Tiny Hero, Giant Heart: Marvel’s ANT-MAN
Marvel Studios’ latest hit film is based on one of their earliest and lesser known characters. Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) a brilliant entemologist/scientist discovers a form of subatomic particles which he controls through a special mechanized suit allowing him to shrink to the size of an insect. For decades he worked as a secret agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. but following the tragic death of his wife Janet on one of their missions in 1987, he quit and swore to hide his experimental “Ant-Man” suit where noone could get at it. Upon his departure from a life of espionage, Hank founded his own scientific research company, PYM Technologies and laid low. Now in the present day, he is retired with the company’s future left in the hands of his estranged daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Cross, who Pym mentored from an early age, is obsessed with the “Ant Man” legend and proudly introduces a new similar project breakthrough he calls the “Yellowjacket”. It will be the ultimate weaponized answer to all of the world’s security and defense troubles. When Pym finds out, he becomes very worried, as this was exactly the reason he put his own suit away for good.
Enter Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) an electrical engineer turned thief who has just been released from San Quentin Penitentiary after several years due to a white collar crime against his old company VistaCorp. Scott is intent on leading a normal life again, but job troubles and expensive child support payments for his ex-wife (Judy Greer) and his young daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) soon force him to go back to a life of crime. Along with his faithful friend Luis (Michael Pena) and new cohorts Dave (TI Harris) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian), Scott sets up a new scheme to get his bank account in good shape. Little does he know that this will lead him right to Dr. Hank Pym’s doorstep and change his life in a way he never imagined.
Scott Lang is given a proposition by Pym to help him thwart Darren Cross’s plans before he can perfect his Yellowjacket technology. With no other options, Scott agrees and is mentored by Hank and his daughter Hope on the powers of the astonishing Ant-Man tech. Along with Pym’s own seasoned knowledge, Scott uses his engineering skills and ingenuity as a heist man to become one of the most unique super heroes. Scott’s loyal and highly intelligent compatriots are the tiny bugs (including Carpenter Ants, Crazy Ants. Bullet Ants, Fire Ants) that he controls to aid him in the various obstacles be must pass over, under and through. This is where the cinematically mindblowing macro-visuals (we’re talking The Incredible Shrinking Man times a million) occur as the different ant species join Scott in his difficult mini-missions.
Marvel’s ANT-MAN had a very long, rocky development process which began back in 2006 and was left in a kind of limbo until last year where it then looked like it might not happen at all. Thanks to Director Peyton Reed along with writers Adam McKay and Paul Rudd stepping into the fold, the microscopic man with gargantuan strength finally was brought to life on the big screen. The resulting movie integrates loads of charm, comedy, tender emotion and extraordinarily cool visual FX sequences that take us into yet another corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe we haven’t seen before.
Paul Rudd, who many filmgoers know from his comedic work in films like Anchorman, does a superb job in the role of Scott Lang creating a very likable, witty and formidable super hero. Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym is a deeply scarred warrior whose past has haunted him but through Scott finds faith that his work and personal failures can be overcome. Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross is a man who has spent his life trying to make his mentor Hank Pym proud but has ultimately become enveloped by his own ego and ambition. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope is both a little girl still grieving over her late mother and a tough as nails businesswoman that can throw a real mean punch. Scott’s “ANT-tourage” Luis, Kurt and Dave provide a very funny Mission Impossible style sideshow through tech support for their good friend on the outside. In addition, Michael Pena’s Luis has some hilarious storytelling montages (set to the funky Roy Ayers track “Escape” from Coffy) that stand out amongst the other scenes.
I think films like ANT-MAN represent the best the science fiction genre has to offer us. They aren’t real (see fiction), the characters’ powers and/or technology are based on science (see science) and their stories utilize what we love most about this timeless genre. They contain a combination of mythology, fantasy, technology, an epic journey and more importantly colorful characters with personal stories that we can relate to/be thrilled by. Not only that, they are usually connected inside a greater universe with its own rules which only strengthens the overall believability and integrity of the stories being told. The only real argument one could give is in terms of the quality these movies have. Like any other genre, there are bad, good and great examples. I think movies can only be as good as the people making them. If you get a filmmaker who loves the genre and takes it seriously, that’s how you get great films like this one.
Ant-Man is everything you would want it to be in the most comic book geek way and quite a refreshing departure from Avengers: Age of Ultron which was an undeniably massive blockbuster that juggled a bunch of Marvel’s most popular super heroes at once. Now we have a pulp sci-fi action-adventure heist film that shrinks things down to a more intimate, familial scale. Although the movie is a crazy micro fantasy extravaganza, the real core driving force comes from the relationships the characters share that need to be healed and their aim to protect loved ones through courage. Ant-Man may be a particularly oddball hero in the Marvel Universe, but he’s the coolest most likable oddball hero there is. As well as being a standout entry, the film wraps up Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 2 and will lead directly into Captain America: Civil War in 2016. We cannot wait to see more of Scott Lang’s amazing Ant-Man ant-ics in future MCU films.