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Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

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Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby Staff » Wed Jul 22, 2015 8:40 am


ANT_MAN_LEGO_PAYOFF


In one way, Ant-Man seemed like an odd choice to end Marvel's juggernaut of a second phase. On the other hand, if you take its journey from initial concept being pitched at the dawn of the MCU to fully realized film, it's almost perfect. Think of it as a palate cleanser between Phases. A little tequila sorbet to help you get past the events of the Age of Ultron and help you prepare the seismic shift that could come from Civil War. I'm not saying Ant-Man is a perfect movie, but it was a great way to close out this wave of films. Sure, they could have ended with Avengers 2, but they've done that before and this was something different. That's not always a good thing, but for Marvel, it's working. Very well.

I'll try not to be too spoiler-y, but no promises. Let's talk shrinkage.



Ant-Man-Paul-Rudd-Shower
"What have you heard?"



Phase 1 was about super heroes. They were introducing characters and they all kind of felt the same. Some worked and some didn't, but they did try and make different types of movies. The Incredible Hulk aimed for a feeling like the older TV series or The Fugitive, the chased man. It missed the mark, but they didn't give up and by the time Captain America: The First Avenger rolled around, they successfully pulled off a period war film that still meshed really well with the rest of their universe. Phase Two built off of that with hugely successful forays into old school spy films and space operas, but still had films that fell short of the goal. They're still about super heroes, but now they can be successfully more. With Ant-Man, we get a heist film that's filled with humour and while it has it's issues, it falls on the positive side for me. Not as good as last years films, but a little better than Age of Ultron and that's a pretty good place to find yourself sitting since this is the second film this phase that people were sure would send the train off of the rails. The first was Guardians of the Galaxy and we all know how that turned out.



Ant-Man-Character-Poster-Paul-Rudd-Yellowjacket


Ant-Man doesn't hit that high of a note unfortunately, so let's go over it's weakest points first.

The biggest problem I had is with character and motivations. We are very quickly spoon fed who the good guys are and who the bad guys are from the very first scene. The main antagonist, Darren Cross is never fully realized and while he makes a specific point to tell you his motivations, they don't really gel with his protrayal. We're told that the exposure to Pym Particles has had an affect on him, but that he was never really stable to begin with. Only in one scene does this ring true, the confrontation with his mentor, Pym and it's as obvious as the punch he said he saw coming. Just with less impact. He's bitter. He's a genius. He obviously not a member of PETA and he's a jerk. He's certainly a threat, but he ends up being a forgettable villain. Very flat performance for a villain that will leave no impact and not be missed.

He's not the only jerk though. Hank Pym is almost as bad. Deviations from the comics are common place for the MCU, but they've always kept the spirit of the characters the same and Pym no exception. He's good intentions all the way and poor execution. His history with SHIELD has poisoned him from his own destiny. His history with Howard Stark has poisoned him to the Avengers (though in his defence, his career was stealth and they are very loud). His history with his wife has poisoned his relationship with his daughter. And the fact that he can perceive all his own failings poisoned his protégé, creating his own nemesis. Guy's got problems, but he's not as messed up as he is in the comics.


antman_poster_3


His daddy/daughter issues stunt the growth of Hope Van Dyne, who is basically left with very little to do. By the time she gets around to muttering "It's about gorram time...", I was in total agreement. Again, it's another character introduced for the greater growth of the MCU as a whole, but why not in this movie? I said this film is a perfect end to this phase and in the way Marvel has mishandled their female characters it is. It's a flashing neon sign that says "WE DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH OUR WOMEN!". They know they've got great characters, but they don't seem to be able to engage them consistently. Hope is a new character, designed to be a stand in for her mother Janet, but she has zero impact on the film other than to be wet blanket for the two main male characters and hook up with whoever her fathers protégé is at the moment. Another wasted opportunity to add something special to THIS movie, in the attempt to set up events for future films.

