As a kid, I read and re-read Marvel Premiere #47, which showed how Scott Lang became Ant-Man. Written by David Michelinie and drawn by X-Men team of teams John Byrne and Terry Austin, it was a story I read and re-read and if you have ever seen the way I draw comic books, so much of it comes from this issue.
So when it comes to that whole “Are comics cinema?” back and forth argument, I think you can figure out what side I’m on. Are there too many comic book movies? Were there too many giallo from 1970-1975? Did Italy make too many Westerns? Were there too many slashers in 1981? Can there be too much of something that you love?
Alright, now that I have gotten past the legally required nod to serious criticism, let me tell you why I enjoyed this movie about humanoid broccoli.
After the Avengers save everything from Thanos, former criminal and current Avenger Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has settled down from being Ant-Man, instead enjoying life as a writer, husband of Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and father of Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton), who is upset that her father isn’t fighting for people any longer, instead enjoying the fruits of his hard work and resting on his laurels. There’s a moment that’s interesting here, as she discusses all the people who were displaced in the time where Thanos killed half of reality and now are homeless. Yes, it’d be great to explore this but this is a popcorn movie that soon moves past that; I’m not suggesting a popcorn movie delve into that, but hey, if there ends up being a Disney+ D-Man series that does, I’d watch that. Also, the fact that I just casually namedropped D-Man should explain why I never went to the prom.
Anyways, Cassie has been working with her stepmother Hope and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to communicate with the Quantum Realm, the place where Hank’s wife Janey Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) spent thirty years of her life and has no interest in going back, particularly when it comes to explaining her past or unleashing new Marvel Cinematic Universe big bad Kang the Conquerer (Jonathan Majors, who is quite frankly amazing in this movie and brings a real sense of big drama to his role, not to mention all the various — oh yeah, SPOILER WARNING, I forgot that legal disclaimer –versions of Kang that he shows off, including Immortus, Rama-Tut, Scarlet Centurion and Victor Timely).
Everyone soon gets pulled into that Quantum Realm and becomes part of the war between its inhabitants, with good rebels Jentorra (Katy O’Brian, who was already part of the MCU as Kimball in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as Major Sarah Grey in the DC superhero TV series Black Lightning and a comms officer on The Mandalorian; if you really want me to go full geek, she’s a member of former Micronauts leader Commander Arcturus Rann’s Enigma Force alongside other non-Mego owned characters Marionette and Bug; one more semicolon but man, this movie is as close as we’re ever getting to a Michael Golden-era Micronauts movie), telepathic Quaz (William Jackson Harper; he’s not Quasar, as many Marvel fans thought, but when he does pull a password out of someone’s mind at one point, it’s 18147, which would be Avengers #181, Scott Lang’s first appearance, and a shout out to the aforementioned Marvel Premiere #47), the slime creature with no holes named Veb (David Dastmalchian, who was Kurt in the last two Ant-Man movies, Abra Kadabra on The Flash and Polka Dot Man in Suicide Squad), the flashlight head Xolum (James Cutler) and oh yeah, there’s Bill Murray as Lando Calrissian (I kid, he’s Lord Krylar, another of the characters like Jentorra who come from K’ai, the microplanet where the Hulk met one of the loves of his life Jarella) battling Kang and his Tron: Legacy-looking soldiers like he’s Baron Karza or something.
Anyways, yes, this all feels rather like Star Wars but then again — I invite you to check out this piece I wrote about where that movie’s influences came from — isn’t Star Wars influenced if not ripped off from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World? Kirby invented most of the MCU and rebelling against a dark authority is pretty much an archetype. Where this gets kind of operatic is that Ant-Man is, well, an ant against space god Kang and that’s a battle that I never saw coming.
I also never thought I’d see MODOK (Machine Organism Designed Only for Killing) in a movie, much less one that fully embraces the absolutely goofy idea of a giant head in a chair with weapons and baby legs. Also, this ends up being former Yellowjacket Darren Cross from the first movie and every time his real face shows up, it breaks the movie but it’s a welcome break in the movie.
You can imagine — and you’d be right — that the good guys win but this movie brings up an interesting idea that you can’t just punch Kang, who lives his life across multiple timelines that are not linear and that this Kang may not be the worst of the many Kangs. Then Scott brushes it off and tries to enjoy some Baskin-Robbins ice cream cake (the fact that the ice cream chain has no tie-in flavor and yet had a Condorman flavor back in the 80s is kind of upsetting; you can see a list of even more movie flavors here).
In the same way that politics — nice socialism shoutout with the ants in this — just leads to people not listening to one another, a lot of folks have their minds made up about comic book movies which are really just mythology and should be seen as such. That said, this movie did what all popcorn films should: it entertained me. I think it’s hilarious that one of the film’s writers, Jeff Loveness, said that this movie is “Jodorowsky’s Dune within Marvel” and there are not enough drugs in the world to show you what Alejandro Jodorowsky would do with a Marvel film but hey, he also did The Incal in comics form, so when you denigrate comics, keep in mind that a hero of cinema spent so much of his time there.
I explained to my wife tonight that as a kid, there I never really wanted to get involved in human drama or how stressful some extended family members could be, so I just filled my life with comic books. Often when we talk on the phone, my mom will say, “Do you remember this person,” and the answer is no, I do not remember this person. However, if she asked, “Was Wolverine really in World War 2?” I could give her several anecdotes and explain how Black Widow could be young and yet still saved by Logan and Captain America in 1941.
So yeah, I liked this movie.