Ant-Man – It’s a good time to be a fan of superheroes, and based on the box office returns, it looks like a lot of people are. There were only about two and a half months between the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron and this one, and there’s a new Fantastic Four movie coming out tomorrow. Since Marvel has determined they can make a profitable film out of pretty much every property they have, Ant-Man turns to one of their less celebrated superheroes. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have a lot of history. He first showed up in 1962, the same year as the Hulk, Thor, and Spider-Man; and he was a founding member of the Avengers. Really, though, when your other heroes can throw cars, swing giant hammers, produce lightning, and climb walls, a guy whose main thing is shrinking seems rather unimpressive. There is a little more to him than that, though. He keeps the same amount of strength when he shrinks, which comes in handy in a fight; and he can communicate with an organize ants. While not the most impressive abilities, they allow for a good amount of creativity in a movie that’s by the numbers in many ways.
WARNING! SPOILERS COMING UP!
The main protagonist in the film is not the original Ant-Man Dr. Henry Pym, but rather his successor Scott Lang, who took on the name in 1979. There’s a suggestion on the IMDB that there were too many dark moments in Pym’s past to make him a viable central character, including his having multiple personalities and abusing his wife. So, since protagonists apparently have to be wholesome, they instead focus on a thief. Really, I don’t know that the troublesome aspects of Pym’s story are significant enough to be included; most comic characters who have lasted long enough have been involved in some messed-up storylines, and later writers often feel free to ignore them. Hank is in the movie, however, as Scott’s mentor, who teaches him how best to use the Ant-Man powers. This leads us to such clichés as the training montage, the girl who initially hates the new hero becoming his love interest, and the hero eventually doing the thing he was told he should never, ever, ever do. The villain of the piece is Darren Cross, Pym’s former protegé who took over his company, rediscovered his research, and tries to sell the shrinking technology to terrorists, because he’s just that evil. And in case that wasn’t clear enough, he also kills a guy just for expressing skepticism at his plans, experiments on adorable little lambs, and tries to kidnap a child.
All the moral ambiguity in the movie is saved for the good guys. Scott himself stole from his former employee and served five years in San Quentin, while his ex-con friends help him to infiltrate Cross’s building for the greater good.
For a film that involves passing the torch, it’s interesting that Hank survives. Indeed, unless I’m forgetting something, the death count was incredibly low this time. Cross doesn’t die either, Scott’s friend Luis is careful to remove the guards from the building after knocking them out, and it’s suggested that Hank’s wife Janet might still be alive as well. There are a lot of funny moments, many involving objects growing in size, to which the kids in the audience seemed to be particularly receptive.
And the ants themselves were made to look so cute that I almost feel bad about putting out traps. They’re really a lot creepier in real life. The scientific explanation for the shrinking didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I’ve seen it mentioned that, if it works by decreasing the space between atoms, it wouldn’t change anyone’s mass. Hence, the shrunken Scott would crush any ant he tried to ride, and Hank certainly couldn’t have carried around a tank on his keychain. I remember my dad saying the same thing about Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, which gave a similar explanation. That said, my suspension of disbelief remained intact. There are both mid-credits and post-credits scenes, establishing that Ant-Man will show up to assist Captain America in his next film, and that Hank’s daughter Hope will take her vanished mother’s place as the Wasp. I’ve seen some rumors of a prequel focusing on Hank as Ant-Man, although Marvel has so much in the works that any solo Ant-Man film will almost certainly be years in the future.