Even the titular character suffers from a weakness of... well, character. He's a recovering ex thief who as soon as he hits a bump in the road, goes right back to it. He's desperate, but it's made clear that he's more a Robin Hood than a straight up thief. The main problem with that is he's a phenomenally good thief and those skills weren't picked up while he got his masters in electrical engineering. Rudd has a lot of fun with the character, though there's no real depth to his performance and I can't blame him for it. The mask is a huge hindrance to the third act for both Lang and Cross, as you only see the eyes which are in frenetic motion and obscured by visors. I found a new appreciation for the HUD trick they use to keep Tony's face front and centre. There's still no excuse for Thor not wearing his gorram helmet though. You could still see his face just fine.


ant_man_ver17_xlg


Rudd is charming as Lang and while he is the very heart of the film in pretty much every way, I will be very interested to see how he will fit into the avengers. He's a follower, not a leader. Perhaps it's a side effect of his time in prison or regrets about his Robin Hood days, but he spends the entire movie doing whatever anyone else tells him to do. Until the one time at the end, he does the opposite and it saves his life. Hopefully, it's a wake up call. Otherwise, I think he'll be a fun addition to the MCU.

The film had a lot of good stuff going for it too, though. Humour was of course its biggest strength, but the shrinking sequences were really great and the heist plot was simple and well executed. The supporting cast was really good even if they were too marginalized. Scott's friends were the scene stealers though and you can sign me up for story time with Michael Pena anytime. The stakes were high enough to keep things interesting, but not insanely huge or world destroying which is a balance I think Marvel has mastered. It's stakes are pulled back from AoU while slightly influenced by them, but remain a stand alone scenario while being a set up for Civil War whatever the outcome may be. Nicely done. Overall, it set up a lot of development for Captain America: Civil War and beyond with many little easter eggs throughout and it only ever felt a bit forced once. For me anyway.

In the end, it's a lot of the same in a slightly different packaging. In a mostly good way. Marvel still has a way to go to fix some of their continuing issues with women and POC, but I'm hoping Phase Three will start to make some leaps in that area. I'm not going to let it's portrayal of these characters bring it's score down too far though, because it was still very entertaining and I've already let the exact same thing slide in previous films. Yes, I'm looking at you Guardians. This has to be dealt with as a systematic issue and not one specific to this film, however blatant it comes through here.

One reason for this could be less obvious. It still reeks of Edgar Wright's contributions to the story, while lacking his punchy directing style, smooth pacing and excellent transitions. I'm left wondering if the portrayal of Hope is the result of Edgar's writing, a big blight on the film left by his usual inability to give female characters any real depth or purpose (not including Spaced). It's the one area he and Marvel certainly need work in, but an Edgar Wright directed Ant-Man is still on my list of films to check out should I ever master inter-dimensional travel (at this point my jumps are far too short and comically random).


Ant-Man-Image-9
"Wait. How did I end up on the TARDIS?


Now quickly, I'll look at the Ant-Man LEGO set in relation to the film. Love it.

There were lots of neat things the could have done, the keychain, confrontation at the old storage facility, the helicopter battle... scratch that, we've had enough of those sets. We get Ant-Man with his favourite ride, Antony. I'm not sure why they made him dark blue, but I'll chock it up to LEGO being LEGO. I also can only assume that the reason for the over the top wing attachment in the set is to avoid him... losing them. They included the films villain which is always good and was a shoe in for a micro battle scene in the movie from the first real trailer. The LEGO bricks and screw were both items he interacted with specifically in the film at different points that are easy to replicate and allow LEGO to make a very meta set. The yellow brick should be a 2x4 not a 1x2 plate, but who cares (feel free not to answer that). The inclusion of Hank Pym in a Black Out suit, while a mystery based on the film I accept gladly as a rare variant I won't have to pine over. Wish they'd do that with Iron Man sets more often, so we could get some good armours.


ant-man-1435327553
TL:DR Review - Thumbs Up, Gotta Go!


