It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since the Marvel Cinematic Universe began. And here we are, along with Robert from To the Escape Hatch and Pax over on his blog doing a third “Countdown to Avengers” series. AND, we are joined by a new blogger, Jay from Life vs. Film. You can check out the start of this series with Robert’s post about Avengers: Age of Ultron. Pax, Robert, Jay and I are all splitting the films up in anticipation of May’s Avengers: Infinity War. With this film and next year’s Avengers 4, the expectation is that we will be done on some level with this iteration of the MCU. Though I can’t see it going away completely, especially with Fantastic Four possibly back in Marvel’s control. But that’s another countdown series. So…let’s talk about Ant-Man!

Growing up, I wanted movies about Captain America and Iron Man but never thought it would be possible. Then I got them. And not only that, I got them all together in Avengers. And I was pretty sure I had seen it all.

Then I saw toy shelves full of Ant-Man merchandise and I realized I hadn’t seen it all yet.

I never would have dreamed in a million years there would be a movie about Ant-Man AND that it would be good. Marvel continues to surprise me.

Ant-Man and the Wasp were early Marvel Comics characters and among the founding members of the Avengers in the comics. Wasp herself came up with the name and Ant-Man confirmed that was the perfect name. Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, has had quite a tumultuous history and winds up being a character that is massively flawed. Replaced by criminal Scott Lang, both characters are brought to the screen. The Wasp however, is only briefly seen in a flashback. However, one of Marvel Comics’ leading ladies finally makes her live action debut.

The story opens up in 1989 where we learn that Ant-Man had been an operative of SHIELD working directly for Agent Carter and Howard Stark for some amount of time. We see archival Ant-Man footage showing Pym in action. However, he is done, and leaves the organization to protect his Pym Particle.

At this point in the MCU, it’s almost too late to give Ant-Man the proper place he deserves as far as his founding member status from the comics. But setting Hank’s history back a couple decades helps elevate him because he actually winds up being a hidden, premiere Marvel hero.

By doing this, they need to go ahead and bring in the Scott Lang character. In this case, he’s a sharp former burglar who has his heart in the right place. Under the guidance of Hank Pym and Hank’s daughter Hope, the trio lead in what basically becomes a super hero heist movie.

The movie is small in scope, but has major implications for the world of the MCU in that this Pym Particle could be devastating. The lead villain expertly displays what “the wrong hands” looks like, though we have another example of a Marvel villain who is essentially the evil version of our hero.

The movie was full of heart and really does a great job with the main and side characters. Scott’s friends don’t get a whole lot of screen time, but are instantly believable as guys who want to make a difference.

This is a welcome addition in the MCU series and is a good example of telling a stand alone story while also pushing things forward for the overall world.

It’s worth mentioning that this movie was originally slated to be directed by Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim fame. I haven’t seen an Edgar Wright film that I disliked, but his style might have been a miss here from the standpoint of incorporating the external elements or having to share Ant-Man with others. Maybe not, but having just watched Baby Driver for the first time which has its own level of heistiness (not a word, I know). It may not be fair, but comparing the two, I’m glad Wright was able to move on to be able to make that and Ant-Man still happened. I truly think things worked out for the best there.

Technically, this film was the conclusion to Marvel’s Phase 2. With this, we see references to Age of Ultron, which had just come out months before. Newspaper articles show headlines asking “Who’s to blame for Sokovia” setting up the events of Civil War in a subtle way. Other more overt set-ups come in the form of Scott’s encounter with Falcon which leads the way to him inviting Scott to be a part of Team Cap in Civil War. There is also a reference to someone who can crawl on walls, most likely our first Spidey callout in the MCU.

The next time we see Ant-Man is the non-canon Coke commercial that ran during “the big game” in 2016. If you’ve not seen it, it’s entertaining, but clearly adds nothing to the MCU.

Ant-Man’s actual story continues in Civil War but outside of group appearances, he still has places to go and grow (no pun intended). A sequel is slated post-Infinity War entitled Ant-Man and the Wasp. While he has great moments in Civil War, that’s not his movie. And I imagine he won’t have much more to do in Infinity War. However, further exploration of the Quantum Realm could lead into something that helps the heroes in Avengers 4. The Quantum Realm is free of time and space. It just so happens two of the Infinity Stones are focused on each of those dimensions.

Additionally, Hank Pym had to give up being Ant-Man because the shrinking took a toll on his body. At no point does anyone question this further, but one has to wonder if Scott will eventually face the same fate.

Finally, the first Easter egg of the film gives us Hank showing Hope the new Wasp prototype suit and as we already know from the title of the next film and promo images, Hope becomes the Wasp. To quote her last line, “It’s about damn time.”

Final thoughts from Jay:

When it was announced that Edgar Wright would be directing a Marvel film, I could barely contain my excitement. He’s my favourite working director, and the notion of him taking a stab at one of the most consistently entertaining modern franchises made me giddy, regardless of how little I knew of this so-called “Ant-Man”. So when he abandoned the project, citing he and Marvel had differences in their creative visions, I was heartbroken, and all but wrote this film off, especially when he was replaced with Peyton Reed, the guy behind those all-time classics The Break-Up and Yes Man. I’ve never been happier to be so misguided though, as Reed did a fantastic job with this movie.

Of course it helps that to some extent it still feels like an Edgar Wright movie, especially the scenes in which Michael Pena’s Luis recounts various anecdotes, with the characters in his tales lip-syncing with what he is saying, although apparently these segments weren’t part of Wright’s original drafts. That being said you cannot deny the energy and freniticism brought to the action sequences, all of which are exemplary, despite taking place on a relatively limited scale for a Marvel film.

Therein potentially lies the key to Ant-Man’s success. Sandwiched between two of the larger scope MCU movies – Age of Ultron and Civil War – Ant-Man’s comparatively narrow focus allowed for a more personal, character-driven film, where the major climax involves protecting our hero’s daughter, not preventing levitated cities from massacring an entire planet. The final fight even takes place amongst a child’s train set, and is all the more hilarious for it.

Whilst I’m of course looking forward to Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War with baited breath, the Ant-Man sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp, is potentially the film I’m most intrigued by, as at present it’s unclear just what direction it will take other than giving Evangeline Lilly’s character significantly more to do (unless the film is two hours of Ant-Man fighting a literal wasp, which I would kind of like to see at this point). Regardless, my expectations have been raised considerably for what Peyton Reed does next.