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Me and Ant-Man

Speaking of movies...

... I saw ANT-MAN last night at the Violet Crown down the street from the Cocteau, and loved it.

(It's not playing at the JCC, though I wish it was. Alas, we have only the one screen).

Now, I have to confess, as an old -- VERY old -- Marvel fanboy (I was once a member of the Merry Marvel Marching Society), I was a little disappointed going in when I heard that this would be the Scott Lang Ant-Man and not the original Hank Pym Ant-Man of my youth. Scott Lang came in just about the time when my regular comics reading was falling off, so I did not know the character very well, whereas I knew and loved Hank and Janet, Ant-Man and his winsome Wasp. I was there at the dawn of time when they first started adventuring through the pages of TALES TO ASTONISH, after all. They were never as popular as the other heroes that Stan Lee created back then -- Iron Man, Spider-Man, Thor, and such -- but Lee always seemed to have a soft spot for Ant-Man, and I did too. Ant-Man was the ultimate underdog, after all, the little guy in a very literal sense who somehow held his own with gods and monsters whose powers dwarfed his own. The ants were cool too, and gave him a definite edge in my mind over his rival itty-bitty hero over at DC, the Atom.

And I loved his partnership with the Wasp. At a time when every other comic was playing the endless "romantic tension" card, or the older and hoarier "I must hide my secret from my girlfriend" trope, here was a man and a woman who adventured together, who loved each other without question, who even helped found the Avengers together... that was revolutionary in the early 1960s, like much of what Stan Lee did... (and sad to say, it would even be sort of revolutionary today).

The original Ant-Man had a short run compared to the other first generation Marvel heroes like Thor and Iron Man. In an effort to make the character more popular, Lee and his successors began to fiddle with the concept, giving Hank Pym the power to grow as well as shrink. Ant-Man became Giant-Man became Goliath (same powers, different costumes) became Yellowjacket became "Hank Pym, Scientific Adventurer" (I did you not). Truth be told, I never liked any of those revamps half as well as I liked the original Ant-Man, and when the writers (not Lee, new people had come on board by then) decided to make Hank mentally unstable and then turned him into a wife-beater... well, I really hated that. (I did, however, like some of what happened subsequently, when the Wasp came into her own and became the leader of the Avengers). After that was the Scott Lang era, I guess... and then a couple more Ant-Men after him... none of which I followed, or gave a damn about.

Given all this history, I had a lot of trepidation when this movie was announced. Would they do it right, would they capture the original Ant-Man from TALES TO ASTONISH and AVENGERS #1, the character I'd loved... or would they fuck it up?? I was eager for the film, but apprehensive about it as well, especially when I heard it would be about Scott Lang, not Hank Pym.

I am relieved and delighted to report that they did it right.

Scott Lang is the featured Ant-Man, yes, and Paul Rudd makes him a sympathetic and engaging protagonist, but due honor is done to Hank and his own career as the first Ant-Man as well, with Michael Douglas turning in a fine performance as Pym. There's a lot of humor in this film, but it is not a farce, as I feared it might be. There's a lot of action too, but not so much that it overwhelms the plot and characters, which was my problem with the last AVENGERS film... and the one before it, to think of it. A superhero movie needs a fair share of smashing and bashing and stuff blowing up, of course, but IMNSHO that stuff works best when it is happening to people we actually know and care about, and if you jam in too many characters and don't take time to develop any of them properly, well...

ANT-MAN has a proper balance of story, character, humor, and action, I think. A couple reviewers are calling it the best Marvel movie ever. I won't go that far, but it's right up there, maybe second only to the second Sam Raimi/ Tobey McGuire Spider-Man film, the one with Doc Ock. I've liked most of the Marvel movies, to be sure, I'm still a Marvel fanboy at heart (Excelsior!), but I liked this one more than the first AVENGERS and a lot more than the second, more than either THOR, more than the second and third IRON MAN and maybe just a smidge more than the first (though I liked that one a lot too).

Oh, and I loved the ants!

Quibbles? Yeah, a few. Where was the Wasp? We got a few glimpses, and a set up for the next film. But I wanted more Wasp, and I loved the old original Hank/ Janet dynamic (before they got to the wife-beating stuff). Also, while Yellowjacket makes a decent villain here (in the comics, of course, he was actually one of Hank's later identities, after Giant-Man and Goliath), I am tired of this Marvel movie trope where the bad guy has the same powers as the hero. The Hulk fought the Abomination, who is just a bad Hulk. Spider-Man fights Venom, who is just a bad Spider-Man. Iron Man fights Ironmonger, a bad Iron Man. Yawn. I want more films where the hero and the villain have wildly different powers. That makes the action much more interesting).

But those are quibbles, as I said.

Overall, I had a swell time. For a few hours I was thirteen years old again.

And did I mention that I loved the ants?


