Why Marvel's smallest protagonist to date could become their biggest success yet
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4. Leaving The Past Behind
By making Scott Lang the protagonist of the film, Wright has removed a potentially huge, dark encumbrance off the "Ant-Man" concept, opening the film up to explore a spirit of free-wheeling adventure rather than burdensome emotional angst.
The original Ant-Man, Hank Pym, was one of Marvel's premiere heroes, pre-dating Marvel luminaries Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men. Pym's early adventures, while not played for laughs, were pretty footloose and fancy free with a sense of fun and high adventure. His banter with the Wasp made for fun, fast paced, rollicking superhero tales set in the Cold War. Then, when Ant-Man lost his own feature in "Tales to Astonish," he became a regular player in "The Avengers." There, Marvel creators created story elements and plot developments which moved the character forward rather than keeping him as the outdated Cold War adventurer. While these new elements to Pym's character created such legendary stories as the coming of Ultron, they also made the character a rather tragic figure saddled with intense guilt and emotional baggage.
The creation of Ultron, bouts with mental illness and spousal abuse came to define the character, and it's very difficult to find a modern Hank Pym story that does not reference this trifecta of character flaws. Forget that he was being emotionally controlled when he struck the Wasp; the action came to define Pym as a character. While these elements certainly added layers to Pym's backstory, they also succeeded in completely robbing the character of the airy lightness that helped define the Ant-Man character. The power to shrink (or grow) is fantastical in nature, a power which should be filled with joy and humor -- a tone that came across in the early Pym stories. It's hard to capture that tone when focusing on a character whose defining moments were spousal abuse and accidentally creating robot Hitler.
By settling on Scott Lang as the film's primary hero, Wright has freed himself from having to deal with these elements; instead, the story can focus on the joy of Ant-Man's abilities rather than the past sins of a broken man. "Ant-Man" has the potential to put the fun back into a concept weighed down by decades of melodrama, a formula that can mean huge things for the potential franchise.