Why Ant-Man Is Frustrating For Female Fans

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the movie Ant-Man.

“It’s about damn time.”

Those satisfying words come from Hope van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lilly, during a mid-credits scene in Ant-Man, after her father, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), shows her what will be her very own miniaturizing superhero suit.

Hope is right: Yes, it’s about damn time that we have a movie in which a woman is the superhero and not just a figure regulated to the sidelines. But Ant-Man is not that movie.

Hope is the daughter of Hank Pym, who created the Ant-Man suit. In some ways, the movie is about how she’s not allowed to be the superhero, even though she's obviously the most qualified. Hope knows how to work the technology far better than Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), who Pym has recruited for his mission. She's a better physical fighter. But her father refuses to let her be the one to thwart the malevolent plans of Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Why?

Well, the movie gets to that. Hank is shielding Hope from the dangers that claimed her mother, Janet van Dyne, who worked alongside her father as Wasp to his Ant-Man. That revelation is an emotional turning point in the movie, but it doesn’t make the fact that Hope is passed over in favor of Scott any less upsetting for the many viewers who've been longing to see a female-led superhero movie. That group includes me.

I mentioned this frustration to director Peyton Reed when I spoke with him over the phone recently. “I’m glad you felt that way at the beginning of the movie, because that’s how you’re supposed to feel,” he said. “You’re supposed to feel as frustrated for her as she is about the situation.”

According to Reed, that’s why the final moment is so poignant: We’ve seen the injustices put upon Hope by her father, and we’ve seen the two begin to understand one another. In that way, the movie is as much of an origin story for Hope as it is for Scott.

“I think what’s so great about that tag where she finally sees the costume is, it’s not just like, here’s another superhero; it’s just the natural conclusion of her arc. It’s finally Hank realizing, I’ve realized the error of my ways and, guess what? Here’s your destiny right there in front of you,” the director continued. “I think that’s why it’s really, really such a fulfilling moment. It’s just a natural conclusion to her story. And, again, not to get too flowery about it, but it’s really Hank realizing he’s got to let go, and let her figuratively — and maybe literally — get her wings.”

Plus, Hope has a canonical superhero look: Her bobbed hairdo, as Reed explained, is a throwback to the style worn by Wasp in the comic books. (No, it's not just an accidental reference to Bryce Dallas Howard's hair in Jurassic World.)

Reed considers Hope's arc "every bit as strong as Scott’s arc. She starts off in the beginning of the movie a very frustrated character and a very dark character. And she has issues with her dad, and her dad had issues with her, and that’s part of her story of becoming a hero. Just because we don’t see her put on a suit doesn’t mean she’s not a hero of the movie."

That may be true, and that final moment may be gratifying. But it doesn’t change the fact that Hope is still a supporting character, the third lead if we’re being generous. And it’s no consolation for the reality that neither Marvel nor DC have planned a movie focused solely on a superheroine before 2017, when Wonder Woman is due in theaters. (Captain Marvel is planned for the following year.) So will we be getting a movie dedicated to Hope’s development as a superhero?

"There’s a lot of story to tell there," Reed said. "Listen, if we are fortunate enough to get to do a sequel, that would be a story I would be very excited to tell." At a press conference for the film, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said that the studio has "plans" for Wasp. "We see that not-so-subtly in this film." (Earlier in the conference, a woman asked Lilly if she felt she was "speaking for all womankind" during the "it's about damn time" moment.)

But it should be noted that an Ant-Man follow-up, much less a movie about Wasp, is not on Marvel’s extensive list of upcoming projects. Yes, it's about damn time, but no one seems to be moving very fast.

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