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Jul
29

Why the World Doesn’t Need Ant-Man

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And how Marvel made the perfect movie for him anyway. *Spoiler-free thoughts*

Hold a magnifying glass over Marvel’s history books and you’ll see that Ant-Man is a complex character. If you’re aware of this then you know the dark truth. He’s a big mess.

Ant-Man is a character that hides behind a gimmick so fun that it makes people forget how challenging his evolution has been on paper. He didn’t always just shrink and get bigger. His character tried to be more. One story involved him trying to save the world in a more meaningful way, but it completely backfired. This significant moment is when Ant-Man, Hank Pym, accidentally created a genocidal A.I robot instead of a peaceful one. Yep. He created Ultron (in the comics), not Tony Stark (like in the movie).

It’s understandable why Marvel would make a more familiar character like Tony Stark accidentally responsible for a villain’s origin because it makes the guilt and regret much heavier. Movie audiences have grown to love Tony Stark. But, for Ant-Man, without being tied to the Ultron story leaves him with a silly insect themed adventures that doesn’t have much place in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially now that it’s building towards an epic Avengers climax involving cosmic gems in space. Or something like that.

Take away his link to an iconic villain and ignore his trademark ability to shrink, Ant-Man is still technically one of the original Avengers.

And it definitely counts for something. The scientist/inventor, Hank Pym and his wife, Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp, fought alongside Captain America, Thor and The Hulk for years. When it came to adapting the Avengers to the big screen, however, Marvel understandably needed characters more rooted in reality. That’s where the guy with the bow and arrow and Scarlett Johansson wearing all black come in. Totally understandable.

But as silly as shrinking down to the size of an ant is, it still led to the character developing into a hero that was constantly aware of how serious saving the world was. He also struggled with self-doubt and thoughts of inadequacy, which was surprisingly interesting in the context of super hero comics. Respectably, comic book writers always packed the Ant-Man character with new identities and attributes to make him more than a one-trick show. More than just Ant-Man. To, in the long run, make him grow.

Throughout the years, he was involved in some of Marvel’s most significant story lines because of the themes the character was able to explore. At one point he even went crazy and became an abusive husband, which allowed Marvel to explore important story lines involving domestic abuse.

But as strong as that message is, a summer blockbuster movie needed to be lighter. It needed to be focused. It needed to just be the man that shrunk down to the size of an ant.

Giving the Ant-Man character his own movie works really well at this point in time because movies are bigger than ever. Contrast that grandness with playfulness and cleverness, and audiences get something tongue-and-cheek, without skipping on any action. The scenarios Marvel’s Ant-Man movie are completely catered to the one redeeming factor that has always been inherent to the character — his shrinking ability. Forget all of the other explorations that happened throughout the years of comics. In a nutshell, Marvel’s Ant-Man is a movie that embraces how important a shrinking character can be in the grand scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

He’s utilized perfectly in a story that feels very contained but connected to other Marvel movies at the same time. The creators flex their talents by fusing comedy with some of the most clever action sequences in film.

The heart of it all though is the fact that the character that puts on the Ant-Man suit isn’t Hank Pym, but Scott Lang (perfectly played by Paul Rudd). A fragile Hank Pym is simply too old to stop the villain that has recreated his shrinking formula, so he enlists the wrongfully convicted thief, Scott Lang, to steal the copy of the formula and destroy any plans of distributing it to arms dealers on the black market. It’s essentially a super-powered heist.

Smart.

While Captain America, Thor and Iron Man have all saved the world in their own movies and collectively together, this version of Ant-Man simply wants a second chance. He needs to clear his name. He needs to do some good. Or, at least, steal something that can stop the bad guys from doing some bad. That’s what makes this Ant-Man one of the most relatable super heroes Marvel has portrayed on the big screen. Everything’s pretty domestic. He just wants to earn the love of his young daughter by being the hero she imagines him to be.

The only challenge is that he’s not a genius. The real genius, scientist, Hank Pym, mentors Scott Lang throughout the movie, of course, to comedic effect. Even when things get tough and the scenes are filled with real threats, the action still makes audiences smile.

Marvel has always excelled at not taking themselves too seriously. They’ve really champtioned this in Ant-Man. Maybe going too far. Maybe not. What’s for sure, is that it’s Marvel’s imagination that shines when Ant-Man is on screen, definitely not shying away from the child-like fun that comes from being a super-powered hero trying to save the day.

Even though the source material doesn’t’t promise a hit stand-alone movie, Ant-Man has been adapted into a smart success that reacts to big summer blockbusters in its own tongue-and-cheek way. It’s this summer’s little gem — a hilariously clever movie that combines Honey, I Shrunk the Kids with Mission: Impossible. Let it sneak up on you and it will pack a punch.

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