Disney's Marvel Studios have really been on a roll of late with the building of their cinematic universe. Avengers: Age of Ultron was only released a few months ago, and has already grossed over a billion dollars worldwide. This makes it the eleventh film the studio has released since Iron Man in 2008. The popularity of Marvel movies are only going from strength to strength, with studios including 20th Century Fox, Sony and Warner Bros. now wanting to jump on the band wagon. But Marvel has beat them to the punch once again. Their twelfth film to be released worldwide from July 16th will be Ant-Man.
Scott Lang played by Paul Rudd testing out the Ant-Man suit
The success of Marvel movie characters like Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Avengers cannot be understated. However, Marvel Studios has always had the doctrine to introduce brand new characters to its cinematic universe. Enter Ant-Man, a hero who has the ability to alter his mass and shrink to the size of an ant, not only being able to retain his human strength but actually increase it, much like how an ant is able to lift many times its own body weight.
Marvel's Ant-Man - Scott Lang communicating with ants
Audiences may be asking themselves, why would a film studio opt to make a movie about such an odd hero? In reality, the choice was actually not as strange as it might seem. In Marvel comics, Ant-Man's alter ego was the revolutionary scientist Henry "Hank" Pym. His claim to fame was discovering what came to be known as the Pym Particle, a subatomic particle that could increase or decrease the size and mass of objects or living beings. With his new found knowledge, he constructed a suit to be able to shrink himself literally to the size of an ant. The technology did not end there. Hank Pym also developed a method to be able to communicate with ants, allowing him to work in unison with the insects while in his altered state.
Hank Pym also plays a pivotal role in the Marvel comic universe. In the original comics he was one of the founding members of the Avengers, forming a unique alliance with Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor and "the Wasp" Janet van Dyne, who also doubled as Hank Pym's partner and love interest. As the Ant-Man, Hank Pym remained a key member of the team for a significant amount of time. While other key members came and went, contributing to the Avengers' constant roster changes, Hank Pym was responsible for some of the greatest story lines in the early history of the Avengers comic.
Marvel's Ant-Man - Scott Lang played by Paul Rudd discovering new dangers while learning his powers
Hank Pym was also responsible for the creation of arguably the Avenger's greatest nemesis, Ultron. While the films have needed to take liberties with the source material, replacing the origins of Ultron with Iron Man's alter ego Tony Stark, Marvel seems determined to honor comic history and perhaps test the boundaries of what audiences will find believable and enjoyable. Marvel Studios first took a risk with Guardians of the Galaxy last year, which became an overwhelming success for the studio. Now the studio is ready to test their limits once again with Ant-Man.
In the movie edition of Ant-Man we are introduced to a young Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas, and assisted by some of the greatest visual effects audiences will see this year, courtesy of Industrial Light and Magic. It's the 1980's where we initially meet Pym, who is a S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist on the verge of leaving the organisation. This is all due to the fact that certain members of S.H.I.E.L.D. plan on using his technology for military implications. Tensions are also high due to recent events involving his partner Janet van Dyne. Pym is enraged and develops a deep mistrust for the government. He promptly departs the organisation on bitter terms, taking his secret formula with him. As a consequence he establishes his own company in order to keep his technology safe.
Marvel's Ant-Man - Scott Lang played by Paul Rudd learning to use his powers
Fast forward to the present where audiences are re-introduced to a veteran version of Hank Pym, once again played by the brilliant Michael Douglas. He has officially retired the Ant-Man suit in a continuing effort to protect the world from his technology falling into the wrong hands. We also discover that his repetitive use of Pym Particles has taken a toll on his body, so much so, that he is in search of a successor. Things seem to have gone from bad to worse for Hank Pym. It would appear that he is no longer in power at his own company, being voted out due his reluctance to share secrets. Upon his return to the company following a long hiatus we are introduced to the culprit responsible, his protégé Darren Cross, played by Corey Stoll. Cross is obsessed with replicating the Ant-Man technology so it can be implemented for use in national security, acts of espionage, and even war. However, his own version of the suit and formula are only partially complete.
Marvel's Ant-Man - Michael Douglas as Hank Pym and Paul Rudd as Scott Lang
Tensions are also high due to the fact that Cross is already taking bids for his unfinished work. Cross's frustration with Pym only increases due to his unwillingness to cooperate, insinuating that the Ant-Man suit is a figment of fantasy and never existed in the first place. At this point audiences also meet Hope van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lily. She is the estranged daughter of Hank Pym, who has taken on the name of her mother Janet in what would seem to be an act of defiance toward her father. She also appears to be in league with Cross, however her motives appear to be cloudy. As Hope van Dyne it is a landmark performance for Evangeline Lily. Audiences will recognise that it is unlike any role she has performed before. She is bold and brooding, yet she is a delight to watch.
