– by Brendan Hughes

It seems that Ant-Man and the Wasp is unavoidable following the film’s release a couple weekends ago, but here is yet another article. Many of us at LRM believe the film was middle of the road when it comes to Marvel film, which is a statement of the ability of the studio. In my view, that is a fair statement, with the film having a bit of good and a bit of bad. One of the obviously bad parts, to me at least, was the script and how many moments seemed forced in order to drive the plot along. One of these plot pushers was Hannah John-Kamen’s character Ghost who was the main antagonist through the film. Lang’s cyber gifted friend, Kurt, related the villain to Baba Yaga a witch from Russian folklore. By taking a common monster that travels through cultural barriers like the boogeyman and adding a Russian connection, it certainly adds a level of cringe. However, Ghost is almost assuredly not Baba Yaga or anywhere close for that matter.

One of the main problems of Ant-Man and the Wasp was that they paired two D-list villains with Ghost and Sonny Burch. While Bob Layton created Ghost as a villain for Iron Man he evolved into a larger character even making the Thunderbolts. However, Ghost has never really evolved more than being a second villain to a bigger opponent as seen in the Iron Man animated series. Having Ghost as a standalone villain instead of simply being a hired hand for the larger villain in the third installment of the Ant-Man series spelled troubles before the release. While Ghost’s backstory is tragic it seemed a bit rushed and just for the sake of trying to add an emotional anchor to the character. Sure, Ghost was dying, but it was really hard to be sympathetic, as she was hellbent on survival at the risk of injuring those around her. The shallowness of the villains left the appearance that they were there for the sake of pushing the plot rather than being an integral part of the film. Though the writing team, led by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, changed the backstory, it was always the abilities of Ghost that made the character.

Understandably the name Baba Yaga will be completely foreign to anyone who isn’t Russian/Slavic, or a Don Bluth superfan, so many may not understand that reference. While references to the boogeyman seemed accurate when referring to Ghost due to her ability to phase Kurt’s Baba Yaga analogy, while humorous, seemed a bit off. This joke was a callback to the original film when Lang was stealing the Ant-Man suit and Kurt exclaimed witchcraft when seeing the suit’s powers. As all figures in folklore characters have many iterations with Baba Yaga being no different. She can be a good or evil force for those that cross her path but at her core, she is a forest witch with a penchant for mischief.  The main difference between the two is that Baba Yaga is a supernatural monster known for kidnapping and threating to eat children while Ghost has never appeared that menacing in Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Baba Yaga as depicted by Ivan Bilibin.

If you are familiar with Hannah John-Kamen’s work, like SyFy’s Killjoys, you are aware that she is a talented actress. Throughout Ant-Man and the Wasp John-Kamen’s acting abilities elevated the character but appeared to have a cap which is likely due to the writing. It is not the first time that a good actor was placed with a role that was poorly-written as it happens frequently in Hollywood. John-Kamen managed to clearly portray that the character’s desperation for survival which was pretty much the entire point of Ghost in the film. Despite not the best showing having Hannah John-Kamen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe elevates the roster currently employed by the studio.

Any villain not named Doom or Osborn would have had a tough time trying to follow Brolin’s Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. However, the trend of stronger villains in the MCU may have led to this disappointment with Keaton’s Vulture and Jordan’s Killmonger elevating the bar of accepted antagonists. In an interview Birth.Movies.Death had with Kevin Feige the Marvel Studios head mentioned that Ant-Man and the Wasp decided to go with a new route for the character. “This was not the story of defeating a villain and everybody cheering. This is a different kind of villain story.” After Thanos, it is not surprising that Marvel wanted to go with a different route to give the villain a chance to hold their own in the league of Marvel villains. This exploratory type of trial has been seen before in the MCU with Zemo’s role in Captain American: Civil War, which this film was critically attached to, as he pitted hero against hero. Clearly, Ghost will not be that type of character as she has completely different motives which she accomplished with the help of the original Wasp.

While it was a disappointing debut for Hannah John-Kamen’s character, the fact that she is still alive and referenced in the end credits leaves room for growth. It appears that Ghost will be given more screen time as Feige also stated in the aforementioned article that this will not be her last appearance—saving her from the Leader’s treatment.  “So, with Ghost, it is, step one: complete. As for step two, we’ll see where we go with that.” Not fading in existence is the biggest hope for the character’s future as giving more screen time to a talented actress will eventually improve Ghost. While the fact still stands that Ghost provided weak support for pushing the plot seeing the evolution of the character will be intriguing. Given Ghost’s Thunderbolts connection the reinvention of the long-running villain may point out that Marvel is considering that a film for one of their next phases.

While Ant-Man and the Wasp definitely had good moments paring two low tier Marvel villains forcibly dragged the plot along. Ghost tried to connect with the audience with a traumatic backstory, but her lack of depth made her a weak villain. With Feige openly commenting that Hannah John-Kamen will be in consideration for future involvement with Marvel Studios it may lead to the growth of the character. With a talented actress like John-Kamen Ghost can overcome future struggles with the character as she likely transitions to an antihero type role. The changes with Ghost may lead to the future of a Thunderbolts film in the upcoming phases of Marvel. Ghost is many things in her initial debut but Baba Yaga she is not.

Let us know your thoughts. When do you think Ghost will appear next?

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