It was this week, when I started seeing all the positive comments, that I started to seriously wonder if Ant-Man might actually prove the better of the two Marvel movies released this year. Whether it has been or not I’m not sure. But of the two movies, it is definitely the smarter.
For one thing, unlike Age of Ultron, which ignored pretty much everything that happened in Iron Man 3 and simply didn’t seem to care about any of the MCU works that came before it except the first Avengers movie, Ant-Man embraces its position as a chapter in a vast volume. It’s very much its own story, but the fact that the Avengers exist and would in theory be involved in taking down the bad guy is dealt with, and similarly the backstory and the plot diversions connected to it are firmly grounded in what has already been established, making the movie feel like it genuinely takes place in a world larger than itself, a feeling which Age of Ulton often lacked. And then, when we initially laugh off the interlude involving Scott and Sam having a fight scene as just a nod to the more popular movies, it turns out that, actually, that meeting’s going to turn out to be vital to the future of our protagonist, as well as to the events of Civil War, tying the movie even further into the story it belongs to.
They were also pretty smart about the hero. From what I’ve heard of Henry Pym, it might have actually been a harder sell to take his character from the comics and expect fans to root for him on the big screen, so they wisely let his time as Ant-Man just be history(a useful feature of the MCU is that unlike in the comics, real time passes between events), and go instead with Scott Lang, and when they introduce him, they even emphasize the crime he committed that happened to be the right thing to do, and even making it an act against an evil corporation, something that much of today’s audience would applaud him for. Add in fatherly devotion and a bit of snark, and he’s easy to like. However, the writers might not have been quite so smart with the Pyms. From the time it becomes clear Henry Pym is taking advantage of Scott’s desperation to get him to do something that could conceivably cause him brain damage, it’s hard to think well of him, and while the movie doesn’t always demand you do anyway, there is a problem when he’s shot and we’re asked to care about him surviving. Hope Pym, too, sometimes makes it hard for the audience to sympathize with, although if we see the character again, it looks likely she’ll mellow out a bit, what with her father’s wrongs towards her having been righted.
And finally, they weren’t afraid to be silly when the situation called for it. One wonders how many MCU writers would have protested comic-esque antics like a tank bursting out of an office building or a large Thomas the Tank Engine hitting the lawn, but hey, it makes perfect sense in context, so why not do it? It helps that people react more or less as they ought to when such things happen in front of them.