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Boštjan Gorenc
Jul. 21st, 2015 07:11 pm (UTC)
The Ant-man discussion
Hi, George, just one question: did you make Ty watch the movie? I remember how you bickered about the Ant-man during the dinner at Predjama Castle in Slovenia, so I guess it would be a torture for him :)

Have a great time, I've just started translating The World of ice and Fire and it'll keep me company till next year.
Jul. 21st, 2015 09:04 pm (UTC)
Re: The Ant-man discussion
Ty is off on his own now, producing THE EXPANSE in LA, so I don't know if he has seen the film or not yet.

But your recollection is right: he was an Ant-hater. Boo, hiss.

Good luck with that translation. I have fond memories of Slovenia, though that signing almost killed me.
Re: The Ant-man discussion - Boštjan Gorenc - Jul. 24th, 2015 02:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: The Ant-man discussion - meliscande - Jul. 23rd, 2015 01:15 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 21st, 2015 07:13 pm (UTC)
I was never able much to get into the Marvel universe, but I think their movies are enjoyable flicks. DC for me has more interesting characters, and I like where they're going with the movies. In my opinion, end-of-the-world conflicts are better suited by serious tones, rather than light-hearted ones.
What do you think of DC, George? Are you a Marvel guy through and through?
Jul. 21st, 2015 09:06 pm (UTC)
Oh, I grew up with the DC characters, and I have a lot of affection for them as well... but of late, Marvel has blown DC off the map when it comes to movies. DC does seem to be doing some interesting stuff on television, though.

Some of my favorite DC characters are the more obscure ones, like the Challengers of the Unknown and Space Ranger.
(no subject) - jediclan - Jul. 21st, 2015 11:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - clonedllama - Jul. 22nd, 2015 11:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
The new Flash TV show - Chris Myers - Jul. 25th, 2015 02:30 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 21st, 2015 07:16 pm (UTC)
I was quite pleasantly surprised to see Douglas/Pym get so much screen time. And not just drivel, but quality, story-driving, involved screen time. I thought it was a great movie! I think it tied in with the Marvel Cinematic Universe very well, especially with the after-credits screens (did you stay for the end, George?) Cheers!
Joseph Potee
Jul. 21st, 2015 07:21 pm (UTC)
Hey George, I'm a pretty big Marvel fanboy also. You might have been done with comics by the time some of the huge story arcs happened later on, but did you have a favorites? For instance: Civil War, Coming of Galactus, Infinity Gauntlet, Age of Apocalypse, Etc.
Jul. 21st, 2015 07:24 pm (UTC)
What no mention of the first Captain America!?!? (Just kidding - though it was probably my personal favorite of the individual movies). I was hoping to see AntMan soon and you pretty much sealed the deal with this review.

Looks like I'll be jamming the seven current denizens of my home, into our Kia Soul, and puttering up to the movie house.
Pat Coughlin
Jul. 21st, 2015 07:36 pm (UTC)
Is it just me, or was some of the most impressive CGI simply the de-aging of Michael Douglas in the beginning? He could have just walked off the set of Wall Street and into that scene. Hayley Atwell also looked very convincing.

Sorta makes me wonder why they didn't get Dominic Cooper to continue as Howard Stark (or maybe they couldn't?). I mean, I remember John Slattery was Howard in the IM2 flashback scene, but his voice and such were so different from the Howard of Captain America and Agent Carter that it threw me a bit.

Either way, lots of fun!
Jul. 21st, 2015 07:42 pm (UTC)
Find a way to tie in a character named Antony into A Dream of Spring. Please George, make this happen.
Jul. 21st, 2015 07:45 pm (UTC)
Glad it's good. My cinebuddy and I usually try to catch a movie every week, usually SF or fantasy of some kind, if possible, but the choice has been a bit thin of late. Terminator had such bad reviews that we haven't been able to summon up the enthusiasm yet, however I do believe that Ant Man is on from Thursday. I feel a trip coming on. Thanks George.
Lisa Lockwood Cech
Jul. 21st, 2015 07:45 pm (UTC)
My quibble? Mass inconsistencies
I had a great time seeing Ant-Man, too, but I did find myself noticing that sometimes he was 200 lbs while small, other times not. It makes sense that since his atoms are closer together, his mass would stay the same, but then how can he ride a flying ant? When a certain small object was enlarged, too, it suddenly had HUGE enough mass to crush a car.

It wasn't enough to ruin my enjoyment; it was just a small annoyance.
Jul. 21st, 2015 08:03 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it George! Seeing these characters on the big screen is a dream come true. Personally I'm looking forward to Antman and Hawkeye getting together.

Being a life long comicbook fan, reader and collector like yourself i would love for you to one day do a blog post about your collection, favorite books you own, elusive issues you need, etc. Are you picky on grades? Also I assume you've met Stan Lee? Have you mentioned the fan letters you had published in the 60s?

P.S. What i wouldn't give to see you write a Marvel or DC book once ASOIAF is done with. Even if it was just a one-shot or mini-series. Which character would you most like to write if given the opportunity?

Jul. 21st, 2015 09:14 pm (UTC)
I love comic book Hawkeye, but movie Hawkeye strikes me as flat. Alas, the screenwriters took comic book Hawkeye's wiseass personality and gave it to movie Tony Stark, leaving nothing for movie Hawkeye.

