How Ant-Man and the Wasp Changed How Superhero Movies Are Structured

Words by Marcel Mellor Hutchings

Ant-Man and the Wasp was released on 6 July this year. It is remarkable as it highlights the continuation of some cultural changes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The main difference this sequel had on Ant-Man (2015) was an intricately different plot and much better representation of female roles.

As with many films in Hollywood, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has been male-dominated for a very long time. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) was the first movie to include a female lead in form of Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne/The Wasp. It is not female led as that honour will go to Brie Larson in the upcoming Captain Marvel (2019). However, Lilly was given equal billing alongside Paul Rudd, who plays Scott Lang/Ant-Man. It’s a rare feat for a woman to be given equal top billing with her male co-star, not just in Marvel movies, but in general. The billing truly was equal as both characters were given the same percentage of space they would take up on the poster and even in the title. But what about the story?

The plot of the first Ant Man film was a superhero heist film. Ant-Man and the Wasp, however, is more of an action film. One of the key differences between the plots is that the sequel does not have a single linear plot. It branches out as various elements weave in and out of each other only fully converging at the end of the movie. The film features the main cast of the original film, but also introduces some new characters such as Laurence Fishburne’s Dr Bill Foster, Walton Goggins’ Sonny Birth, Hannah John-Kamen as Ava Starr/Ghost, and Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet Van Dyne/The Wasp (The Original Wasp). Sonny Burch, Dr Bill Foster and Ava Starr/Ghost act as the villains. All of them have wildly different motives – which is also one thing this film does differently than previous Marvel instalments.

Ant Man and the Wasp features three types of villains. Dr Foster serves as the scientific counterpart wanting revenge against Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym. He is also helping John-Kamen’s Ava Starr/Ghost so she can prevent her own molecular destabilisation, thus her motives serve a pure survival instinct. Goggins’ Sonny Burch is probably the most evil of the three villains, although it isn’t much of a competition and his motives are purely selfish.

As supervillains go, Ghost is the least problematic Marvel has to offer. The audience understands why she chooses the path that she does and sees where it takes her. Portraying the antagonist with motives that are relatable is different in terms of how Marvel traditionally has told stories and constructed villains. Another example of this recent development can also be seen in Michael B Jordan’s Eric Killmonger in Black Panther (2018). Killmonger motives have much to do with his upbringing in poverty and his experience of racial inequalities. Many would agree with his goals – even if they disagree on the methods he uses to get there.


But it’s not just the villains that are portrayed in a relatable manner. Scott Lang/Ant-Man is not your traditional superhero personality. He is an ex-con with a daughter and a degree in electrical engineering. He aspires to be the best father – and the fact that he chose two years of house arrest so he could still spend time with his daughter says something about him. One part of the plot is Scott going out on his hero escapades as Ant Man, despite technically being unable to do so by federal law. I won’t say how he evades his house arrest but it is inventive to say the least. Scott has to balance his superhero life with his regular life and this makes him more relatable as a character. He is the hero anyone could be.

Ant-Man and the Wasp was a box office hit, making $617 million so far and scoring 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. This is an improvement on the previous film, which was not a bad film in any regards. Ant-Man made $519 million at the box office and scored 82% on Rotten Tomatoes. It truly is an enjoyable film worth watching.

So what’s next for Marvel?

Marvel has already released Avengers: Infinity War (2018), which features intertwining and converging storylines and was hugely successful in all regards. In terms of female representation, Marvel is releasing the female-led Captain Marvel next year as well as the currently unnamed Avengers 4, which would follow a similar plot layout as the previous film.

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