Hank Pym played by Michael Douglas having discussion with his daughter Hope van Dyne played by Evangeline Lily
Meanwhile in another part of town we are introduced to Scott Lang, played by a surprisingly well cast Paul Rudd. Lang is a down on his luck electronics expert who turns to burglary to support his family, specifically his daughter Cassie. In the comics, Scott Lang was the second person to take on the Ant-Man persona, following Hank Pym's semi-retirement. We pick up the story with Lang being imprisoned for his crimes. However, he is on the brink of making parole and returning to his family. To his despair, things are not going so well. His ex-wife has a new partner, who just happens to be a cop. Lang is also unable to see his daughter until he can provide child support and find an appropriate place to live. Life for the ex-con becomes difficult, so he returns to burglary to solve his problems.
Marvel's Ant-Man - Paul Rudd as Scott Lang suits up
In true heist movie fashion we meet Scott Lang's former crew, a group of highly entertaining renegades looking to make a quick score at any opportunity. The crew's main driving force is the hilarious Luis, played by Michael Peña. While the rogue group of robbers detract from the overall story arch, they do provide elements of immensely entertaining comedy during moments of vital exposition. They also help to redefine Scott Lang's character for the audience. This helps to establish him as a skilled "cat burglar" who in essence steals from the rich to give to the poor, rather than being a thief whose primary intention is to hurt others to achieve personal gain.
Scott Lang reluctantly agrees to a job put forward to him by Luis, who has been tipped off about a house with a big safe, with apparently nobody home. Lang displays his immense skills as a burglar, bypassing security and opening the safe with ease. However, there is a problem. The safe is empty, with the exception of one thing. There just so happens to be a suit, the Ant-Man suit. Lang takes the strange item to cut his losses, assuming that there must be some value to it. Eventually Lang's curiosity gets the best of him, so he tries on the Ant-Man suit for the first time, resulting in hilarious consequences.
Hank Pym's daughter Hope van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lily, sporting a hairdo reminiscent of Janet van Dyne in Marvel comics
To Scott Lang's surprise he soon learns that the job was a set up from the beginning, courtesy of Hank Pym, who has had him under surveillance for some time. Pym doesn't support Lang's methods, however he requires his skills for a special mission. Pym wants Lang to use the Ant-Man suit to steal the new technology his protégé Darren Cross has been developing. Hope van Dyne has also warned Pym that the suit named the Yellowjacket which has been purely designed for war is nearing completion, and if the technology is sold to the proposed buyer, it could mean the end of the world as we know it. Together Pym and Hope attempt to train Lang in the skills necessary to become the Ant-Man, including the ability to communicate and control ants.
Arch nemesis the Yellowjacket encountering some trouble in miniature form
From the moment that Lang pushes the red button on the suit audiences are taken on a visual effects journey like no other. Industrial Light and Magic have really outdone themselves with this film, and it really is a fantastic feast for the eyes. The visual effects are simply stellar, contributing to some of most creative concepts you will see in cinema this year. Whether it be voyaging through ant's nests, or fleeing from tidal waves in a bathtub, the visual storytelling is truly on the mark. The final battle sequence which involves a Thomas the Tank train set is phenomenally entertaining and shows that Marvel has successfully managed to keep its story elements fresh once again.
Hank Pym's daughter Hope van Dyne played by Evangeline Lily
Director Peyton Reed manages to balance fantastic character development, with comedic elements and unique visual concepts in a style that is consistently entertaining to watch. This is a wonderful feat considering the controversy surrounding the film's previous director Edgar Wright. It is also incredible how Marvel is able to consistently transcend the superhero genre, fully utilising all the characters at their disposal in a way that is unique each time. They are truly masters of the story telling art form.
Marvel's Ant-Man poster hinting his future involvement with Iron Man and the Avengers
The good news for Marvel fans is that there is some unexpected yet most welcome character crossover in the form to the Falcon from the Avengers. This interaction really does pave the way for an Ant-Man appearance in Captain America: Civil War. The movie also includes two post credit scenes that are both as good as each other. Without giving too much away, the first scene sets up an additional character for a Ant-Man sequel, while the second scene following the rear title crawl has immense consequences for the Avengers in the lead up to Captain America: Civil War, due for release early next year.
Marvel's Ant-Man poster Michael Douglas as Hank Pym
In essence Ant-Man is essentially a classic heist movie with a comedic core that is unique in every way. It is a must watch for every Marvel fan as well as all movie fans. The film is humorous, entertaining, action packed and has a lot of heart. Ant-Man also has possibly one of the best Stan Lee cameos audiences will see in a Marvel film. The movie is also a return to form for Michael Douglas, after what seems to have been a long hiatus. He is incredibly strong and his presence is essential to the film's success. Evangeline Lily is always fabulous to watch, and in this film it is no different. Finally, it has to be said that the surprise of the film is Paul Rudd. He provides a performance that makes you believe that he could be a superhero, even if it is only a tiny one. Ant-Man is due for release everywhere from July 16th.