I have met Stan Lee a dozen times. Each time is like meeting him anew, since he never remembers me. I don't think he has any idea who I am, but that's okay -- I certainly know who he is. Yes, I have mentioned the letters to him.

I have had several opportunities to script mainstream comic characters, but it has never turned out well. The way the industry works these days, it's just not compatible with the sorts of stories I want to tell.

If I could write a Marvel character, it would be Dr. Strange. If I could write a DC character, I'd pick Space Ranger or the Challengers of the Unknown. But it will never happen. Even if I did have the time. Which I don't.

These days, I can meet all my "writing superhero" needs with Wild Cards.

Edited at 2015-07-21 09:54 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - Scott Erickson - Jul. 22nd, 2015 02:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - grrm - Jul. 22nd, 2015 06:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Scott Erickson - Jul. 22nd, 2015 06:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Hawkeye's Family - Jacob Anderson Hartley - Jul. 24th, 2015 07:20 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 21st, 2015 08:13 pm (UTC)
I just saw it as well, and loved it. I was worried with both Ant-Man and Guardians that Marvel wouldn't be able to pull it off, but somehow those films ended up much better than many of the Avengers flicks.

Here is a question for you... Who was your favorite Marvel character growing up and who do you think would have been your favorite character present day if they were the same?
Jul. 21st, 2015 08:19 pm (UTC)
I'll be honest...
I remember a mini rant you went on a few months ago on the blog about how you felt like ANT-MAN was getting shunned (or something of the sort) from THE AVENGERS (considering he was a founding member of the group). When I read about this movie, I chuckled to myself knowing that you were going to have a pretty passionate opinion about the film. Clearly I was correct. :) I haven't seen the movie yet, but knowing it is getting rave reviews from passionate fans such as yourself speaks volumes. I'll have to go punch my ticket this weekend (after PIXELS, of course).
Jul. 21st, 2015 08:21 pm (UTC)
Very cool! I admit that I've been a bit wary of this movie since it was originally announced but it's very nice to hear that they did it right.

I tend to agree with you about villains that have the same powers as the hero being overused. Not only is that predictable and dull, it's getting more than bit repetitive. There have been cases where I think it has worked and worked well (Reverse-Flash on The Flash, Dark Archer on Arrow -- oddly enough, small network shows and not Marvel properties) but it'd be nice to see them branch out a bit more and cover villains that are more varied or put the heroes in situations where they're severely outmatched.

I think the desire to have the villains and heroes be identical except for their moral or ethical stances is just too great, though. It creates an easy story format with easy to spot themes. The stories seem to write themselves. It's not particularly interesting except in rare cases anymore. It doesn't mean the movies/shows that do it are automatically bad (they can be quite good). But it does seem to hold them back, and that's always frustrating to see. Comic book stories can and should be so much more than the heroes fighting against evil versions of themselves.

It's one of the reasons I'm looking forward to Batman v. Superman. That isn't Marvel of course but the difference in powers between those two has the potential to create some interesting encounters and dilemmas. It also hasn't been done in live action before. That said, I'm also rather wary of that movie too. But that's another matter...

Edited at 2015-07-21 08:22 pm (UTC)
Lucas Souza
Jul. 21st, 2015 08:30 pm (UTC)
Doctor Strange
Are you excited too see Doctor Strange movie? I heard you like the character as well. Is there any storyline of him that you would like too see?
Sorry for my english and cumpliments from Brazil.
Jul. 21st, 2015 09:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Doctor Strange
I love Dr. Strange, but I am very very worried about the movie. This is a character that will be very hard to do well. Even in the comics, once Steve Ditko went Doc Strange was never the same. He should never have been brought into the mainstream Marvel universe or made to join teams and do crossovers. Strange works best as a mysterious loner fighting battles against Lovecraftian horrors that the daylight world cannot even conceive of...
Re: Doctor Strange - DoobiusGamer - Jul. 22nd, 2015 03:13 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Doctor Strange - saxster - Jul. 22nd, 2015 04:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Doctor Strange - midhav - Jul. 22nd, 2015 07:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Doctor Strange - Scott Ruplin - Jul. 24th, 2015 02:13 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Doctor Strange - dentalboy72 - Jul. 24th, 2015 05:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 21st, 2015 08:48 pm (UTC)
Hi George. I saw it today and quite enjoyed it. I agree that Spider-Man 2 is the best Marvel movie. I love the way it handled the Spider-Man No More story. You also had Harry Osborne's slip into madness, and, best of all, a well rounded villain in Doc Ock. Unfortunately, for me, it all went off the rails in Spider-Man 3.
Jul. 23rd, 2015 03:42 am (UTC)
It's such a shame the Spider-Man movies went downhill so fast after Spider-Man 2. Spider-Man 3 had a lot of the right elements in place but the inclusion of Venom and far too many subplots pretty much killed it for me. And don't even get me started on The Amazing Spider-Man movies. Just...ugh. Hopefully the next reboot gets it right...
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