Ant-Man: The world’s smallest hero can teach us the biggest lesson.
If seeing model trains destroyed, Thomas the Tank Engine disrespected, or Ants killed in a wanton fashion will have you sending hate mail, don’t go and watch Ant-Man. On the other hand, if you are capable of seeing those things happen without descending into uncontrollable fits of rage, then go and see this film because despite its title, Ant-Man is a serious story about the kind of hero we all want to believe in.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a modern day Robin Hood, or he would be had he not been caught giving lots of people their money back after a bank stole it from them. Instead three years in San Quentin has made him effectively unemployable, and unable to pay child support to his ex-wife (Judy Greer) and thereby see his daughter, Cassie. This leaves Scott feeling he has no choice but to go back to crime. He gets caught, again, but is offered a choice. If he wants to see his daughter again, all he has to do is save the world (yes, this is a classic ordinary Joe has to save the world from mad scientist kind of story).
Or at least one half of it is. The other half is a moral straight from War of the Worlds. The Martians who had laid waste to Queen Victoria’s finest were laid low by humble bacteria. So too with Ant-Man, whose greatest power comes not just from being able to shrink himself, but from the bond this gives him with four separate species of ants, a bond reflected in the love Scott has for his daughter and the fact that he’ll risk subatomic oblivion to save her. So too with his new mentor, Hank (Michael Douglas), who considers keeping his daughter, Hope, safe, to be more important even than saving the world from Cross (Corey Stoll). That’s why he chose Scott to be Ant-Man; because he’s expendable.
Ant-Man should therefore make a great addition to the Avengers when the next end-of-phase-film is released.
This is a moral that should really underpin every superhero story out there and it’s fair to say that lately Marvel has become very good at taking this particular moral and making it the centrepiece of the stories they tell. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the Marvel film of last year because it showed us that the Cap was willing to die rather than kill Bucky. Ant-Man should therefore make a great addition to the Avengers when the next end-of-phase-film is released, just as his own franchise will make a highly profitable addition to Marvel’s own stable of superhero series.
That perhaps is the only thing wrong with this film. Had Ant-Man disappeared into the quantum realm of whatever it is that might lie beneath the subatomic, sacrificing himself to save his daughter, there would have been a poignancy to this film that would have defined the moral behind it perfectly. That’s it’s missing this is down to how Marvel operates. The interconnectivity of their franchises – there’s a cameo from Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, along with Anthony Mackie as the Falcon – leads them to tip the audience off as to what’s coming next. Which is Ant-Man in the third Avengers, followed by sequels for his own franchise, with Hope joining him for the ride after Hank has an after credits change of heart.
Beyond the story, the special effects tell a tale of their own, with one awe inspiring visual sequence after another as we are taken into a hidden world of tunnels, drains and circuit boards that show how CGI has come of age.
That however is a small technicality and not one I’m going to make too big an issue of, for this is a truly great film. Beyond the story, the special effects tell a tale of their own, with one awe inspiring visual sequence after another as we are taken into a hidden world of tunnels, drains and circuit boards that show how CGI has come of age from only a decade ago, as well as demonstrating that style and substance do not have to cancel each other out, which has been a problem for too many modern blockbusters, but can instead be reconciled.
Ant-Man then, has set the bar by which all future superhero films will be judged. With Marvel already having scored big this year with the second Avengers film, and Ant-Man set to become another jewel in their crown, there’s going to be even more pressure on DC to perform when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is released next year.
By Gareth Wood