With Avengers: Endgame in theaters we’re looking back at the previous Marvel films. Next up, we take a look back at Ant-Man.
Ant-Man is an interesting piece, as the film was originally supposed to be the first film released by Marvel Studios. At the time, director Edgar Wright (Baby Driver) was directing the film based on a script by Wright and Joe Cornish (the Kid Who Would Be King). The film saw some laps in development which led to Iron Man hitting screens first. When Wright and Marvel couldn’t come to terms on the direction they wanted to take with the film, Wright departed the film and the studio hired Peyton Reed (Yes Man) to direct and Adam McKay (Vice) and Paul Rudd to tweak the script. The movie moved on from there, becoming Marvel’s twelfth film in their Cinematic Universe.
The film is often looked at as one of the lower tier movies in the MCU, but it honestly stands higher than a lot of the other films that came before it and a few after it. Ant-Man centers on Scott Lang (Rudd), an ex-con, as he’s recruited by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), to stop the evil Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from using the Ant-Man tech for evil purposes. The film is driven by fantastic performances by the four leads, and themes of family, fatherhood, and second chances.
Ant-Man is one of the few films that barely scratches the surfaces on the greater MCU. There are ties to SHIELD and a scene with Ant-Man infiltrating an Avengers facility to steal tech. But overall the film stands on its own without relying on the previous eleven films in the MCU to build it up. This aspect of the film truly helps it surpass the other solo ventures in this Universe, as it’s focused much more on the characters and the story they’re involved in. This isn’t the twelfth chapter in the Marvel story, it’s Ant-Man’s chapter one.
The film is filled with amazing visuals that consist of practical shots, motion capture, macro photography, and computer-generated visual effects. All of these elements come together to create a world where you believe Ant-Man is real. That realism juxtaposed with the realistic emotional weight of the situations Hank, Scott and Hope deal with, in terms of dysfunctional family dynamics, make the film stronger than it could be as just a silly action comedy. You feel for Scott as he tries to do better for his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). You feel for Hank as he tries to right the wrongs of his past, while also mending the relationship he has with Hope.
At one point Scott has to explain to Hope that the reason Hank recruited him is because he’s expendable. Up until that point Hope feels as if she’s simply been shoved aside by her father and ignored, despite being the perfect man for this job. But Douglas’ performance helps us know, even before Scott says the words, that Hank cares too much for his daughter to put her at risk. He knows she could accomplish everything they need to for this mission to be successful, but he can’t take losing his daughter, even if they are already estranged. This kind of depth gives Ant-Man more power as a film, and more heart than most of the other Marvel movies.
Ant-Man may be small, and at times may seem insignificant to the overall MCU. But in creating a smaller character story in the midst of a twelve film, expensive, cinematic universe, is what keeps us coming back time and time again.