If you had any reservations about seeing Ant-Man because you figured it was going to be a train wreck, it's not. MCU fans should find a lot to enjoy and most will probably agree this one would be in the upper third of the films, or at least the king of the middle. I'm giving it the same numerical score as Avengers: Age of Ultron, but while I think it's better than that films 3.5 it's not quite worthy of the straight 4 our system awards it. It's all subjective of course, but the train keeps chugging along whether this film does it for you or not and we won't have long to wait to see Rudd's Ant-Man again. Box office numbers will be a big deciding factor in any sequel opportunities, but if it does happen I hope they take the opportunity to fix the mistakes they made in this one. There's no reason this one couldn't have been on par with Iron Man.

Now we wait for war(s).


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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby crazybirdman » Wed Jul 22, 2015 11:56 am

I'm glad Wrights name is still in the credits. There;'s a few post around the webs about what idea were his and what was added by Reed.
You'll have to post a review of Wright's version when you get back from the dimensional rift
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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby Ultron32 » Wed Jul 22, 2015 5:33 pm

I think I might have liked it a bit more than you. Maybe I'm just a sucker for heist stories. This definitely made somewhere between my second and fourth favorite MCU films (my #1 is still the Avengers, Guardians and Winter Soldier are always bouncing around the second and third [or now fourth] spots). This was pretty much everything I want out of a good movie; a fun time, hilarious jokes, likeable character(s), interesting plot, etc....
Hank was a good character, Hope was an ok character who will get more to do later on (she didn't need to do anything more), Scott was a simple character but I feel like that makes sense for him. Cross was one of the better MCU villains but that's not saying much.
And yeah, I was also confused about the Black Ant suit, maybe something from Wright's early draft scripts? And I thought Ant-ony was blue. Maybe I saw it wrong >.>
Also, you know war fans would have loved a set of that keychain.
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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby jnd2k3 » Thu Jul 23, 2015 4:15 am

I thought this one was great, too. Michael Peña and T.I. stole the show for me. Hilarious.
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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby Flynn » Thu Jul 23, 2015 4:18 am

Ultron32 wrote:Hope was an ok character who will get more to do later on (she didn't need to do anything more)


I dunno, everything I've heard about the film so far makes it sound like yet another example of the ultra-capable female character getting sidelined in favor of the main character, which I've just gotten so tired of lately.

I'm glad Ant-Man appears to be a lot better than people thought it was gonna turn out, but I can't muster up much enthusiasm for it, I'm afraid. I don't know if it's just lingering disappointment over the fall-out with Wright or fatigue after the disappointment of Ultron, but this is likely gonna be one I hold off for the dollar theatres, if I even do see it.
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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby Ultron32 » Thu Jul 23, 2015 7:22 am

Flynn wrote:I dunno, everything I've heard about the film so far makes it sound like yet another example of the ultra-capable female character getting sidelined in favor of the main character, which I've just gotten so tired of lately.

Well, it's justified within the plot. That's kind of the point of her character. It's not like they just ignore her being capable.
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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby sparkart » Thu Jul 23, 2015 12:58 pm

Have we reached a point where it's hackneyed now to have the capable woman bypassed for the hero-in-training, after Harry Potter, The LEGO Movie, The Dark Crystal, The Matrix, etc., is this played out?

I enjoyed Ant-Man more than I thought I would. Maybe that's why I liked it, I had low expectations. When Edgar Wright left, after spending the better part of decade working on it, I thought it would be a disaster. Disaster averted, IMO. But yes, there is a kind of "Marvelization" going on, but I slightly prefer homogenization over spoiled milk. If only the MCU could've saved us from Nic Cage's Ghost Rider!

The "tip" scenes with Michael Pena narration were by far the funniest parts for me. I have to say, I did get caught up in the epic-ness of Ant-Man running with his army, and I'm usually annoyed by the CGI shortcut copying of using the same model over and over, like the enemy suits in Iron Man 2, and the Ultron minions, but not in Ant-Man - it felt more natural, maybe?
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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby Flynn » Thu Jul 23, 2015 7:35 pm

Ultron32 wrote:Well, it's justified within the plot.


So? That doesn't make it any less prevalent of a problem. (especially with a studio like Marvel, which has been having consistent issues with the female characters in their films).
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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby Ultron32 » Fri Jul 24, 2015 7:36 am

Flynn wrote:
Ultron32 wrote:Well, it's justified within the plot.


