[Cinema Sunday] ‘Ant-Man’: Small Hero, Big Wonders

“Scott, I need you to be the Ant-Man.” – Hank Pym.

The weather is fine and the day is glorious. And to kick of the true start of spring is a series of articles this month with a very special theme. This spring/summer is going to be a season of sequels. From Deadpool 2, to Ant-Man and the Wasp, Incredibles 2 etc. It is a time when stories that were beloved (even those released a few short years ago) are getting to tell more tales from their fictional universes.

With the triumphant release of Avengers: Infinity War (which has now crossed the $1 billion dollar earnings threshold), Marvel Studios is set to release Ant-Man and the Wasp on July 6th. The official synopsis is as follows:

In the aftermath of ‘Captain America: Civil War,’ Scott Lang grapples with the consequences of his choices as both a Super Hero and a father. As he struggles to re-balance his home life with his responsibilities as Ant-Man, he’s confronted by Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym with an urgent new mission. Scott must once again put on the suit and learn to fight alongside The Wasp as the team works together to uncover secrets from their past.

With the excitement from Infinity War being insanely high, and now with another chapter in the MCU series soon arriving, it’s time to shrink down and dig in to a look at where it all began, with the 2015 Marvel Studios film Ant-Man.

Amazingly enough, despite all the hoopla that started with Edgar Wright and the treatment he put together back in the early 2000’s, the history of any sort of Ant-Man project goes back to the 1980’s when Stan Lee pitched the concept to Marvel’s then parent company New World Pictures. Unfortunately at the time Disney released their classic Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and any talk faded away. Flash forward to 2014 and Edgar Wright is putting things together for a project that has been whispered about for years now…his writing and directing of Marvel’s Ant-Man movie.

Peyton (left) on set with Paul Rudd (right)

Sadly, Edgar was eventually taken off during pre-production due to “creative differences” and Peyton Reed was installed in his place, though the majority of the script written by Wright and his creative partner Joe Cornish remained. While this was a blow, Reed showed that he had what it took to fill Wright’s shoes, especially with the casting of Ant-Man himself in the form of Paul Rudd.

Paul Rudd has always been a fantastic actor of good caliber. A very charismatic and witty individual, he has clearly approached every role with a dedication that bears fruit. With the role of Scott Lang (the second person to bear the Ant-Man moniker), there is a mixture of humor and seriousness to the part. Scott is a former convict trying to make good in the world, so therefore the humor is part of his ‘mask’ to conceal any pain he has at all he lost. But then there is the serious aspects of his nature, and it is these parts that enable him to adapt to training quickly in order to become the new Ant-Man.

Helping him through his fictional training are the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly). Michael’s Hank Pym is a man well past his heroing years, but who still has the sharp mind and remembers the skills of a much younger, more daring man. Together with Evangeline’s Hope (who is embittered at first about not being chosen to take up the mantle), they school Scott in the arts of shrinking fast, ant communication, and also becoming a more pronounced combat expert. All of this is to take on the villain of the story, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll).

Corey Stoll not exactly an actor name that strikes fear into the hearts of people. But the role of Darren/Yellowjacket, in spite of it being a one-movie appearance, still poses a major threat (confined to a plot). There are moments throughout the movie where Darren and Hank’s interactions are very Shakespearean, with Darren craving the acceptance that Hank has given to Scott, in spite of Darren being Hank’s protege. So, in a move (prior to the story) that is straight out of any classic Shakespeare drama/tragedy, he forces Hank out of control of Pym Tech and begins to develop his own version of the fabulous Pym Particle to sell to the military and terror organizations of the world. Like any Marvel movie story, his demise is all but assured, with his passing not being mourned by any.

A technological marvel that went into producing the movie was the use of macro photography. Macro photography is defined as “extreme close-up photography, usually of very small subjects and living organisms like insects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life size.” And to help give a better understanding of this is a wonderful video (above) with several of the production heads of Ant-Man explaining the process and decision making behind this choice to bring the world of Marvel’s Smallest Hero to life.

Upon release, Ant-Man cleaned up quickly at the box office. Earning $57 million opening weekend in North America, and in other countries across the world in 2nd and 3rd tier box office holdings, the film managed to clean up, more than making back its original $142 million budget.

A very notable review at the time came from Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, who wrote:

Playful in unexpected ways and graced with a genuinely off-center sense of humor, “Ant-Man” (engagingly directed by Peyton Reed) is light on its feet the way the standard-issue Marvel behemoths never are. It’s got a vintage science fiction feel and a climactic scene in which Thomas the Tank Engine rather than a crowd of interstellar invaders plays a major part. Business as usual this is not.

While today is a day that boasts favorable spring weather, time can still be had for kicking back with family and loved ones and taking in a Marvel Cinematic Universe flick. If Infinity War has already been seen and one is looking to delve back into other stories from the MCU, look no further then Ant-Man. Witty, well-written, engaging characters, stunning visuals and the promise of more to come with it’s sequel coming out in July. Grab the popcorn, strap on those fanboy/fangirl attitudes and get little with it on a journey through the “marvelous” world of Ant-Man.