I wasn’t expecting much out of Ant-Man. I really wasn’t. Understand that this is coming from a guy who’s seen and enjoyed (to varying degrees) all of the Marvel cinematic universe, but who’s never really read comic books. After I saw Iron Man for the first time, a friend had to explain to me who the Avengers were, and he made mention of Thor. “The actual god Thor?” I asked. “Like, running around with a guy in an iron suit? How are they even on the same level?” I’d thought that a Thor movie couldn’t really work, to say nothing of the eventual team-up with everyone in the Avengers.
After seeing Thor, I freely admitted that I was wrong. (Heck, after seeing the trailers for Thor, I was able to see how it could work.) But my friend also told me about another member of the Avengers: Ant-Man. And that, to me, just sounded ridiculous. MCU Phase One seemed to agree with me. Ant-Man was not a member of the Avengers. But he was coming.
And then the first trailer for Ant-Man came. Unlike my reaction to Thor‘s trailers, I still wasn’t feeling it. It just seemed too hokey, too hard to take seriously, too–dare I say it?–comic-bookish. The physics gave me trouble, too. They shrink the space between his atoms, so he’s still got all his original mass, which is why a punch is still felt on a regular-sized level, or so went the explanation as I understood it. Yet concentrated into a tiny point, wouldn’t a punch just make a little perforation in someone’s skin? If he’s still got all of his mass, how can he run along a gun barrel without shoving it down with his weight, or climb unnoticed on someone’s back?
I can hear what you’re already saying: “So, Michael, you’re just fine with The Hulk, and you’re just fine with magical hammers, and you’re completely okay with a talking cyber-raccoon and tree-creature that’s able to pull mass from nowhere, but Ant-Man gaves you problems?” Yes, I am, and yes, it did. (And I really loved Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s hands-down my favorite.) I don’t pretend that I’m being rational here. But it was just my gut feeling. I couldn’t get past it.
But then the movie got good reviews, and people I trusted enjoyed it, and that same friend asked if I was up for seeing it. So…okay, I thought, I’ll go.
Ant-Man is really an enjoyable movie. I liked it! It’s got just the right mix of humor and drama, the actors all do a fine job, and Ant-Man is, at its heart, a heist movie. I love heist movies. Does it transcend its comic book origins? Nope, but there’s nothing wrong with that. This movie is what it tries to be: An exciting, amusing, interesting mix of thievery, technological wonder, and ants. Also there’s a bit with a tank that made me laugh out loud. It doesn’t really stray from the origin story formula in most cases: (Hero is discovered/created, learns his powers, then might fight the bad guy who’s perverted those powers for nefarious purposes.) But it uses it well.
I still have a problem with the physics, but the movie persuaded me to get past that. It invited me to buy a ticket to an immersive experience, and the only cost was suspending my disbelief a little more than usual. Not so bad, really. In fact, after the movie it reminded me of this little exchange between Rygel and Sikozu in my favorite 4th season episode of Farscape, “I Shrink Therefore I Am” after they’ve been shrunk:
Sikozu: “You have been reduced in size! You’re hardly bigger than a filima bug now! …Except… except this can’t be happening.”
Rygel: “Can’t it?”
Sikozu: “No… No – reduction by proportionately subtracting atoms would – leave our brains too simple to function.”
Rygel: “So? Maybe they just made all our atoms smaller.”
Sikozu: “But then we couldn’t breathe normal sized air molecules don’t you see? No. No this isn’t happening because – it is not possible!”
Rygel: “Your brain isn’t functioning. Do you think this is all just a hallucination? Do you like that explanation better? Hmm?”
Sikozu: “No… But I simply cannot comprehend how-
Rygel: “Neither can I. Who cares? We’re here. They did it. And that’s that. You consider yourself intelligent?”
Sikozu: “Yes. I. do.”
Rygel: “Then stop behaving like a child.”
Sikozu: “I am not a child!”
Rygel: “No, you’re an infant! You’ve studied but you haven’t experienced! You know nothing of life!”
Sikozu: “And you do?”
Rygel: “I’ve been around long enough to know how ignorant I am. I don’t assume the universe obeys my preconceptions. Hah! But I know a frelling fact when it hits me in the face.”
I’ve always taken that exchange to be a little message to any nitpicky viewers getting too worked up about the science to sit back and enjoy the story. Ant-Man made me sit back and enjoy it.
Of course, Antony ought to be Antonia because pretty much all worker ants are female, but I’m not sure there’s any ant movie that’s ever gotten that one right. 😉