So? That doesn't make it any less prevalent of a problem. (especially with a studio like Marvel, which has been having consistent issues with the female characters in their films).

I would argue that justifying something does, in fact, stop it from being a problem. It is a plot point which happens to fit in an unfortunate....cliche, you could call it at this point. It is not a noticeable problem in the film as Hope not being in the suit is justified at length.
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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby crazybirdman » Fri Jul 24, 2015 8:45 am

exactly, the plot justifies it, but only for that one movie. The rest of MCU (and the merchandise) still has the problem
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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby Flynn » Fri Jul 24, 2015 4:25 pm

Ultron32 wrote:It is not a noticeable problem in the film as Hope not being in the suit is justified at length.


I mean, at the end of the day the writers creating a host of reasons for why they're not having a female lead is still just the writers refusing to have a female lead. You can create in-universe justifications for a host of real-world issues but that doesn't make them any less of an issue.

Like, if a movie is sidelining its female character in favor of its male character, I don't want the solution to be "let's create reasons for why we have to sideline the female character", I want it to be "let's not sideline the female character". It's one thing to be aware of the issue, and another to actually try and correct it.
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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby buriedbybricks » Fri Jul 24, 2015 5:57 pm

There is no justification to the film when it basically creates an unneeded character. She adds nothing to the film that couldn't have been explained away by pre-existing characters in the film. Pym doesn't need a spy in the company, his ants are everywhere and he sees everything. He certainly didn't need her to train Scott, but a montage with the old man training him would create less sexual tension. He needs Scott because years of wearing the suit "took a toll" on him. You can take that as a physical toll and later reveal that it's because he lost his wife and can't bring himself to wear it again because of that failure. Hey, then he is a more human character to boot! But, no.

In the end, she isn't even given a chance to reach her true potential because she was able to prove herself to Hank (they don't even let her save her injured father, he has to save her). He changes his mind because of Scott and his new found hope that his wife could still be alive. Nothing she did in the past 30 years he mistreated her made him realize how capable she was, he just changed his mind based on interactions with a criminal he's know for a week or two.

His lifetime of jerkish rationalizations were rendered totally moot, by a one minute mid credit scene. For the benefit of future movies, not this one.

Easy acceptance of this type of marginalization is a huge part of the problem.
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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby PurpleDave » Sat Jul 25, 2015 4:45 am

So here's a question I haven't seen addressed anywhere. I read an article about how this movie was announced very early on in the MCU, and then spent ten years in development hell before coming out on the heels of Ultron. Hank Pym created Ultron in the comic books, but not in the MCU. If this movie had proceeded smoothly from the start, would it have come out before Ultron, would Antman have been in AoU, and would Pym have created Ultron as he did in the comics? Was the plan to have Stark create Ultron all along, or was he just a last-minute stand-in because they didn't have this one critical piece on the board yet?
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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby dWhisper » Sat Jul 25, 2015 8:57 am

I doubt that Hank Pym would have been involved in that story. While it was announced early on, it has been in pretty active development since phase I, and it was never part of that particular mix.

More than that, there's a lot of baggage that comes with making Hank Pym a more central character. That pretty much made Scott Lang the focus of any Ant-Man story.
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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby Trooper10 » Sat Jul 25, 2015 8:00 pm

buriedbybricks wrote:His lifetime of jerkish rationalizations were rendered totally moot, by a one minute mid credit scene. For the benefit of future movies, not this one.

For someone (ie me) who doesn't know these characters from comics (I'm not a comic guy) the sidelining makes a lot of sense - a father not wanting to put his daughter at risk, after losing his wife and thus ending up becoming estranged is pretty much a story telling trope. Watching the movie, I didn't know Hope is supposed to be the hero, so it doesn't really damage the film if you don't know the story already, it just fits with the vast majority of cinematic comic-book movies (and most mainstream movies) of being male-hero dominated. So yeah business as usual, but not an apparent opportunity lost (again because I don't know the comics).

