Sci-Fi · TV & Movies

Ant-Man is the New Iron Man

I think it’s fair to say Iron Man launched a monumentally successful series of movies. It’s also fair to say Iron Man was a surprise hit in many ways, so Marvel didn’t exactly know where they were headed at the time. In the years since the rather unfortunate Iron Man 2, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has learned a valuable lesson: Each movie doesn’t have to be bigger and better than the last. Instead, each movie should be the same, but different. With every addition to the lineup, Marvel has to give us what we want, but in a cool and unexpected way.

The MCU also has the distinction of being a decades-long undertaking. That means, unfortunately, actors won’t stick around in the MCU forever, so the writers have to keep Ant-Man posterintroducing new characters. Again, making them similar enough to the old ones to give us what we want, but different enough that we don’t get bored. I very much enjoyed Ant-Man on many levels. I mean, Hope Van Dyne is pretty much my new favorite character of everything, ever. But in the light of the MCU’s longterm needs, Ant-Man is even more of a success… It’s Iron Man, but different.

There are superficial similarities — sure, sure, it’s an origin story about a guy in a suit — but “guy in a suit” is actually a pretty distinct superhero trope. There’s a whole buffet of options, from “alien” to “chosen by the gods” to “scientific accident” and more, but “guy in a suit” is a particular favorite because it’s so overtly linked to humanity and human achievement. And this suit isn’t just another redesign of the Iron Man suit. It’s a totally new power that allows for a whole new landscape. Neither movie totally relies on flash-bang, but the Iron Man movies give a lot of space to special effects and cool ideas, and Ant-Man can do the same thing.

The movies have similar structures, starting with motivation, then the hero figuring out his suit, then there’s a big boss battle with the hero vs. a scarier version of his own suit. That’s pretty typical for all kinds of movies, of course. There’s also the previously-mentioned Hope Van Dyne, who’s basically “Pepper Potts with a grudge and superpowers,” not that I’m complaining, but more about her in a later post. We also see the same tone and humor in the two movies, the same corner of the MCU, smaller-scale and memorable for the snark combined with enthusiastic situational comedy.

The thematic similarities are more striking. Tony Stark starts at the top, a rich genius with everything he wants at his fingertips, but he’s wasting it. He’s disconnected from everyone and everything. He has no family, and his friends are just putting up with him. His story is about dropping to the bottom and re-grounding himself. On the other hand, Scott Lang is starting from the bottom, literally in prison the first time we see him, with only a handful of possessions to his name, and not many job prospects as an ex-con. He has a daughter though, Cassie, and he’s trying to work his way up because he desperately wants a relationship with her.

Iron Man posterTony Stark had pretty obvious father issues, living in his shadow, wishing for his father’s love. Ant-Man takes that theme and makes it the whole movie, with Scott wanting to be a hero for his daughter, with Hank Pym pushing his daughter away trying to protect her, with Hope resenting his rejection but loving him anyway, with Hank and Darren’s failed mentor/apprentice relationship and the same spark between Hank and Scott. (Not to mention Cassie’s new stepdad, and can I say how much I love the happy nontraditional family developing with them at the end?)

Finally, it’s entirely fitting that a feud between Pym and the Starks is what keeps the Avengers out of this movie. (Well, for the most part). It’s effortless compared to other movies’ explanations or total lack of an answer to the obvious question, “Where are the rest of the heroes?” It’s partly Pym being selfish, of course, but he does have a point. He doesn’t want that Pym particle going anywhere, much less right into Tony Stark’s hands!

In case you couldn’t tell, I think Ant-Man is a win. There are a few flaws, but it’s a fun movie with great characters and solid themes that hold up throughout the movie. It’s a visual treat, and I don’t even like bugs. It’s also the perfect next step in Marvel’s grand master plan, because it proves they can keep it going. They can build on the mythos we know and love, giving us new movies in the spirit of the old, and that’s exactly what’ll keep us watching for years to come.

