A lot of kafuffle was raised yesterday about Michael Douglas being cast as Hank Pym in the Ant-Man movie. First off, we’re not sure why there is kafuffle anyway because come on, it’s Ant-Man for crissake, it’s not like we’re recasting Wolverine or anybody important, it’s just Ant-Man, whose superhero name is a punchline and who in comics is so famous for being unable to find a consistently successful identity which fans like that it has, in fact, become the character’s thing to switch names every so often.
But basically the nature of the kafuffle was to say that Michael Douglas in real life is much older than Hank Pym is in the comics. Which: again, it’s Hank Pym. I know there are people out there who care greatly about Hank Pym, but the movies make concessions about character biographies all the time – that’s part and parcel of adaptation. But the question then becomes: what do you really lose by having Hank Pym be older? Because I’m not sure what the answer to that is, exactly.
Can Older Hank Pym still go on superhero adventures? I would suggest that in a world where Christopher Lee can have lightsaber battles then its reasonable for Hank Pym to put on his labcoat and have a bunch of shrink-down weapons in his pockets and be Doctor Pym, or if you want to go for laughs he can even put on a costume. Can Older Hank Pym still have a relationship with Janet Van Dyne? It’d be weird, but sure. (Remember that originally in the comics Hank was twice as old as Janet was until they retconned that away.) Do we particularly lose anything if Scott Lang dates Janet Van Dyne instead of Hank?
Is this about the casting of Douglas specifically, as opposed to a generic older respected actor? Because, as William Goldman pointed out a long time ago, Douglas specializes in playing the modern, flawed American man – and depending on your view of Hank Pym this either makes Douglas perfect for the job or is conceding that Hank Pym is a terrible wifebeater.
And let’s be honest: the domestic abuse aspect of Hank Pym is a third rail, probably the reason that Paul Rudd is playing Scott Lang instead of Pym. Hank Pym fans can talk about mind control and mental illness all they like but the truth about Hank Pym is that the character will always carry that baggage, and even if a Hank Pym movie never had him engaging in domestic abuse people would still wonder when it was coming, just as people wonder if and when the “Tony Stark is an alcoholic” coin will drop in the RDJ movies (answer: who knows if it even will).
I don’t have definitive answers for any of these questions, honestly. But they’re all there, lurking, and the internet kafuffle yesterday serves to remind us of that.