Superhero movies tend to funnel their creators’ ideas of the comics on which they’re based into a sort of pop culture snapshot. Each one represents a vertical slice of a much deeper lore-verse, distilling entire comic book worlds two hours at a time — while playing fast and loose with the complicated plot lines, multidimensional character traits, and long memories of the ink-and-paper serials where these themes have room to really stretch their legs.
Ant-Man and the Wasp, among the lightest of this year’s offerings from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, certainly has never lacked for comic book source material that offers up the potential for social commentary on the big screen. But unlike Marvel’s recent Black Panther, it’s a film that was never going to aspire far beyond family-friendly fare, according to director Peyton Reed and star Evangeline Lilly (Hope van Dyne / The Wasp).
The comics never shied away from Hank Pym’s darkest side, having shown him slapping his wife, Janet van Dyne, in the face back in the early 1980s. Self-aware about the potentially monstrous aspect of Hank’s character that and later incidents introduced, Marvel even revisited the topic in 2010, when Hank opens and dedicates a group of domestic abuse shelters in Janet's name.
But Lilly said in a recent interview with Yahoo! Movies U.K. that Ant-Man and the Wasp is, first and foremost, a family-friendly film, one that insinuates the inner conflicts that Hank (played by Michael Douglas) carries with him — without getting as explicit as the comics do about the secrets of his past.
“The issue of the domestic violence that existed in the original comic books was something that was talked about at length before they started the first Ant-Man film,” said Lilly.
But, she added later, “[t]he decision was made that they really wanted this to be a family franchise, and that was not something they wanted to put on a pedestal, because Hank was the original Ant-Man and is sort of a paramount figure in our films.”
Reed said stripping Hank down to reveal specific flaws might work just fine for a different treatment of the source material, but it’s one he never planned to tackle for Douglas’ character — and he felt no pressure from Marvel to do so.
“There’s never been an onus on us in the MCU movies to have any real fidelity to specific stuff in the canon. Fans may want certain things, but it really never occurred to us from the very beginning to be a part of it, even as far back as Edgar [Wright] and Joe [Cornish]’s original drafts for the first Ant-Man,” Reed explained. “It wasn’t like taking a cape off Superman and people being in uproar, it was that one storyline. I think that’s the thing in Marvel Comics; all the artists and writers sort of adapt the characters in different decades to sort of do what they wanted to do with it, and that wasn’t the Hank Pym that we wanted to tell.”
Ant-Man and the Wasp doesn’t obliterate the comic book version of Hank’s dark side, noted Lilly. Rather, it paints his psychological motivations in broad strokes that hint at, but don’t explore, where it all stems from, adding: “We didn’t want to in any way glamorize domestic violence, which is I think the danger in a surreal world when you can't bring home the hard-hitting truth of the dangers and horror of domestic violence. When you kind of have to candy-coat everything, I think it's very dangerous to go there."
Ant-Man and the Wasp opened domestically July 6, and is still in theaters nationwide.