ANT-MAN! It’s just a simple, humorous, heist movie, right? Nope. There are some DEEP themes in this film! Jay is joined by Justin Weaver and Tony Kim (from Hero Within) to dig deeper into ANT-MAN from in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
The Story Geeks’ blogger Ashley Pauls responds with her own take on the questions discussed in the podcast.
1. Do you like this film? How do you feel about Ant-Man as a concept? And how well do you think Ant-Man fits into the bigger Marvel Cinematic Universe?
“Ant-Man” is actually one of my favorite MCU films! I like that it’s a smaller-scale film (no pun intended). The entire world isn’t in crisis, and Scott Lang isn’t a big celebrity like Tony Stark or super powerful like Thor or Hulk. He’s just a regular guy living with the consequences of his past choices who then happens to get recruited to put on this special suit and become a superhero. Plus, Paul Rudd is super charming and funny, and I’m so glad he’s part of the MCU now.
I was initially a little skeptical about how well the Ant-Man concept would work on film — i.e. a guy who shrinks down to this tiny size and controls an army of ants — but it actually turns out to be pretty cool. I liked how they filmed the action sequences, with Ant-Man shifting between “tiny” and “normal” sizes (and, in the case of “Civil War,” way bigger!). That miniature train set battle is one of my favorite scenes in the MCU.
Although “Ant-Man” fits well within the MCU in terms of tone and style, I don’t think the character has been fully integrated into the larger narrative (at least not yet). He had a really great role in “Captain America: Civil War,” but he’s not as connected to major characters like Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, etc., as those characters are connected to each other. I was a little disappointed that Ant-Man didn’t have a role in “Infinity War.” Hopefully Ant-Man will get to be a full-fledged member of the team in Avengers 4!
2. This film spends some time contemplating the nature of “good” and “bad” people. From your personal perspective, are the following characters “good” or “bad” and why…
Definitely a bad guy — but I don’t know if he was always a bad guy, if that makes sense. Darren probably started off wanting to impress Hank Pym and saw himself as an ambitious innovator who could play a key role in the company. He clearly harbors some bitterness towards Hank after their relationship soured, and that bitterness is likely part of what drove him to become a villain.
Hope van Dyne
Good. Although Hope also struggles with some resentment towards her father, she really wants to do the right thing, and she even continues working with her father regardless of their prior falling out. She’s focused intently on the mission at hand.
Luis, Kurt, and Dave
Maybe…neutral? I don’t really see any of these three as villains; I think they do care about Scott and want to help him. I also really appreciate the small (but important!) scene where Luis goes back to save the guy he knocked out so he won’t be killed by the explosion. However, these three definitely have committed some criminal acts. I hope we’ll get to see more of them in “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and that they’ll be on a good path!
Good…mostly. I feel like I’m being a bit wishy-washy on some of these. 😉 Howard is an important figure in the overarching narrative of the MCU. But it’s also fair to say that he probably wasn’t the best father to Tony. Like all of us, he’s made mistakes and moral compromises. And there are consequences for that.
Good. Hank is dedicated to doing the right thing, and he grieves for his past mistakes, even if some of them weren’t necessarily his fault. He deeply cares about his daughter and is willing to admit that he was wrong for trying to hold her back. He ends up being a good mentor for Scott. And speaking of Scott…
Good. There’s room for debate about whether Scott initially deserved to go to jail or not for his choice to expose corporate corruption by committing burglary. However, now he’s kind of accepted his identity as a burglar and agrees to try to rob Hank’s house (definitely not a great moral decision). Yet deep down, he wants to do the right thing and take care of his daughter, and I’m glad that Hank was willing to give him a second chance.
3. There’s an interesting scene where Scott’s daughter asks her mother whether or not her dad is a bad person… How do you think the storytellers differentiate between a “good” person and a “bad” person? What criteria are they using? And can we apply that definition in real life?
In “Ant-Man,” I feel like the storytellers are defining a “good” person as someone who wants to help people and who prioritizes others above their own wants and needs. A “bad” person is the opposite; they want to help themselves and don’t care what other people they have to use and/or hurt in order to reach their goals.
Going by these definitions, Scott is still a good guy, even though he has committed some crimes. He wants to do what’s right for his daughter, and he isn’t acting out of purely selfish motives.
This can get tricky to apply to real life, though, because technically Scott should have gone to prison — and stayed in prison — for the crime of burglary after he tries to break into Hank Pym’s house. However, I do believe he deserves a second chance, and it’s probably a whole different topic of conversation about whether our current correctional system in the United States truly facilities rehabilitation and gives people a chance to repent and make a fresh start.
