Scott Lang has created a series of oversized problems for himself.
A few years ago he made the foolish choice of using his various skills to commit a Robin Hood-like crime. Yeah, it was stupid. But he was just pushing back against this evil corporate entity that was stealing money from innocent people and … OK, to cut short a long set of excuses, he got caught and sent away.
Then his wife divorced him and remarried. And his daughter, Cassie—a girl he loves more than life itself—was caught up in the mess. His ex made it clear after Scott’s release from San Quentin that if he wants even the most meager of visitation rights with Cassie he’d best land a solid job and come up with some child support pronto.
Unfortunately, a prison record and a solid job don’t automatically go hand in hand.
Scott really does want to stick to the straight and narrow, but it looks like slipping back into some kind of criminal pursuit may be the only way to get enough money to ever see his daughter again. That’s when a retired scientist named Dr. Hank Pym steps in to offer Scott a little job that might just shrink his employment and money issues down to size.
By shrinking Scott himself.
You see, this eccentric genius discovered something called the Pym Particle many years before. It’s an amazing substance that—when used in conjunction with a special suit—can reduce the space between atoms and take a size 42 waist down to a size, um, well, what exactly is the pants size of an ant?
For decades now, Dr. Pym has been trying to keep this discovery from being used in military applications. But after losing control of his company, it looks like the remarkable substance could now find its way into the wrong hands. In fact, some mysterious group called Hydra is already vying to buy the invention. And who knows what kind of disaster that may result in. It’s absolutely crucial that someone stop the sale.
Scott’s job? Well, he needs to break out his cat burglar skills once again and steal the invention. But the corporate security measures surrounding this miracle substance and device are far too tight for any full-sized man to sneak through. Scott will have to use Dr. Pym’s particle phenomenon himself in order to keep anyone else from using it.
He’ll have to take a small role in a larger play, you might say, turning himself into Ant-Man in order to do the itty-bitty, teeny tiny job of … saving the world.
Accepting the blessings of second chances and doing whatever it takes to love and care for your family are the overarching themes here.
Scott is motivated to follow through on the difficulties of his Ant-Man tasks—involving repeated injuries and potentially his death—by his deep love for his daughter. She, in turn, has nothing but total adoration for her dad, despite his past wrongdoings. In fact, Scott’s ex-wife encourages him to “just be the person that she already thinks you are.” At one point, Scott leaps into what he’s certain will be a no-return situation in an effort to save Cassie.
Dr. Pym continues those through-lines by telling Scott that he believes “every man deserves a shot at redemption,” and that their actions aren’t about “saving our world, but about saving theirs.”
In fact, Dr. Pym has some past pain of his own from which he desperately wants to protect his adult daughter, Hope. (Those include the fact that the girl’s mother sacrificed her life, while in miniature form, to stop a deadly nuclear threat.) When Hope gets frustrated with her dad for not letting her take on the role (and danger) of the Ant-Man mission, Scott explains, “I’m expendable, That’s why I’m here. He’d rather lose this fight than lose you.”
A corporate baddie named Darren Cross references his “morning meditations.”
Hope shows some cleavage. She and Scott kiss. Scott’s former cellmate and friend, Luis, mentions the “first boobs” he ever touched.
At one point this movie humorously points to just how small all the action is by swooping the camera back out of a heated battle scene so we can see how minimal the damage is in our much bigger world. Still, there’s quite a lot of hard-thumping bash and bam on hand as the tiny Ant-Man punches full-sized men (including a second-tier Avenger) with a super-strong wallop.
With his shirt off at one point, we see that Scott has sustained bruises and a nasty looking gash. Hand-to-hand combat is punctuated with gunfire. Someone shoots at a miniaturized Scott, hitting a “pet” flying ant that’s underneath him. A villain in a “Yellowjacket” battle suit blazes away with lasers that rip up scenery, threaten a child and kill at least one man piloting a helicopter. An empty building is blown up.
Darren Cross uses an unperfected Pym Particle sprayer to kill a man, reducing him to a small goopy blob of tissue. And he does that to a cute and cuddly looking lamb as well. Dr. Pym is shot at close range. In a massive malfunction, a man is violently shrunk—piece by piece and limb by limb—until he blinks out of sight.
Four s-words and one use of “b–ch” join seven or eight each of “a–,” “d–n” and “h—.” God’s name is misused three or four times.
Hope says she gave Luis and his friends “half a Xanax” each to calm them down. (We see them sleeping.) A number of people, in both a bar and a private setting, drink beer and wine. Cross celebrates a corporate breakthrough with a glass of champagne. Scott has a beer.
Though we never see anyone actually use a needle or injection device, it’s implied that the Pym Particle substance is injected into people via the Ant-Man and Yellowjacket suits.
Luis and his “crew” are more than happy to venture into criminal activities if the opportunity arises. And they escape any repercussions after smashing up police vehicles, among other things. Someone praises Scott’s past crimes, saying his actions were admirable.
This twelfth entry in the modern series of Marvel Universe movies feels a bit, uh, smaller (less groundbreaking) than the others. But as Ant-Man will tell ya, sometimes smaller is better.
There’s not quite as much superhero bombast to sit through, and definitely a whole lot less city shredding and people-pulverizing going on in this wee-fella-in-a-supersuit flick. The HO-scale pow-zap doesn’t even really get rolling until the latter parts of the film. And that leaves some comfortable room between the movie-beat atoms to slip in extra helpings of humor and heart.
In fact, it’s the film’s sizeable share of guy-struggling-to-be-a-hero-for-his-daughter emotion that makes this pic so easy to identify with, turning it into something just a bit bigger than yet another chew-the-scenery actioner. Into a superhero movie for the average little guy.
And the spoilers? They’re not plot twists. They’re some bad-guy raging, man-and-beast bio-blobbing … and a quantity of bad words that should have been dosed with some of that Pym Particle shrinking stuff before Marvel shot this thing out into the big wide world.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.