Warning: This post contains spoilers for Ant-Man
“It’s about damn time.”
Hope Van Dyne speaks these stirring words at the end of Ant-Man first post-credit scene, upon looking at the prototype for the updated Wasp costume, but it may be some time before we see her suit up on the big screen. Asked about Hope appearing as the Wasp in Captain America: Civil War, Kevin Feige suggested it’s not in the cards, telling Zap2it:
“There’s so much going on in Civil War. Wasp is such a huge character, and Hope is such a big part of [Ant-Man], her character journey is such a big part of that movie. We thought it would be a disservice to the Wasp to just have her show up — ‘Hello, I’m wearing the costume now! Goodbye!’ — because there’s too much else going on in that movie.”
Feige says they’re still figuring out if Hope will appear next in a future Phase Three film or in an Ant-Man sequel, but quite frankly his rationale for excluding her from Civil War feels more than a little lacking (of course, if he’s lying to preserve the surprise, all is forgiven). Given the absolutely enormous cast of Civil War, it seems incredibly likely that many of the supporting returning characters will be treated to near cameo like appearances and participants in group actions scenes, in a similar vein to the brief appearance of new characters during the future sequences of Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. The idea that Hope needs an entire film to show the narrative of becoming a superhero is silly – it’s established throughout Ant-Man that she’s more than capable, indeed far more capable than Scott Lang. Having Hope swoop in to save the day – perhaps rescuing Ant-Man! – would be a brilliant way of swiftly and organically introducing her confidently stepping in to the role of the hero. Even with Evangeline Lily now pregnant, it seems like the sort of scene that could easily be filmed with a combination of green screen, mo-cap, and body doubles – after all, if she’s in the suit the whole time, the majority of her appearance would be CGI. This could fulfill the cameo portion of Lily’s contract (which is surprisingly only two films and a cameo, seemingly including Ant-Man), and leave her to do her “full film” appearance in one of the Infinity War films.
I’ve been speculating for a while that we’d see an Ant-Man sequel in 2018, but that was predicated on the expectation and hope that Ant-Man would smash the box office. While a $58 million opening certainly doesn’t herald the end of Marvel’s dominance or proof of the much ballyhooed “superhero fatigue,” it’s still a mild disappointment for Marvel as their weakest opening to date. While I’m not going to get into a full box office breakdown (check out Scott Mendelson’s superbly reasoned analysis here instead), I think it’s reasonable to interpret that given the only modest success of Ant-Man, Marvel will build up the character’s popularity in appearances in other films before giving him another group outing, a strategy they are already adopting for their new properties being launched in Phase Three, the sole exception being Doctor Strange (I expect Carol Danvers will be introduced in Infinity War Part 1, getting her origin out of the way before her solo film).
Complaining about Marvel’s treatment of its female characters feels like a broken record at this point, but the fact of the matter is it’s only because they still haven’t taken sufficient steps to address their issues – and no, a Captain Marvel film, welcome as it is, does not render all critique invalid. While I think that Scarlet Witch and Black Widow in particular are phenomenal characters, I also think Fiege’s suggestion that Marvel has always “gone for the powerful woman versus the damsel in distress” is dubious at best, particularly in citing Jane Foster, as flat and dull a female character as they come.
Looking specifically at Ant-Man, Susana Polo argues in her excellent review that “Ant-Man may be the worst movie in the Marvel [Cinematic] Universe for gender roles,” while Esther Zuckerman writes that Hope is at best “the third lead” making Ant-Man somewhat “frustrating for female fans”. While Peyton Reed tells Zuckerman the audience frustration is intentional – to mirror Hope’s own – a more interesting way to play with that would have had Hope simply take the suit for herself, and to hell with Hank’s protestations – she’s a grown woman with her own agenda and agency (it doesn’t help that, as our own review argues Pym isn’t a very compelling character and Lily is at best “serviceable” in the role of Hope). It’s not simply “about time” for another major female superhero – it’s damn well past time.
The truth is that the MCU is lacking in good dynamic female superheroes – “superhero” being the key word here – and pointing to a few contrary examples doesn’t change that. And that’s not even getting into their appalling lack of merchandise for the female characters they do have, something both Mark Ruffalo and Clark Gregg have drawn attention to. Mad Max: Fury Road was one of the most rapturously received blockbusters of recent years, showing that there is certainly a demand for female action heroes, and while not everyone can be George Miller (or more accurately, no one), everything from Lucy to The Hunger Games to even Pitch Perfect 2‘s box office triumph illustrates that there is audience for films driven by powerful women. Introducing The Wasp as a fully fledged superhero at the earliest possible opportunity would be a great way to start reversing Marvel’s trend of treating its female characters as mere sidekicks or love interests.
Peyton Reed has expressed his desire to explore Hope’s story in further detail in a sequel, as well as to explore Hank Pym’s back story (basically he just really wants to do another Ant-Man film!). A Godfather: Part II style movie, detailing both Hank (and Janet’s) past at S.H.I.E.L.D. alongside Scott and Hope’s search for Janet would be an exciting way to do both things. But it’s almost certain we won’t see such a story until 2019 at the earliest. It’s simply not enough to provide memorable supporting roles for existing characters – Marvel needs to be introducing new powerful dynamic women at every opportunity, and giving them the space to properly shine. And that means making them superheroes – which, after all, is the genre they’re working in.
Because, to state it one more time: it’s damn well past time.