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16 thoughts on “Ant-Man is the New Iron Man

  1. There were so many times during this post I wanted to jump right in and…I don’t know…give you a high five or something! These thoughts were going through my mind as I watched, and then reflected on the movie. Even more so when I read Second-Chance Man, which was great because Tony and Scott have a few scenes together and they’re the same, but different – it’s magic! And I completely agree with your last comment. I can’t wait to see Scott interacting with the Avengers – it will be an entertaining dynamic and one of the highlights I’m sure. I have a good feeling about Civil War! This is a great post, Hannah, and I agree with you on Hope too…it’s going to be so exciting to discover what happens next 😀

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    1. lol! *high fives back*

      I’m apprehensive about Civil War in general, it looks like something that’l be a mark change in the series, but I have no doubt it’ll be a magnificent experience. 😀 I’ll have to read Second Chance Man!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You won’t regret it, it’s a joy! 😀 And, yep, I hear you about the change that’s coming. While we’re on the subject of apprehension and Marvel movies. I’m nervous about Fantastic Four. Still going to see it though!

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  2. Some people are complaining that this movie is too similar to Iron Man, but I didn’t think that at all. The first Iron Man movie took itself fairly seriously for the most part, and told a grounded story that, apart from the Iron Man suit, feels like it could happen in the real world. Ant Man doesn’t really feel like that, even with the corporate villain who’s making shady deals. The mood is also different; Ant Man is a much more light-hearted movie than Iron Man 1. And the real heart of this story is redemption and Scott’s father/daughter relationship.

    Personally, I think this is the best solo origin movie Marvel’s done since Iron Man. It has flaws sure, but so did Incredible Hulk (a bit too melodramatic), Thor (I liked it personally, but it was slow at times and very anti-climactic) and Captain America (glorious and fun, but let’s face it; it’s designed to look and feel like a B-Movie).

    What Ant Man really proves though, is that Marvel can find success with a relatively low budget movie with less advertising; it’s still making a fair amount of money world-wide and hasn’t even opened in every planned market yet.

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    1. Yep. It makes a big difference that Ant-Man is so deep in the MCU now. They don’t have to be quite so careful about realism and “not being made fun of”.

      I don’t know much about the production side, but I never would’ve guessed Ant-Man was “relatively low budget” if I hadn’t been seeing that mentioned as a concern all along. It doesn’t look low-budget at all.

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  3. Nice analysis. I guess I hadn’t thought about it, but I did get a similar “feeling” from Ant-Man as when I saw Iron Man. I didn’t really have any expectations for either but ending up enjoying both. Also, I really loved the way Iron Man updated the origin story for present day, and I think that’s something Ant-Man did really well, too.

    I also love the Marvel movies’ expansion into “sub-genres.” The diversity of their movies will hopefully keep them all interesting.

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    1. Good point, they’ve done a great job of being timely, rather than trying to do the exact origin stories created fifty, sixty, even seventy years ago! Their use of genres is really good too. Ant-Man is a heist movie, but it’s not SUCH a heist movie that it doesn’t fit with the others!

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  4. I always know a movie’s a success when my biggest complaint, leaving the theatre, is “I really didn’t like the heroine’s haircut.” (Seriously, I thought it looked terrible on her. Maybe that was just me.) I really need to get back and see it again soon. Maybe I can talk my mother into going this time. She refused because “there are going to be bugs in it.” Even though they were going to be CG, which is never as unsettling.

    The way they wove in the interconnections with the other movies worked really well, especially the Stark/Pym rivalry, like you said. I’m glad everything worked out, given all the early trouble they had!

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    1. Ha! Her haircut’s a little on-the-nose “businesswoman,” maybe, but it suits her character. 🙂

      The bugs are an issue for a lot of people. I thought it might bother me, I don’t like creepy-crawlies, but the way it was done with the relative sizes made them more “animals” than “icky” to me.

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  5. Great post! I loved the whole thematic take on fathers that wove through all the key stories. I thought this movie was really fun, too. It was nice to have that style of Marvel movie come around again (although I like all the other ones, too.) You’ve summarized Ant-Man’s strengths so well in this post. Looking forward to seeing him get woven into future movies!

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    1. Thanks! This might even be my favorite Marvel style, although I’m excited to see more sci-fi after Guardians of the Galaxy… I think seeing Scott interact with the other Avengers is going to be a hoot. 😀

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