Year 8, Day 109 - 4/18/16 - Movie #2,309
BEFORE: Michael Douglas carries over again from "A Perfect Murder", setting me up nicely for another superhero film. And the timing couldn't be better, with the new "Captain America" film just two 1/2 weeks away. Everything's proceeding for me according to plan, what a great time to be a movie-watcher.
THE PLOT: Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.
AFTER: Most people today still remember the Beatles, but maybe not the environment of the music industry when they first came on the scene. Their name was a take on Buddy Holly's band, the Crickets, only they changed the spelling of "beetles" as a musical pun, and to place an emphasis on the importance of the beat. (After going through the names Quarrymen, Johnny and the Moondogs, the Silver Beetles, and the Beatals...) But in the years that followed their success, the record industry flooded the market with knock-off bands, to try to cash in on their success, and later on in the 1960's, there were the Byrds, the Yardbirds, the Animals, the Monkees, Buffalo Springfield, Iron Butterfly, the Eagles, and it just seemed like for a while there, every band needed to be named after an animal or insect. (I'm sure there were plenty of bands that weren't, but you see where I'm going with this...)
And so it was with Batman, although he had no bat-based powers, and villains like Catwoman and the Penguin, then at some point Hawkman came into the picture, and then with Spider-Man's introduction in the 1960's (right around the time the Beatles were hitting big...) suddenly there was a new wave of super-heroes based on various creatures and often the word "--Man". Marvel had Ant-Man and the Wasp, plus Black Widow, the Falcon and Tigra, along with villains like Doctor Octopus, White Rabbit, Toad, Lizard, Rhino, Vulture, Scorpion, Fly, Gypsy Moth, Armadillo, Porcupine, the Mongoose and the entire Serpent Society (like, 15 villains named after snakes). I'm sure for a long while all they had to do over at Marvel to create a new villain was to just take a field trip to the zoo.
But in the comics, at least, Ant-Man (Hank Pym) was an ORIGINAL Avenger. One of the founding members, along with Thor, Hulk, Iron Man and the Wasp. They didn't even thaw out Captain America until Issue #4, and Hawkeye and Black Widow came along a year or two later. So why didn't Ant-Man appear as part of Marvel's first Avengers? Ah, well, time marches on and certain characters gain or lose popularity, and Ant-Man became Giant-Man, then Goliath, then Yellowjacket, then Dr. Pym - this character's had more superhero identities than Spider-Man's had dead girlfriends. Oh, and in the comic-book universe, Hank Pym, not Tony Stark, created the evil robot Ultron.
So the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a way of twisting things around, keeping what works and (ideally) jettisoning the things that don't, with the goal of making the best movies possible. That means bringing in Scott Lang, who was the 2nd Ant-Man in the comics - after stealing the Ant-Man suit, seeing as Hank Pym had moved on to another identity, or was busy being crazy. The movie here even comes up with a valid reason why Hank Pym was not an Avenger, and that's because he had a falling-out with the founders of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as Tony Stark's father and Agent Carter for good measure. So after a few adventures as Ant-Man, and the presumed loss of the Wasp, he called it a day.
However, Pym's scientific protegé, Darren Cross, is close to unlocking the secrets of the Pym particle, that's the chemical doodad that allows things to shrink, by decreasing the distance between atoms, and increasing the object or person's density at the same time. This is what allows Ant-Man to have a version of super-strength, because he's more "dense". (Scientific NITPICK POINT, however, if he becomes more dense, and maintain the same mass in a smaller volume, that would make him as heavy as a full-grown man, yet we often see Ant-Man riding a flying ant. An ant may be proportionally stronger, but it can't carry the full mass of a human.)
The film adds a character, a daughter for Pym, who never appeared in the comic-books - but I'll allow it because this character obviously exists for two reasons, first as a love interest for Ant-Man, and the 2nd to be revealed in the sequel. But she's really a stand-in for Janet Van Dyne, they took part of the Scott Lang story and mixed it with part of Pym's back-story to meld the best parts of both. But in the comic-books the elder Van Dyne was a socialite and a fashion plate, her daughter here is just a science expert with a terrible haircut.
(EDIT: I stand corrected, there is a Hope character in the comic-books, but she's Hope Pym, not Hope van Dyne, and she's a villain named the Red Queen, but in Marvel's MC2 line, which is set in an alternate future, not the main Marvel present one. Plus, she had a twin brother, Henry Jr.)
We're also led to believe here that prolonged exposure to the Pym particles causes some kind of mental instability - now, why didn't the comic-book writers ever think of that? That would have gone a long way toward explaining the creation of Ultron, the split-personality of Yellowjacket, and why Hank Pym once smacked his wife around. Perhaps that's why Pym stopped using the suit himself, but how long will he allow Scott Lang to be Ant-Man, if it's so dangerous? There's the additional danger of shrinking down too small and becoming lost in the quantum reality, but in the comic books this just led characters to the Microverse, which was its own plane, or something.
Pym's a scientist and Lang is a thief, which is important because both talents are needed to stop Cross from moving forward with his own Yellowjacket armor and selling it to the world's biggest criminal organizations. I liked the way that Pym targeted Lang to become his replacement, his motives for selecting that guy were clear, and then even when they were suspect, they made sense again - because this is a superhero story mixed with a science story, mixed with a heist story. It has no trouble being all of those things, plus it has comic elements and characters that care about each other, even if the relationships are a little strained. That all rings true somehow.
There are a ton of in-jokes as well, from the visual pun of a "little lamb" to a character whistling "It's a Small World". A character refers to a persons stories as "Tales to Astonish", which is the title of the comic in which Ant-Man first appeared. Lang lives at the Milgrom Hotel, a reference to comic editor Al Milgrom, and he gets sucked up by a "Kirby" vacuum cleaner.
But NITPICK POINT #2, which is kind of the reverse of N.P. 1 - if something can be made to shrink and still retain its original weight (higher density), then the opposite should also be true. Near the end of the film certain objects are made to grow larger, and they seem to gain weight. By rights they should weigh the same as they did when they were small, if the movie wants to remain consistent.
Also starring Paul Rudd (last seen in "They Came Together"), Evangeline Lilly (last seen in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies"), Corey Stoll (last seen in "This Is Where I Leave You"), Bobby Cannavale (last seen in "Snakes on a Plane"), Michael Peña (last seen in "The Martian"), Judy Greer (last seen in "The Wedding Planner"), Martin Donovan (last seen in "Inherent Vice"), Anthony Mackie (last seen in "The Man"), T.I., David Dastmalchian, Wood Harris, with cameos from Hayley Atwell (last seen in "Avengers: Age of Ultron"), Chris Evans (ditto) John Slattery (last seen in "The Adjustment Bureau"), Sebastian Stan (also last seen in "The Martian"), Garrett Morris, Stan Lee (last heard in "Big Hero 6") and the voice of Tom Kenny.
RATING: 7 out of 10 sugar cubes