Now that I know this fact, it's just another big fat *sigh*...maybe, slowly this style of cinema can improve.... maybe we can hope...
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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby sparkart » Sat Jul 25, 2015 9:56 pm

I don't see what the hurry is in getting the female lead in the super-suit. You want to see everything in the first movie? Imagine if the Star Wars Original Trilogy showed the training of a Jedi, a light-saber duel, and the destruction of the Death Star in one movie, instead of three...uhhhh, wait, BAD example.

But seriously, Hope and Hank and Lang and his daughter may seem redundant iterating, but I thought it was an okay parallel that's easy to completely digest in two hours. Pym is helped along the path of redemption by helping Lang get his redemption. Popcorn feel-good fluff? That's fine for a summer matinee for me.

I also think of the example of Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark. If it wasn't for Marcia Lucas, there would be no stair scene at the end, where Indy meets Marion, and they go off arm-in-arm to have a drink. There's that emotional lift that offsets the loss of the Ark. It's not as deftly done in Ant-Man, not set up so well, and feels clumsy and contrived, and actually unneeded because it's a total victory for the heroes (except for poor Antony), but it's there, the spark of something good between the two, something to look forward to, something optimistic.
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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby Ultron32 » Sun Jul 26, 2015 5:40 pm

crazybirdman wrote:exactly, the plot justifies it, but only for that one movie. The rest of MCU (and the merchandise) still has the problem

I don't think the movies can be blamed for the merchandise's problems, and I don't think this movie should be blamed for the problems of a bunch of other movies. Although really what other Marvel movie has had a capable female character who is not put in a lead role?
Iron Man trilogy - Tony is the only one capable of what he does here, really
Hulk - Bruce Banner is the only one capable of being the Hulk
Thor series - Jane Foster is a capable human, but it makes sense that a god is more capable. Sif is also capable but Thor is better because norse mythology (blame vikings, not marvel)
Captain America series - Peggy Carter is a very capable character (so much so that the second season of what has so far been her amazing tv show is coming next year), but Captain America has super powers basically
Avengers series - Black Widow is one of several leads (so is Scarlet Witch, eventually)
Guardians of the Galaxy - Gamora is one of several leads

Flynn wrote:I mean, at the end of the day the writers creating a host of reasons for why they're not having a female lead is still just the writers refusing to have a female lead. You can create in-universe justifications for a host of real-world issues but that doesn't make them any less of an issue.

Like, if a movie is sidelining its female character in favor of its male character, I don't want the solution to be "let's create reasons for why we have to sideline the female character", I want it to be "let's not sideline the female character". It's one thing to be aware of the issue, and another to actually try and correct it.

I disagree. They knew Ant-Man was the movie they were making and so if they couldn't explain why it was Ant-Man instead of Ant-Woman, they probably would have just cut her from the movie completely (or made her much less capable). Instead they had a very believable reason for her not being the lead.

If you wanted, you could use the same argument on how "Marvel never uses the elderly as the leads in their films!" and question why Hank Pym is not in the suit. His justification was almost more flimsy, and there is nobody complaining at all.

And also, the definition of justify is to make right or reasonable. They justified it, so it is made reasonable.

buriedbybricks wrote:There is no justification to the film when it basically creates an unneeded character. She adds nothing to the film that couldn't have been explained away by pre-existing characters in the film.
His lifetime of jerkish rationalizations were rendered totally moot, by a one minute mid credit scene. For the benefit of future movies, not this one.

Easy acceptance of this type of marginalization is a huge part of the problem.


If you would rather she not be in the movie then what is the problem? Then we'd have a male-lead movie with a fully male main cast (unless you count Scott's former lover and daughter). Which would you prefer, that or a male-lead movie with a female in it's main cast?
What is wrong with her not being the star in this movie if she is going to be a main character in the future films? I don't get it.
And I'd argue easy presumption of this type of marginalization is a part of the problem :p
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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby MCoad » Mon Jul 27, 2015 8:02 am

buriedbybricks wrote:There is no justification to the film when it basically creates an unneeded character. ...He certainly didn't need her to train Scott, but a montage with the old man training him would create less sexual tension. ...

