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Article – How Woo Wooed the Marvel Fans: Jimmy Woo is Ant-Man and the Wasp’s Breakout Character


Posted July 8, 2018 by

How Woo Wooed the Marvel Fans

Superhero films have one major positive going for them – larger-than-life protagonists who make audiences feel all the emotions. But, those superheroes we love so much wouldn’t amount to much if not for the supporting characters around them.

I’m not just talking about the side-kicks and the villains. No, I’m talking about the little guy; the one who appears in a handful of scenes (or perhaps just one scene) and adds a little texture to the film without ever making a dent in the grander scheme of things. Think the tour guide at the Washington Monument in Spider-Man: Homecoming; Dopinder the taxi driver in Deadpool; Korg in Thor: Ragnarok. These characters don’t have a massive impact on the plot but they are incredibly fun to watch and make the superhero’s world much more accessible.

How Woo Wooed the Marvel Fans

Characters like Dopinder and Korg are real-world inclusions in fantastical stories; the average movie-goer is more likely to see themselves in people like these guys, than in regenerating Deadpool and God of Thunder, Thor. These characters’ aspirations are similar to ours – they want to be heroes (just like we do!) but then not enough people turn up to their revolution because they didn’t print enough flyers (we’ve all been there). They are the ones who make us think: “I feel you, pal”.

2015’s Ant-Man was not only a film that cemented comedian Paul Rudd as a bonafide superhero (who would’ve thought it?), it also gave the world Luis, protagonist Scott Lang’s ex-con friend and best storyteller ever, played with hilarious comic timing by Michael Peña. Peña undoubtedly stole the show and, when trailers for Ant-Man and the Wasp were released, fans around the world breathed a sigh of relief that Luis was confirmed to return.

With the film now in theatres, we can confirm that Luis is once again on form in the sequel but surprisingly, he is not the only tertiary character to keep fans entertained this time around. No, that honour goes to FBI Special Agent Jimmy Woo, played by Randall Park, and we are definitely here for it.

If there is one thing that is clear from Ant-Man’s appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is that law enforcement has not been good to Scott Lang. He has spent his fair share of time behind bars (albeit for burglary, which is, you know, a crime) but, even when he did get out, he ended up in a maximum security underwater prison for helping the most heroic of all heroes – Captain America. It hardly seems fair, but such is Lang’s life.

Now, two years later, Lang finds himself under house arrest for his sojourn with Team Cap in Captain America: Civil War. And, the man in charge of keeping Lang locked up? Agent Jimmy Woo.

Woo is a man who takes his job seriously – he is the first through the door whenever Lang trips his alarm (or even when he doesn’t). He takes every opportunity to lecture Lang on what he’s done wrong while managing to maintain his composure as Lang’s ex, Maggie (Judy Greer), berates him for ‘harassing’ Lang.

Despite the pressures of his job, Woo isn’t afraid of showing his softer side, when the occasion calls for it. When Lang’s daughter, Cassie, who has been enjoying her father’s magic tricks up until then, asks Woo why he keeps ‘bothering’ her father, he goes on to explain, in that adult-speaking-to-a-child tone of voice we all know so well, how Scott has a criminal record but decided to run off to Germany nonetheless to violate the Sokovia Accords by joining fellow Accord-defector Captain America. Even Lang is impressed by Woo’s way with children. No wonder he volunteers as a youth pastor! #sarcasm

But, before taking his reluctant leave of Lang, Woo quietly asks him for tips on performing magic, so taken is he with Lang’s disappearing card tricks. Sadly, Lang, like every other magician before him, refuses to divulge his secrets.

This opening scene with Woo and Lang sets the tone for the character: a serious man who is also humanly fallible. His interactions with Lang are surprisingly intimate which, though played for laughs, displays a deeper understanding of human personalities than the writers will likely be given credit for. Woo has been in charge of keeping Lang in check for two years; no wonder the two seem to know each other so well. What really sells it is actor Randall Park’s ability to showcase the character’s genuine interest in all things Lang.

Antman and the waspWhereas Ant-Man’s Luis was pure comic relief, Woo is a many-layered character. He is not just the FBI man, despite his determination to catch Lang crossing his perimeter. Woo’s reaction to Lang performing magic is genuine; he really is excited by what he has seen and is desperate to learn Lang’s magical secrets. To reiterate this, in a later scene, we see Woo perusing the same website Lang has been using to learn magic. Woo even tries to replicate Lang’s card trick, without much success.

Near the end of the film, after repeated failed attempts to catch Lang breaking his house arrest, Woo finally frees Lang, making a throwaway comment about seeing the now ex-con again. Whether Lang purposefully misjudges the comment or actually misunderstands it is unclear but he asks why Woo thinks they will see each other again. Woo, ever the consummate professional, insists that Lang will be caught for breaking the law (as very often happens with former prisoners, they can become repeat offenders) but Lang believes Woo meant something more personal, like a dinner. Woo is caught by surprise and tries to deflect before giving in and asking Lang to dinner anyway. Lang shrugs the invitation off.

This is another surprising moment and, ignoring the unintentional (or intentional?) homoeroticism of the exchange, it shows that Woo’s bravado might just be an act. He really does have a softer side (that does not extend to communicating with children) which makes him want to give Lang a chance, and even extend their professional relationship to friendship, or more. Of course, such a relationship would not work because of the imbalance of power between the pair but it is interesting that a throwaway character like this has been given so much personality to work with at all.

Again, Park’s earnestness and fluid performance make the character that much more believable. It certainly helps that, despite the character being displayed for laughs, Park does not play him as such. In the world of the film, Woo is not a funny man, and that is why it works.

Characters like Woo and Deadpool’s Dopinder are a reminder of how rich the art of storytelling can be. By allowing the focus of the film to linger on non-lead characters, writers manage to create a realistic world for audiences. After all, we do not have Captain Americas, Ant-Men or Wasps in our world; that’s why we go to the movies. We do, however, have lots of people like Woo, Luis, the tour guide and Dopinder. By including such characters, film-makers can more easily blend the line between real and fictional worlds thus allowing audiences to immerse themselves more completely into these stories. Perhaps Hollywood should try and take a page out of Ant-Man’s book and start looking to its supporting characters to create a diverse and realistic world.


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Louis Skye
Freelance Contributor

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