4. There’s a scene in the film where Hope suggests that the particle has altered Darren Cross’s — or Yellowjacket’s — brain chemistry. Do you think that makes him less responsible for his actions?
This is another tricky one! I do believe that yes, the particle has altered Darren’s brain chemistry, and it makes him a little crazy. He acts less rationally than he probably would have if he hadn’t intereacted with the particle. Still, I do not think that absolves him of responsibility for his actions. Darren repeatedly makes moral compromises in order to pursue his goals; I don’t believe the particle compelled him or forced him to make decisions that he wouldn’t have made otherwise. His disrespect for Hank Pym and his risky experiments are character flaws that still would have been there, with or without the particle.
5. Hank Pym tells Scott that he believes, “everyone deserves a shot at redemption.” What is redemption and why does Scott need it?
I believe that redemption is a second chance. It’s admitting that you made mistakes in the past and that you have fallen short of your potential. You seek forgiveness from those you have wronged, and then you resolve to do better in the future.
Scott needs redemption because the path he’s on at the start of the film isn’t the best one. He committed a crime — burglarizing a corrupt company — and even though it was for a good reason, it was still a crime. Now, Scott finds himself breaking into Hank Pym’s house for a not as good reason, simply because he needs money. Hank sees the potential in Scott and gives him a shot at a life that involves more than petty crime, and thankfully, Scott takes advantage of this opportunity.
I think we’re drawn to redemption arcs in fiction because they give us hope; even if we’ve made a mistake, our lives aren’t over. We can choose to change and become better people in the future.
6. Do you agree with Hank Pym? Does everyone deserve a shot at redemption? Why or why not?
I do think that every person deserves a shot at redemption, but not every person will accept it. Some people will continue to do the wrong thing, even if they’re given a second chance. In certain cases, people become so corrupted and walk stubbornly down the wrong path for so long that they pass the point of no return.
Also, even if a person admits their past mistakes and resolves to be a better person, they still have to face the consequences for those mistakes. For example, I love seeing Darth Vader’s redemption arc in “Return of the Jedi,” but he doesn’t get a “happily ever after” ending with his family. Even if he’d lived, he probably would have spent the rest of his life in prison for his crimes against the galaxy. Part of proving yourself worthy of redemption is willingly accepting the consequences of the wrong things you’ve done.
7. The film revolves around two families, Scott Lang’s family and Hank Pym’s family. What do you think the film has to say about family dynamics and the importance of family?
Even though both Scott and Hank have experienced problems within their families, “family” remains an important priority in their lives. After his stint in prison, Scott doesn’t get to see his daughter Cassie as often as he’d like, but he never stops loving her or trying to provide a better life for her. His love for her motivates him to become a superhero rather than getting trapped in a cycle of crime.
Hank still grieves the loss of his wife Janet, and that grief has caused him to be overprotective of his daughter Hope. Yet through the film, he learns to respect her and give her the freedom to fly on her own (no pun intended!).
Conflict within families is inevitable, and we’ve probably all had disagreements and said things to our family members that we’d like to forget. But even if we’ve made mistakes, like Scott and Hank, we can still seek reconciliation.
8. The film’s gimmick relies on science (or at least pseudo-science) — with the suit altering the distance or space between atoms, allowing the wearer to shrink and/or grow bigger. One concept in there is the threat of going “subatomic,” which Hank says will “alter reality itself.” And then, when Scott shows his friends the power of the suit, his friends immediately put a “paranormal” or “spiritual” filter on it by referring to “gypsies” and “witchcraft.” When you think of science, altered states of reality, and the concept of paranormal or spiritual influences as it relates to both the story being told here and our own experience in our reality, what comes to mind for you? What do these things mean? Why are they important to consider?
Science is pretty awesome — it’s great that people are curious about the world around us and want to study, explain, and investigate things. We should conduct experiments and test theories, opening the door for exciting new discoveries that can improve everyday life.
However, there are some questions that science can’t necessarily answer, that stretch beyond what we can observe or measure in the natural world. “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” are deeper philosophical questions that can’t be solved with a simple experiment.
I think “Ant-Man” touches on that balance between the quantifiable and the unquantifiable, though it doesn’t necessarily dive too deeply into it. Scientific discoveries have allowed Hank and Scott to shrink to the size of an ant, and that research is concrete and replicable (at least in the fictional world of the film). However, the quantum realm portrayed in the movie is something else entirely, perhaps beyond human understanding.
As a person of faith, I embrace both science and philosophy, and I think both these studies are an important part of human life. It’s good to study our natural world and to seek out the facts to back up those studies. But it’s also important to have philosophical discussions that reach beyond that.