Good news everyone!
Disney/Marvel is about to shatter its glass ceiling. Disney/Marvel’s first superhero movie with a female character in the title, “Ant Man and the Wasp”, is scheduled for release on July 6th, 2018. Marvel hasn’t made a standalone female hero movie since their purchase by Disney, and the only one they have ever made was before the merger, the 2005 flop, “Elektra”. That movie was universally panned, partially because it disregarded the source material in favor of poorly choreographed action scenes. Thankfully, feminist fans have nothing to fear, as Ant-Man and the Wasp will feature the same director as the popular original Ant-Man, Peyton Reed. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lily will also resume their roles as Scott Lane (Ant-Man) and Hope Van Dyne (Wasp). Their chemistry in the first Ant-Man helped contribute to the film’s success, but seeing Lily don the Wasp outfit gives a whole different type of hope to Marvel fans.
The toy controversy
Disney’s purchase of Marvel studios has so far been successful, with none of the critical flops that seem to be plaguing DC’s live action iterations. However, Disney’s marketing of female characters has left something to be desired. Disney’s faults in the Star Wars marketing spawned the “Where’s Rey?” campaign, an outcry from fans in response to the absence of the film’s main character from the licensed toys and ads. Hasbro claimed that there was no demand for the character’s inclusion, because their market was primarily young boys. The fans disagreed, and Hasbro responded by making more toys featuring the main character in all her lightsaber wielding glory. The toys featuring Rey have actually improved sales, and served as proof of concept for female inclusion. Ant-Man and the Wasp may partially owe its existence to the “Where’s Rey?” campaign, because it proved that not only do fans want toys of female heroes, but filling that demand will grow the market.
Wonder Woman paves the way
The positive reception of Wonder Woman changed the game for superhero movies. Until that point, there had never been a successful standalone female superhero movie. Now that Wonder Woman has grossed 814 million worldwide, Disney/Marvel is jumping onto the girl power train. Ant-Man and the Wasp is the first in what will hopefully be a long line of female leads, but its success may affect future titles. Captain Marvel is basically the Marvel equivalent of Wonder Woman, and will be looking closely at the reception of Ant-Man and the Wasp. In a way, Ant-Man and the Wasp is Disney/Marvel testing the waters. By bringing out the characters as equals, the production team is putting pressure on companies like Hasbro to defy their boy aisle/girl aisle marketing history. The official announcement trailer showed two tiny production chairs, “Ant-Man” on one and “Wasp” on the other. This kind of equality is an important step in the right direction for the studio. They also seem to be improving on Wonder Woman’s mistakes. One of the biggest complaints of Wonder Woman was the impractical, intentionally sexy armor that Diana wears to battle. While the live action iteration of Wonder Woman was better than some of Diana’s previous comic appearances, it still undermined the serious tone of the movie. The costume for the Wasp isn’t making the same mistake. Fans freaked out when the first pictures of the outfit were released, praising its similarity to the Ant-Man outfit in color and style.
The Disney Marvel Dynamic
While Disney owns Marvel studios, they do not own all the Marvel characters. The X-men and Spiderman franchises are currently the intellectual property of Sony, meaning that Disney needs their approval in order to use the characters. This becomes incredibly important when thinking about future female heroes, as Sony holds the rights for many important characters in the Marvel cinematic universe, or MCU. Black Cat and Silver Sable, popular Spiderman characters, have their own joint movie which Sony has slated for 2019. There’s also a Jean Grey movie coming out that year, set to tell the story of the Dark Phoenix, one of the most powerful characters in Marvel comics. While these upcoming titles are not being produced by Disney, (as of this writing) they are still featuring Marvel characters. This means that the production teams from these upcoming movies will be taking notes from Ant-Man and the Wasp. Black Cat is a famously sexualized character, but we may see a tamer version of her if audiences embrace the respectful portrayal of intelligent heroines like the Wasp. Female heroes aren’t just trailblazing for toy aisles to become more diverse, after all. The goal is for characters that audiences can relate to, and since half of all audiences are women, it would be smart for Sony to follow Wasp’s lead.
Damsels without Distress
In the first Ant-Man, Evangeline’s character Hope literally trained Scott Lane to fight and use the Ant-Man suit. Fear for her safety kept Frank Pym from allowing her to don the suit herself, much to the frustration of Hope and fans. The larger problem of female heroes being kept out of the spotlight is one that has plagued modern movies. Even new sci-fi releases like “Valerian: City of a thousand planets” suffer from the damsel in distress trope, removing agency from strong female characters in ways that create plot holes and ruin immersion. For all Wonder Woman’s pioneering, she still needed Steve Trevor to act as her guide. In a refreshing twist, the roles in Ant-Man are reversed, Hope was Scott’s mentor, and while he carries the Ant-Man title, Hope was the driving force for much of the plot, and her character’s growth mirrors that of women heroes everywhere; stepping out of the sidekick role and into heroes of their own right. Her journey in the movie addressed the discrimination that has permeated comics and mainstream movies alike, transfers of agency and power from women to men, for no reason other than outdated gender norms. At the end of original Ant-Man Hope finally gets the recognition she deserves, and her final line in the movie, echoes the sentiment of audiences everywhere… “It’s about damn time.”
Look for Ant-Man and the Wasp to hit theaters and IMAX on July 6th, 2018.