It’s no longer a mystery who’s donning the red and blue to play Marvel’s Ant-Man on film. It’s Paul Rudd, a choice consistent with Marvel’s Midas-touch casting ability. He’s witty and charming, looks appropriately superheroic, and will probably banter very well with the existing Avengers. Can I say I called this one? Because I totally did (back in May of 2012).
That still leaves a huge question -- which Ant-Man is Paul Rudd playing? Historically, there are three significant alter egos to the character, and director Edgar Wright has confirmed that early drafts of the Ant-Man screenplay focused on two of those Ant-Men. All we know then is that Paul Rudd is not playing Eric O’Grady, the loutish S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who steals the Ant-Man technology and uses it to spy on women while they shower (as seen in the short-lived Irredeemable Ant-Man series). That leaves Scott Lang and the original Ant-Man, scientist Hank Pym.
Hank Pym is the most recognizable Ant-Man and the one that has the most direct comic book ties with Ultron, the major villain in the upcoming Avengers sequel. However, Joss Whedon has said that they’re working Ultron into the Marvel cinematic universe without Pym’s involvement. Whedon elaborates, “In the origin story, there was Hank Pym, so a lot of people assumed he was gonna be in the mix, but he’s not. Because we’re basically taking the things from the comics for the movies that we need and can use. A lot of stuff has to fall by the wayside... [Ultron’s] origin comes more directly from the Avengers we already know about.”
Pym, a favorite of Marvel figurehead Stan Lee, first appeared in Tales to Astonish #27 (1962, by Lee and Jack Kirby) without his Ant-Man persona, in a quickie tale of a scientist who uses a shrink ray on himself. The character was resurrected as a superhero shortly after that debut, complete with his bulbous silver helmet that he uses to control and communicate with ants. Pym has almost always been romantically linked to Janet Van Dyne, aka the Wasp, a dedicated fashionista and a mighty Avenger in her own right. Pym’s most notorious storylines as a Marvel superhero revolve around his creation of the ever-evolving android Ultron and the nervous breakdown he suffered under his later “Yellowjacket” persona. In the comics, Pym appears as the sole human in Marvel’s Avengers A.I., leading a group of robotic Avengers, but without his Ant-Man identity.
Scott Lang is Marvel’s current Ant-Man and can be seen watching over the Future Foundation, Reed RIchards’ school for gifted children, in Marvel’s unusual FF comic. Lang made his debut in 1979’s Avengers #181 as a petty thief who steals Pym’s technology to save the life of his dying daughter. Pym viewed Lang’s actions as misguided but altruistic, and allowed Lang the opportunity to further prove himself as a hero by letting him adopt the Ant-Man persona in full.
The most curious thing about the Ant-Man movie, if they are keeping both Pym and Lang, is why? Isn’t one Ant-Man origin film enough? Why include Scott Lang at all? Truth is, I like both characters almost equally (one of the first comics I ever read was a Lang Ant-Man story in Marvel Premiere #47), but have trouble seeing how the introduction of two heroes with the same persona benefits the story. Admittedly, I know nothing of the story, so I just have to wait and see. I’m sure Marvel will make an announcement soon as to which Ant-Man Paul Rudd is playing, and if there’s still casting left to do for the other Ant-Man, whether that’s Pym or Lang.
And I’ve got a while to wait. Ant-Man opens July 31, 2015; there are 585 days until release.