So I wanted to write about the Ant-Man movie because that’s what I do. I watch comic book movies, and then I squee about them, and then I blog about them. But the thing is, I don’t really have any strong feelings about Ant-Man. Maybe that’s just because I don’t have any strong feelings about Ant-Man himself.
The premise of the film is pretty standard comic book stuff – a scientist creates a technology which has the potential to change the world; he refuses to patent it because he’s sure it will be used for evil; then someone manages to recreate it and intends to sell it to the highest bidder.
I like Ant-Man because it stays true to the comic book origins of the Avengers as a team, adding depth to SHIELD’s background while not altering the fabric of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it stands. By this, of course, I mean that Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne are in this universe crucial to the development of SHIELD, but by the present day, Hank Pym is an old man whose days of death-defying acts of heroism are beyond him.
Enter Scott Lang, the hero of this story and the man who takes up the Ant-Man mantle after Hank Pym. his story arc is very much of the redemption variety – he’s just gotten out of prison for theft, and is desperately trying to reintegrate into society so that he can pick up his relationship with his daughter, who is still young enough that she totally hero-worships her daddy.
I feel like Ant-Man can pretty much be summed up in this exchange:
Hank: I believe that everyone deserves a shot at redemption. Do you?
Scott: Absolutely. My days of breaking into places and stealing stuff are over. What do you want me to do?
Hank: I want you to break into a place and steal some stuff.
I particularly like the part where, after Hank Pym outlines the terrible consequences if their plan to steal the Pym Particles back, Scott’s immediate reaction is, “I think we should call the Avengers.” Good plan, Scotty. Too bad they’re too high-profile (or whatever).
I feel like every time Marvel debuts a new superhero, they ask us to have faith in them all over again. Here’s this actor, they say, you may have seen him before. He’s not super famous, but we think he’ll be the perfect Scott Lang. Trust us, they say. Okay, we say – I mean, we know by now that the teams working on these movies have as much love for the comics as we do. I wasn’t sure about Paul Rudd, hadn’t really seen him in anything, I don’t think, but I was totally sold by the end.
When I first walked out of the theatre, I wasn’t sure what I thought – Ant-Man wasn’t slapstick like Iron Man; it wasn’t earnest like Captain America: the First Avenger. Sure, the stakes were global-devastation huge, but that wasn’t why Scott Lang accepted the Ant-Man mantle. He didn’t feel a responsibility for the world, he felt a responsibility to pick his life up and be a good influence for his daughter. The fact that Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne (van Dyne? Van Dyne? help!) don’t have a great relationship, giving Hank Pym an element of genuine empathy with Scott Lang, was a great emotional thread that ran throughout the whole film, shrinking the scale to something more relatable than “Oh no, the world might end!”
I’m not sure how to wrap up this post. I enjoyed watching Ant-Man, but I didn’t walk out of the theatre gushing about it. Now every time I think about it, I like it even more. The feel of it is, immediately, quite different from other Marvel movies, but now that I’ve had time to adjust to it, I feel like that’s a strength rather than a weakness. I mean, we’re in Phase 3 now. We’ve been through enough in the MCU that we don’t need everything to be as grand as Phase 1 was.