place as a “legacy hero” story, something that’s a longstanding trope of the super-hero genre (especially – until recently, anyway – at DC Comics), but which has never really gotten its due on-screen (notwithstanding stuff like 1998’s The Mask of Zorro).
Wright actually alluded to his “legacy” plans with remarkable clarity in an interview way back in ‘06 (shortly after he first signed on):
…the idea that we have for the adaptation is to actually involve both. Is to have a film that basically is about Henry Pym and Scott Lang, so you actually do a prologue where you see Pym as Ant-Man in action in the 60?s, in sort of Tales to Astonish mode basically, and then the contemporary, sort of flash-forward, is Scott Lang’s story, and how he comes to acquire the suit, how he crosses paths with Henry Pym, and then, in an interesting sort of Machiavellian way, teams up with him.
While we don’t know much else about the story surprises Wright and co-writer Joe Cornish have planned for Marvel’s tiniest hero, with Douglas and Rudd locked in as decades-removed embodiments of the title character, and with the promise of seeing the Pym Ant-Man adventuring in a period setting, we do know that we can at least look forward to a further fleshing-out of Marvel’s “in-between” era – that stretch of unseen years from when Captain America’s World War II escapades ended to when Tony Stark first turned his heart into a transistor. This can only add to the sense of interconnectivity and living history that has helped make the Marvel Cinematic Universe the already-impressive edifice that it is.