The Marvel movie countdown to Avengers: Infinity War #12: Ant-Man (2015)

We're counting down to the release of Marvel's eagerly anticipated Avengers: Infinity War with our Marvel movie challenge. Starting from 1st January, watch one Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie a week until Infinity War's release on 27th April, and you'll be up to speed on all the blockbusters in the MCU so far.

We're continuing this week with the debut of a certain shrinking superhero in Ant-Man...

The story

Recently released from prison, small-time thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) wants to go on the straight and narrow to support his estranged family. However, Scott's efforts are waylaid when he's enticed to break into the house of scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). An unlikely pupil-mentor relationship then unfolds as Pym introduces Lang to his revolutionary shrinking technology, and in the process, the latter adopts the guise of Ant-Man. Lang's abilities soon come in useful when he must do battle with Pym's treacherous former protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who has appropriated the technology for nefarious ends.

The background

Ant-Man's journey to the big screen was bumpier than most Marvel movies. Created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber in 1962, the character was first pitched to studios in the 1980s, but lost out owing to the abundance of existing shrinking movies like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

Fast forward to 2004 and director Edgar Wright, hot off the success of Shaun of the Dead, pitched an idea to Marvel's head honcho Kevin Feige. Collaborating with Joe Cornish, who would go on to direct hoodie alien invasion movie Attack the Block, Wright was officially signed to direct the movie in 2006. He explained he was looking to "do a prologue where you see Pym as Ant-Man in action in the 60s, in sort of Tales to Astonish mode basically, and then the contemporary, sort of flash-forward, is Scott Lang's story, and how he comes to acquire the suit, how he crosses paths with Hank Pym, and then, in an interesting sort of Machiavellian way, teams up with him".

Anticipation for the movie steadily grew in the ensuing years, as the MCU was born with 2008's Iron Man and subsequently grew into a franchise behemoth. In May 2013, production was confirmed to be taking place in the US and by December of that year, Paul Rudd was in negotiations to star.

However, on 23rd May 2014, on the eve of principal photography, Wright unexpectedly departed the project, citing "differences in their vision of the film". He added: "I wanted to make a Marvel movie but I don’t think they really wanted to make an Edgar Wright movie".

On 7th June, replacement filmmaker Peyton Reed was brought in and Feige confirmed the initial release date of 17th July 2015 still stood. Rudd, in collaboration with Anchorman filmmaker Adam McKay, rewrote Wright's script and filming officially began on 18th August in San Francisco.

Standout performance

It has to be Michael Pena as Lang's puppyish partner-in-crime Luis. He becomes our avatar, giddy with joy that he's become part of a superhero universe and gleefully narrating digressive flashback sequences that are the funniest moments in the movie. There's long been talk of getting Luis to narrate everything that's happened in the MCU so far. Seriously, can someone make that happen?

Standout scene

We're opting for the miniaturised battle between Lang and Cross during the climax, in which an innocuous Thomas the Tank Engine toy becomes a looming object of terror.

The soundtrack

Marvel's films are routinely criticised for their allegedly generic scores, but the same accusation can't be levelled at Ant-Man. Distilling the movie's heist overtones, Frozen composer Christophe Beck fashions a finger-snapping and jazzy sense of attitude that honours genre masters like Mission: Impossible's Lalo Schifrin. Along with Ludwig Goransson's Black Panther, it's arguably the most creative and enjoyable score in the MCU so far.

Stan Lee cameo

Post credits scene

Did you know?

  • Jessica Chastain turned down the role of Pym's Hope van Dyne, eventually played by Lost actress Evangeline Lilly.
  • When Paul Rudd told his nine-year-old son he was going to be Ant-Man, his son said, "Wow, I can't wait to see how stupid that'll be."
  • Edgar Wright says he can still not bring himself to watch the finished movie.

General observations

  • The start of the movie is notable for the de-ageing of Michael Douglas through CGI. The actor later said: "Seeing myself CGI-ed at the beginning of the movie thirty years younger was incredible! I had these little dots all over my face, and I'm looking at it and half way through the scene the picture it just appeared and there I was thirty years ago. Romancing the Stone. I'm thinking I'm all for a prequel!"
  • The end of the movie shows Hope glancing at the Wasp costume, which she'll be donning in this year's sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp

What the critics said

  • "Although the story dynamics are fundamentally silly and the family stuff, with its parallel father-daughter melodrama, is elemental button-pushing, a good cast led by a winning Paul Rudd puts the nonsense over in reasonably disarming fashion." – Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
  • "Reed and Rudd's film is proof that no matter how silly some ideas sound at first, good things often do come in small packages." – Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
  • "You can't have a good Ant-Man movie without a good Ant-Man, and in the genial and charming everyman Paul Rudd, the filmmakers have done it right." – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
  • "Like Guardians of the Galaxy, last year's off-brand Marvel hit, Ant-Man dabbles in the bright, playful colors of the superhero spectrum, reveling in moments of cartoonish whimsy and smirky humor." – A.O. Scott, The New York Times

Next time...

Captain America: Civil War