I am sure you have seen the trailer (if not check it out below), or at least heard the name Ant-Man. I bet you thought it ridiculous. So did I. And it very much is. This is a Marvel film poking fun at the very notion of Marvel films. Set in the Avengers universe, it features ex-burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) who’s after a second shot at being in his daughters life, enlisted by Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to put on the Ant-Man suit and deny the shrinking technology to would-be super villain Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Please watch the trailer:
Yes, yes, yes. It looks like a clichéd piece of crap Stan Lee scraped off his shoe in between trips to the bank. And it is. But that is the point. It doesn’t try to be anything else nor take itself seriously. There’s a reason they cast a seasoned comedian to play Ant-Man, they needed Paul Rudd to let the audience relax and enjoy without judgement. What happens is a little bit of magic, an irreverent spice that complements the fatty glory of the supersize Avengers meal.
Ant-Man shrinks. That is the whole theme of the movie, to go small and see what that tells you about the big stuff. Scott Lang has to sort of save the world from a technology that could change everything and cause unpredictable chaos. But he doesn’t seem that fazed about that. His motivation is his daughter and the purely selfish notion that being Ant-Man is a way to get back into her life. Sure she loves and needs him, but is doing absolutely fine without him. Indeed she appears to be weirdly not-annoying for a kid.
Dr. Pym wants to save the world, but dismisses the idea of calling the Avengers because they are much too busy, would end up destroying a city (seriously, do they know what it’s like to rebuild one?), and Tony Stark would be way too interested in the shrinking technology. The Avengers are like Einstein’s relativity. They look after the big stuff. Ant-Man is more Hawking’s quantum theories, focussing on the very small. Of course I mean the Simpsons version of Hawking.
Even the climax of the film (technically this is not a spoiler because it is in the trailer) is a lesson in shrinking. Avenges films destroy cities with masses of flying aliens and drop cities from the sky.Ant-Man’s epic battle takes place in a little girls bedroom. In fact much of it happens on the Thomas the Tank Engine railway in a table in the corner of the room. This isn’t just a quick bit of comic relief, it’s a commentary on Marvel movies in general.
You might think I am looking at this a little too closely, getting down to the micro level when it is just another blockbuster. For many reasons I think that is wrong, but let me just point out one of the reasons why I think so. Edgar Wright, the writer and director of the cornetto trilogy (Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The Worlds End) co-wrote this film. The man knows his movies, and laces everything he does with intertextuality (an academic way of saying that films refer to other films).
Marvel is a frustrating empire. They churn out films of their comics and remake them several times over with no sign of slowing down the machine. But then they go and make the Avengers, which cuts across several different movies and has them all contributing to a wider story. So much has been invested in each part of that universe that it does not seem possible that they could remake some of the components without risking the strength of the whole. Could it still stand if there was a different Thor? Maybe, but what about a different Iron Man? Marvel is a great, churning mass of paradoxes and intricacies, and Ant-Man is a reminder that it is all relative.
With that in mind I think Ant-Man works. It’s an enjoyable film, and a talisman against getting all serious about what are really just ridiculous comic book adaptations that make lots of money. If you see it make sure you stay till the end of the credits, as usual there is a clue as to what maybe next in the Avengers universe.