... He changes his mind because of Scott and his new found hope that his wife could still be alive. Nothing she did in the past 30 years he mistreated her made him realize how capable she was, he just changed his mind based on interactions with a criminal he's know for a week or two.

His lifetime of jerkish rationalizations were rendered totally moot, by a one minute mid credit scene. For the benefit of future movies, not this one.


I don't think I'd buy a physical training session between Pym and Lang. I really can't see old man Pym flipping Lang around. And apparently that was a necessary part of Lang's training, as he was shown using Hope's moves in the lab infiltration scene.
There have been other movies in this franchise that have created "unnecessary characters" that were teased to have more to do in the sequels, and then did. Rhodes in Iron Man, Bucky in Captain America... Heck, Thanos and Nick Fury first showed up only in end credit sequences. If the past of this series is any guide, she's going to be in the suit soon and will remain an important player.
Yes, Pym's reasoning is flimsy and he still doesn't really respect his daughter's abilities. But we already know Pym is unstable and erratic, both historically in the comics and in this movie. Plus it's pretty real-life believable that an older man would have a hard time recognizing the abilities of his adult child...
Lang says in the movie that he knows he's there because he's expendable. That's the whole point of him being in the suit instead of Hope. It's a little hard to remember that in a movie called Ant-Man... because, you know, he isn't going to die, in his own origin story... but yeah, from Pym's perspective, he was a bit of a guinea pig. I don't think it would have improved the development of an important female character for her to be her own father's guinea pig.

I actually have a different, physics-related problem with the movie. Which I will gladly suspend while watching because it's such a fun movie... But here's the thing. Something that has been shrunk with Pym particles: does it retain the same weight, or is it lighter in proportion to its new size? I was inclined to the former, for a couple reasons. One, Hope explains how, when Scott is small, he has the force of a 200-pound man behind a fraction of an inch. Two, Hank explains the action of the Pym particles as shrinking the space between molecules; that would mean there is the same number of molecules before, simply closer together--the same mass, but far more dense.
The problem with that theory? That tank "keychain."
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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby sparkart » Mon Jul 27, 2015 10:06 am

And how does a shrunken man run on top of a gun, while the shooter wielding that gun doesn't notice his mass or size?

I guess Pym particles change both mass and volume. Why not? Our conventional understanding of matter, time, space, gravity, etc. isn't complete. A lot of people accept that matter is made of of atoms, etc. but these are merely models of matter, models of reality, that's not really what it is, if you delve deeper. Reality is much weirder on a fundamental level than our everyday lives suggest.

Maybe Pym particles store and release energy and mass and this effect is throttled with the control regulator.
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Re: Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

Postby Trooper10 » Mon Jul 27, 2015 10:09 am

MCoad wrote:One, Hope explains how, when Scott is small, he has the force of a 200-pound man behind a fraction of an inch. Two, Hank explains the action of the Pym particles as shrinking the space between molecules; that would mean there is the same number of molecules before, simply closer together--the same mass, but far more dense.
The problem with that theory? That tank "keychain."

Yeah the explanation/physics don't add up - if you're shrinking the space between molecules then the mass (weight) stays the same so the tank on a key chain is silly. When the Thomas the tank engine expanded - it should have remained the same weight as the toy, that same 200lb man sitting on an ant would squash it,
So by implication, their mass changes.... BUT, the 200lb bad-guy had the mass to stop the toy train from crushing him, so why wasn't he crushing the train track/table? etc etc. So they made the film as if the weight was proportional to the size - I wondered if they meant that if you swing your arm as a 200lb man, then shrink in size, you'd have the momentum of 200lb in the size of an inch....but they were hurling stuff at each other in shrunken form - so maybe you retain large-person strength but have small ant mass??
What I found even sillier is how do you go sub-atomic? It would just be a mess of protons, neutrons and electrons all tightly smashing into each other.... so the physics must be shrinking the matter that makes up the person in the suit as well.
I was glad to have just switched my brain off for the movie...But I'm not sure that there is any super-hero movie where the physics make sense..... except for Spider man. Don't you dare say anything bad about Spidey....
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