NOCs of the Roundtable: This Is Ant-Man

For fans that follow superhero movie casting news, the role of Ant-Man — in Edgar Wright’s 2015 entrant into the Marvel Cinematic Universe — has been a source of speculation for years now. Interestingly enough, though it looks like Ant-Man will be heading up Phase 3 of the MCU, it was actually one of the first independently financed films greenlit and announced by the newly christened Marvel Studios (along with other obscure art films like Captain American and Iron Man) and Wright was hired to direct all the way back in 2006. Marvel teasing an Ant-Man film has been a staple of  Comic-Con ever since.

So, it’s been a pretty long ride to get to today’s news that Apatow-alum Paul Rudd (This is 40, Anchorman) is in talks to play the title role.I’m a big Paul Rudd fan so this could be pretty exciting. In fact, I must concur with my man Josh Wigler:

Picture Downey’s Stark, Ruffalo’s Banner and Rudd’s Pym hanging out at a S.H.I.E.L.D. lab, studying Infinity Gems and scarfing down shawarma. If that visual doesn’t get you going, then we can’t be friends.

Of course, not all the Nerds shared my sentiments. To the Roundtable!

JENN: Not a follower of Ant-Man, can’t judge the casting. All I know about him is that he eventually becomes a domestic abuser. So I confess: the first thing I asked myself was whether or not I could convincingly see him exploring issues of domestic violence on-screen with seriousness.

JAMES: Marvel’s not going anywhere near the Ant-Man/Wasp domestic violence anytime soon. You don’t hire America’s blandest comedic actor to play Chris Brown.

JENN: Paul Rudd isn’t America’s blandest comedic actor. There are plenty of comedians who are blander.

JAMES: If you say so. I’m just saying that Rudd won’t harm his “quirky, frazzled, mild-mannered, regular guy” schtick by beating up a woman on-camera. Hiring him almost guarantees that the more interesting storyline won’t be filmed.

JENN: Well, I agree — he won’t jeopardize his mild-mannered regular guy image. But, that’s too bad because I would be hugely impressed if Marvel decided to grapple with the domestic violence storyline. I’d rethink ALL of my current Marvel hate. But, I am surprised. I was never under the impression that Ant-Man was a comedic character at all. And Rudd has pretty much done nothing but comedy to-date.

He does have great comedic timing though. In that sense, Rudd works well in the way that Keith says: guys hanging out together. He plus the rest of the Anchorman crew had an organic energy that perhaps Marvel wants to somewhat adopt?

JON: Have you ever read Irredeemable Ant-Man by Kirkman? That was pretty funny. I wish with this pick meant they were doing that version.

JENN: Nope. My introduction to the whole Avengers franchise was with The Ultimates. I actually spent a few months not knowing Ant-Man = Giant-Man. So, like I said, I don’t know enough about Ant-Man to really judge the pick. My entire exposure was with that domestic violence story, which was actually very good.

WILLIAM: I find Pym such an unlikable character so I also wanted them to go with Eric O’Grady from Irredeemable Ant-Man. I loved that short-lived series.

JENN:So then, fellow Nerds, I guess my question is this: if Ant-Man is so unlikable, why are they making a movie about him? Is he somehow essential to the Avengers in a way that I’m not aware? Couldn’t the cinematic Avengers team truck along without this guy, or at least bring in other characters instead?

JON: One of his main connections would’ve been as the creator of Ultron, but it looks like they are having Tony do that. So who knows?

WILLIAM: I think Ultron is actually just as if not more — important as the domestic violence, especially when you factor in that the domestic violence was a mistake in the first place. It was never scripted, but it was a choice made by the artist. And it stuck. So, it’s not like he had a history of it.

There was that incident. Ultimates made it more deliberate, which is what a lot of people use to back up anti-Pym stances, but Marvel never intended for him to be a “wife beater.” Sadly, with all the power to do so, they never retconned it. They could’ve done it during Secret Invasion, but decided against it. So, it’s the elephant in the room because it was never supposed to happen, and then it was never really “dealt” with either.

JENN: My ongoing theory about the Cinematic Universe thing from Disney/Marvel is the desire to sell toys. Introducing Ant-Man means introducing a new toy.

JON: If they only cared about selling toys, why would they introduce GIRL CHARACTERS at all, huh?!

JAMES: Including Ant-Man allows for more of the “smart White guys doing smart science” stuff that Marvel loves to sell, like an updated October Sky with superpowers. But the Ultimates comic could handle including a minor plotline on Pym’s rage and domestic violence. Nothing we’ve seen from the Marvel Cinematic Universe suggests that the studio execs are interested in anything outside of easy-to-define heroes and villains, white hats and black hats.

WILLIAM: Pym is unlikable, though the Ant-Man concept has a lot of potential. Just think of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids with modern day special effects. That’s basically what it’ll be.

JAMES: At some point, you have to ask: why Ant-Man? With all the “tortured genius in a world that does not respect his brilliance” background that Banner and Stark bring to the MCU, one wonders how things improve with another White male inventor with bad social graces. Especially if Marvel refuses to pull the trigger on the domestic violence, which is just about the only interesting event in Hank Pym’s story.

JENN:By the way, no one should ever listen to me about live-action casting of comic book movies. I thought Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, and Anne Hathaway were all going to be terrible choices, and I totally loved the notion of Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan. So, y’know, I have an 0 for 4 batting average on this.

Even Ryan Reynolds doesn't think he'd make a good Green Lantern.
Even Ryan Reynolds doesn’t think he’d make a good Green Lantern.