Ant Man opens in a similar fashion to many of the MCU films with a short flashback scene. Starting a film with a “boardroom” scene is a puzzling choice – I respond by doing what I usually do when confronted with a phalanx of middle aged white men in suits, which is, fall into a senseless stupor. I am just about alert enough to register the presence of Howard Stark and a man who looks like a young Michael Douglas. Upon consulting a wiki afterwards, I discover that the revelations in this scene are basically critical to the entire plot of the film, which explains why I felt like I was spending the whole two hours playing catch-up. Young Michael Douglas is Hank Pym, who was referred to in Thor, and he’s been working on shrinking technology but come to the conclusion that it’s unspeakably dangerous. He’s angry that Howard Stark is also now working on shrinking technology, and so Pym resigns from SHIELD in a fit of pique.
Flash forward to the present day, and here’s Paul Rudd, who will always to me be Crap Bag from Friends. He is freshly out of prison and trying to go clean, though it’s hard work when even his job at an ice cream parlour falls through when they discover about his past. In case you’re worried that there’s going to be any sort of challenging moral grey areas here, fret ye not – he’s unambiguously portrayed as one of The Good Guys, and just to put a cherry on it, it’s revealed that though he’s a cat burglar, the crime that he was put away for was a Robin Hood sort of theft. I open my notebook and jot down something tells me that there will be one last “big score”.
Meanwhile, in a lab that has been given the appropriate lighting, decor and mood music that the sign reading “You don’t have to be evil to work here – but it helps!” is rendered unnecessary, a bald man in a suit (Darren Cross, and you know he’s a baddie, because he’s both bald and in a suit) is introducing more men in suits to a teeny tiny mech suit called the yellowjacket which has the power to shrink its wearer into a centimetre-high supersoldier. One of the men in suits sweats nervously and stammers “imagine what our enemies could do with this tech?” and you know that he’s not going to be long for this world. You can literally see Cross thinking “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”
Surprise surprise, Crap Bag ends up doing one last big score, because otherwise his ex-wife is going to stop him from seeing his daughter. As a Good Guy, his illegal activities must be motivated by wholesome desires. He runs into some slightly tighter than expected security, but he’s quick on his feet and cracks a fingerprint scanner in less than 5 minutes. This segment nicely satisfies my lust for what I call “competence porn” – scenes in films and TV shows which show people being really bloody good at what they do. Once inside the vault, Crap Bag discovers what looks like an old motorcycle suit, only to discover that it’s an older version of the yellowjacket suit, and we get our first ant-scale action sequence. These sequences are all absolutely brilliant – top notch action, great CG, and also some cracking humour injected into them, by occasionally interspersing the high-octane ant-scale action with a brief clip of how it looks from human-scale, which is often hilariously anticlimactic.
At this point, two brilliant things happen, for which I absolutely love this film. First, Scott – sorry, Crap Bag – panics and tries to return the suit. This fills me with glee, because whereas in most films the protagonist would accept his new responsibility and just advance to the next plot point, in this one he does the logical thing and tries to hit the undo key. It is then revealed that the big heist was actually a set up, and the owner/inventor of the suit is a fully-grown Michael Douglas, who deliberately selected Scott and wanted him to have the suit in order to half-inch the yellowjacket suit from the evil bald man. Cue brilliant thing number two, which is that Scott says “uh, why don’t we call up The Avengers and get them to fight evil instead?” Again, entirely logical. Fully-Grown Michael Douglas gives an explanation why that’s not possible, and I’m sure it was a very good one, but I was too busy noting down my joy that the writers of the film made an attempt to answer the fans’ inevitable “why didn’t they do sensible course of action instead of dumb thing” questions before they are even asked.
Scott finally accepts his duty and we then get a very funny training montage of him learning to effectively use the suit. At this point I would like to briefly mention the humour in this film. While it’s not quite as over-the-top as the Guardians Of The Galaxy movies, it’s definitely one of the funnier films in the stable, and for me personally, I think this might be the sweet spot. When we got to the credits and the writers were revealed as Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, everything slotted into place. It is certainly a very British sort of humour – sometimes subtle but generally quite humble.
Then there’s another one of those gratuitous shirtless scenes like the one in Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 – for the benefit of anyone who hasn’t seen behind the curtain, you should be aware that preparing for that sort of scene is a months-long process in itself, it’s incredibly unhealthy (one of the main components is being incredibly dehydrated), and if you whipped off the actor’s shirt during any other scene in the movie, his stomach would not look anything like that (though that’s obviously what they’re trying to imply). Just so you know. Apologies if I’ve ruined your wanking session.
There are three female characters in this film, also known as “people who may need rescuing at some point”. Scott’s ex-wife and his daughter I’ve already mentioned, and the third is Fully-Grown Michael Douglas’ daughter, Hope. She’s a bit pissed off that FGMD has roped in Scott for this mission against evil, when she thinks that she’s the ideal candidate. You get no points if you correctly guess FGMD’s reasoning, which is that her mother was, like FGMD himself, once an agent working for SHIELD in one of FGMD’s tiny suits. Faced with humanity’s demise, she was forced to “go sub-atomic” as a noble sacrifice, and FGMD never got over it and doesn’t want to put his daughter in the same danger. “Never go sub-atomic”, FGMD warns Scott. The wise film fan laughs wryly. Remember in 1984, when Egon Spengler told the other Ghostbusters to never cross the streams, and then they ended up having to cross the streams because the plot demanded it? Yeah, you can see where this is going. Anyway, this paragraph went down a bit of a rabbit hole – the point I originally set out to make was that there are only two adult female characters in this film, which is about par for the course for MCU films, but most refreshingly there is no romance subplot. Protocol dictates that in this film, there should be flirting and eventual snogging between Hope and Scott, but that protocol is delightfully ignored. Hoo-fucking-ray!
We enter the final act of the film, and it is time to retrieve the yellowjacket suit. Things pan out exactly as predictably but entertainingly as I have prepped you for. I shall say no more, as I’ve already said enough.
The main theme of this film is that nothing is more powerful than a man’s love for his family. I would request that you remind me of this idiom next time I’m sat next to Bernard on the sofa and he says “Dad, I managed to keep a fart in!” about 0.75 seconds before a clarion “parp!” echoes off of the sofa cushions.