Marvel’s Ant-Man: You Will Believe a Man Can be Very Tiny
Marvel’s newest and smallest hero hits screen this week in Ant-Man. Warning: light spoilers ahead!
If you don’t know Ant-Man from the comics, here’s a quick bit of history. Hank Pym/Ant-Man was a founding member of the Avengers when they first formed to battle Loki in Avengers #1, in 1963. He also created the villainous robot Ultron. Despite his importance in the comics, though, the new film marks Ant-Man’s first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Attempts to bring Ant-Man to the big screen have stalled out repeatedly since at least the 1980s when Stan Lee pitched the idea of a film to New World Entertainment, who felt the film would be too much like Disney’s then-upcoming Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
Development on the new film started in 2006, before the original Iron Man movie had even been released, with Edgar Wright hired to direct. Marvel fans were understandably concerned when Wright left the project late in the pre-production phase leaving Marvel scrambling to find a replacement, with Peyton Reed taking over as director relatively late in the game. Ongoing buzz from critics and fans alike has been plagued by the question of whether Ant-Man would be Marvel’s first big cinematic misstep (though plenty of people asked the same about last summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and that worked out fine).
Instead of going with Hank Pym in the titular role, our affable hero this time around is Scott Lang, played by Paul Rudd. A convicted thief freshly out of prison, Lang is unique among the ranks of Marvel’s on-screen heroes, joining scientists (Iron Man, Hulk), soldiers (Captain America, War Machine, Falcon), and an increasingly diverse array of gods and aliens (Thor, Groot); his closest analog may be Star-Lord (Guardians of the Galaxy). Something of a Robin Hood figure, we learn that Lang’s crimes were committed for altruistic reasons, and he also has a family and vows to stay on the right side of the law now that he is a free man. Quickly finding the outside world none too accepting of a released felon, though, Lang agrees to take part in a low-risk burglary job with his former prison buddy (Michael Peña), setting off the events of the film.
Michael Douglas is perfectly cast as Hank Pym, the embittered creator of the Ant-Man technology some 40 years earlier. The film opens with a flashback to 1989 with Pym lecturing S.H.I.E.L.D. officials about the greater threat the Pym Particle tech could create if it were to fall into the wrong hands. We’re treated to flashbacks of Pym in action as the original Ant-Man, which help round out his story and establish the Ant-Man tech within the Marvel Cinematic Universe while explaining why it hasn’t been seen on-screen before. The flashback scenes of Pym as Ant-Man leave the viewer wanting to see more of his days in the suit while perfectly setting up a sense of what this technology can do in the field.
However, a movie without conflict would barely be worth filming, and we get our here thorough Pym’s former protégé Darren Cross, played to near-camp perfection by Corey Stoll. Cross has discovered the secrets he tried to bury, and is close to replicating his work in a new, weaponized version called The Yellowjacket. The story here echoes that of the first Iron Man film, with Obadiah Stane trying to recreate and capitalize on Tony Stark’s invention, doing so without feeling like a rehash.
As Pym and his semi-estranged daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) enlist Lang’s help to stop Cross from bringing his Yellowjacket technology to market, we see some fairly outlandish recruitment and training scenes, with Lang’s infiltration skills repeatedly put to the test. Without giving too much away, we’ll just tell you that there’s a scene with one of the established Avengers characters that is pure gold. Swept up by events, Lang at first rejects the Ant-Man suit, before ultimately coming to accept his role and even reveling in it.
Ant-Man succeeds in capturing a raucous sense of fun and dynamic action, loaded with great humor and visual effects. At the same time, Scott Lang’s story of redemption and Hank Pym’s troubled relationship with daughter Hope lend the film moments of much-needed gravitas that steer it away from feeling out of place within the greater Marvel storyline. Ant-Man perfectly places Marvel’s smallest hero to return in future films, and the mid-credit and after-credit stingers are both important to the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so make sure you stay in your seat.
Chris joined the Allspark community in 2002 and has been a member of the News and Content team since 2014.