The Fallibility of Fathers in the Superhero Genre

Why Ant-Man & The Wasp and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 are delving into similar territory

Reconnecting with parents is a theme that laid the foundations for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 to thrive off, and it’s again being explored in another Marvel sequel, this time thanks to Peyton Reed in Ant-Man and The Wasp, as the latter, reprised by Evangeline Lily, is searching for her long-last mother, played by Michelle Pfeiffer. What is it that could trigger two movies from the same universe to follow such a similar narrative path? To expand upon the notion of parentage, and the fallibility of those who spawned us. Is it an age thing? The writers and directors of these movies are getting older, and wiser, and perhaps appreciating that their parents are just like we are; flawed, imperfect people who make mistakes, and, much like ourselves, are pretty much winging it. We grow up putting our parents on a pedestal, we believe they could capture the moon for us if we asked nicely enough. Then we reach an age where we’re having children ourselves, we’re going to mortgage meetings with the bank, and we’re the ones fixing holes in the roof. And we haven’t the foggiest idea what we’re doing, which gets us thinking; neither did they.

The Wasp, Ant-Man and Hank Pym

In Guardians 2, this theme is explored as Starlord (Chris Pratt) finally spends time with his father Ego, played by Kurt Russell. He had this image of what his father would be, only to feel so disappointed by the reality. In the Ant-Man franchise, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is one of the darkest characters within it, despite being one of the so-called good guys. He’s got a murky, elusive past and we learn more of his shady history in this sequel through the arrival of old friend Bill Foster, played by Laurence Fishburne. Hank is by no means an emblem of triumphant parenting, but in turn, this makes him a far more nuanced, authentic character.


Kurt Russel and Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The relationship between fathers and their daughters is rife within this movie, as Reed explained to movie site HeyUGuys; “It’s interesting, it’s inherently what the Ant-Man movies are about,” he said. “It’s a generational story and the title really reflects two generations of Ant-Mans and Wasps, and I also like that its one of the few Marvel movies where there’s a mentor figure with Hank Pym. He’s a bit of an unreliable mentor in some ways, he’s got some issues which I like about him. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence between our movie and Guardians 2, but they do both deal with father figures and their kids, and for me in this movie it was always baked in from the very beginning, whether it’s Hank and Hope or Scott and Cassie or even metaphorically with Bill Foster and Ava”.

Evangeline Lily and Michael Dougals in Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Parenthood is explored widely within the superhero genre too, perhaps allowing the audience a strand of relatability within a world that is otherwise so far removed from our own. In Superman V Batman, it was used, albeit comically, in a pivotal scene whereby the eponymous protagonists discuss their mother’s name Martha. This again enforces this sentiment of how the women, and the maternal influences are in some part, more reliable and integral to the development of the characters at hand. This is also exercised in Spider-Man, as Peter Parker is raised, single-handedly by Auntie May, while in the same franchise again we explore a flawed father-son dynamic between Norman and Harry Osborn.

Starlord and Ego and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

It’s fascinating to see these themes imbued into the narratives, and see how much our heroes need that motherly comfort, while conversely, the father figures are somewhat more unreliable. It’s intriguing territory, and what helps this genre flourish, for without that strand of humanity there’s so little to cling on to – and what better theme to get us all together than that of parentage, something so many of us can adhere to, and the older we get, we see it from both sides too, giving us a new perspective on life; which cinema has such a duty to reflect.

Ant-Man & The Wasp is released on August 2nd.

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