(Welcome to Great Moments in MCU History, where we fondly recall great little bits that made us fall in love with the MCU.)
Travel with me back to ancient times. Joe Biden was merely Vice President. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice still had potential to be the greatest movie ever made. Prince and David Bowie were still with us. The year was 2015, approximately one hundred years in the past.
In terms of Marvel, this was the year of Avengers: Age of Ultron and today’s subject, Ant-Man. One film couldn’t be bigger. The other couldn’t be more dependent on charm. Between the two, Ant-Man has aged better simply because successful charm will always outlast confused, if well-meaning, bombast.
This was also a Marvel era where characters had to earn their place in the Universe all by themselves. More recent Marvel films have gone heavy on team-ups to get more bang for their buck (Thor & Hulk, Captain Marvel & Agent Fury, Spider-Man & Iron Man). Ant-Man had to develop its own characters, joke structures, and action aesthetics. It also has to overcome behind-the-scenes drama as acclaimed filmmaker Edgar Wright left the project late in development, handing the reins off to the less obviously exciting Peyton Reed.
And (spoiler alert) it did overcome that drama. Ant-Man succeeded. The character immediately returned in Captain America: Civil War and later become a huge player in Avengers: Endgame. But people fell in love with him in a vacuum that had very little to do with the Marvel Universe. Having said that, the film’s best sequence does happen to be when it fully crosses over into the larger Marvel world.
Ant-Man is kind of a heist film. Not as much a heist film as Marvel told us before release, but still more of a heist film than any other Marvel movie. The we’re talking about here begins with Ant-Man arriving at a location where he intends to lift some tech for his grudging mentor, Hank Pym. To everyone’s surprise, the stuff is located at Avengers HQ, and to get it, Ant-Man must fight The Falcon.
It’s a great fight in and of itself. For starters, no one is really trying to hurt each other so it remains lighthearted throughout. Ant-Man’s shrinking shenanigans are a lot of fun not just to watch visually, but also to figure out, like, scientifically. But on top of that, it also gives us a rare opportunity to see what The Falcon is capable of. His visor allows him to locate and see Ant-Man even when he’s tiny, because otherwise the fight would be over in an instant. It’s just joyous to watch them tussle for a while. On the ground and in air. Big and small. Eventually, Ant-Man unplugs Falcon’s spark plugs or whatever and wins, which is very embarrassing for The Falcon. I am sorry to tell you this Falcon, but that is sort of your deal.
Why It’s Great
I think it’s important to note how unique Scott Lang is to the Marvel Universe, particularly before its take on Peter Parker showed up. He’s the first of these characters who isn’t some combination of millionaire genius military person. In other words, he’s just like us. The Avengers are celebrities to him and he acts accordingly in their presence. This sort of makes me feel extra bad when everyone treats him so horribly in Endgame, but that’s neither here nor there.
The point is, seeing Ant-Man interact with an Avenger is a lot of fun simply because the status is so mismatched between them, even though we were in a theater watching an Ant-Man movie while here in 2020 the best Falcon will get is a shared-headline TV show. You root for Ant-Man against what would normally be a hero, which is a strange dynamic offered by his technically being a criminal.
I’ll tell you what else! Age of Ultron ended with a very different Avengers lineup in a brand new headquarters. None of us knew when we’d finally get to see this new iteration of the team in action, and there was a hunger for more Vision action in the very least. This Ant-Man scene did not deliver that, but it was a very unexpected surprise to see some semblance of Avengers status quo as Falcon provides HQ security. Is that something he does every day? Does War Machine ever take a shift? How often do ne’er-do-wells try to steal from Avengers HQ. I don’t know! But I am thankful to Ant-Man for getting me close enough to put these questions in my noggin in the first place.
What if Ant-Man lost the fight? Like, what if Vision were out there instead of Falcon and his faulty tech. There is room to believe the thoroughly good-natured Ant-Man might get his precious tech after being tied to a chair, spilling his beans for a while, but probably not. So the whole Ant-Man thing goes belly-up before it even really begins. Yellowjacket succeeds in selling Pym’s shrinking tech to the military, which is probably not ideal. But worse than that, Ant-Man never gets where he needs to be to discover time travel and save half the universe. So it’s a good thing he fought the Falcon and not someone who poses any actual threat.
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