Road to Infinity War – Ant-Man, or, So Much More Than Just Perfect Timing

Oh I did it fam. In preparation for my viewing of Avengers: Infinity War on April 26th at 7PM, I went back and rewatched the previous 18 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from Iron Man to Black Panther. Every day leading up to Infinity War I’ll be posting a short piece on each film and my most recent hot takes on nearly a decade of the MCU. I’ll also be linking back to whatever old nonsense I wrote about the movies at the time, if applicable. And if that isn’t enough, check out my ranked listed of the MCU to date on my Letterboxd account here.

ant-man

Tried. So. Hard. To find the version of this poster that is just Michael Peña and Bobby Cannavale.

Ant-Man was instantly the perfect pallet cleanser after Avengers: Age of Ultron. Coming out so quickly after the second Avengers film I still wasn’t completely admitting my disappointment with that movie when I first saw this one. I didn’t know how to feel about Age of Ultron, but I instantly felt a fondness for Ant-Man. It’s charming and fun and it never once threatens to utterly collapse in on itself under its own weight, instead focusing in on likely the smallest (yeah, yeah) stakes we’ve seen in from the MCU.

Which is a good thing.

But rewatching Ant-Man, it’s so much more than just a welcome respite from the cacophony of its immediate predecessor. Ant-Man explodes with style and flavor. Quick pans. Brilliant montages. Cops and crooks with competing motivations. Christophe Beck’s sneaky, percussive score. Ant-Man commits to the heist genre in earnest, lending it the authenticity of a heist film that happens to have a superhero in it, rather than the artificiality of a superhero film that shoehorns in a few heist movie gimmicks.

Upon its initial release Ant-Man drew myriad comparisons to the first Iron Man film, allegations that it was the same cookie with different icing, traced from the same stencil with a different pen. Similar obligations were later lobbed at Doctor Strange, which I will similarly whine about when I write about that movie again in, like, two days. Such comparisons require an incredibly broad view of the films in question. I won’t bore you with a laundry list of discrepancies here, but, to my mind, the most compelling difference between the two films is the position in society from which its protagonists hail.

Where Tony Stark is a billionaire tasked with taking responsibility for his immense economic power, Scott Lang is a recently freed convict who can’t hold down a job at Baskin-Robbins. His is a new low for heroic status quos in the MCU, and one that begs some interesting questions about how morality and justice shift and distort with size and scope. When we meet Scott Lang he’s paid the penal price and continues to pay a societal price for crimes that come nowhere close to the collateral damage caused by Tony Stark’s misguided creation of a maniacal artificial intelligence. Scott Lang is certainly established as having a moral compass, but Ant-Man largely concerns him being forced into the position of a shrinking superhero because, justified or not, society will not let him live a normal life.

With that in mind, though I’d hoped to focus on just how good this film is in its own right, Ant-Man serves not only as the perfect follow-up to Age of Ultron, but also as an excellent thematic primer for Captain America: Civil War.

There’s some issues that keep Ant-Man in the middle of the pack for me, specifically its nonsense villain and the unbearable “protection clause” cop-out it levies against Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne (though that looks to be mended with the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp).

Ant-Man was one of the Marvel movies I was least looking forward to rewatching. I’ve never disliked the film, but I couldn’t get myself excited to watch it again. It was also one of the films that surprised me the most in just how much it exceeded by remembered notions of it. I may not have been looking forward to rewatching it, but once I popped it in I had an absolute blast. This is a really fun, entertaining movie that doesn’t get enough credit for its adept execution of style and the nuance of scale it lends to the franchise as a whole.

All of this is to say: Michael Peña, am I right? Michael. Peña.

For more Ant-Man ramblings, with admittedly less to say, from the time of the film’s initial release:

August 5, 2015: Perfect Timing, or, Ant-Man

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