Now’s our chance to root for the little guy.
Marvel Studios has released the first full trailer of July 17’s Ant-Man, giving fans a taste of what to expect from Paul Rudd as the incredible shrinking man.
The video is above. Let’s watch it a few times and then break out the microscope.
First off, those who are new to the world of Ant-Man need to know there are a couple different Ant-Men. The original was a scientist named Hank Pym, a brilliant but volatile man who designed the suit that allows a man to miniaturize himself while retaining his same strength and mass.
The second was a thief named Scott Lang, who stole the suit so he could sneak into a corporate compound and rescue a doctor who was being held hostage — a doctor whose help he needed to treat his ailing daughter.
The movie, directed by Peyton Reed, has both: Michael Douglas plays Pym, now in his later years and resentful that he is no longer in full control of all the technology he helped to create. Rudd stars as Lang, the small-time hood Pym recruits to get his revenge. (Revenge isn’t bad if it’s against bad guys, right?)
Lang’s criminal past is revealed right away in the trailer as he raises his arms in the air against a backdrop of flashing police lights.
By the way, his outfit in that shot definitely doesn’t say, “Don’t mind me, I’m not a burglar or anything!”
We get flashes of the classic Scott Lang origin story, but at least in this trailer they are not arranged in the same order as when writer David Michelinie and artist John Byrne first introduced him in 1979.
Lang spent time in prison for his petty thefts, and we get a shot of him marching into what looks like a maximum security facility behind some heavy duty barbed wire. So that part appears to stick to the original story. Lang is an ex-con — not just some nice guy who gets into a pinch of trouble.
I like the idea of a good guy who’s not always such a good guy. It’s what makes Tony Stark so compelling. You get the sense that he could tip over into super-villainy very easily.
The film also gives him a daughter, although in the trailer there is no mention of her being ill. Right now, she’s just used to show that even though he may have a checkered past, Lang’s not all bad. If that cute little girl loves him, there must be something worthwhile in him.
The narration by Douglas states this outright: “This is your chance to earn that look in your daughter’s eyes, to become the hero … that she already thinks you are.”
By the way, the whole style of this introduction echoes similar Marvel trailers like Avengers: Age of Ultron and Iron Man 3, with ominous, halting narration by the villains. It’s vaguely creepy and makes me wonder if there’s something manipulative going on with Pym’s character. I already don’t trust him.
Then there’s this …
Next page: Is Yellowjacket who we think he is?
After the Marvel Studios credit, we see Pym in his laboratory, toiling beneath a yellow light that flares into these two cones.
To me, those twin columns of light suggest the abstract representation of the wings of a yellowjacket. Just a thought.
We’ve been told by Marvel that Yellowjacket is the villain of this film, and that Corey Stoll is playing him as the entrepreneur Darren Cross. But in the comics, Cross was never the Yellowjacket — he was a very wealthy, morally questionable man with a bad heart who required numerous heart transplants (from unwilling donors) and a kidnapped surgeon to stay alive.
It was Pym who took on the Yellowjacket mantle as an alternate to his Ant-Man identity, and Yellowjacket was a hero, not a bad guy — and Pym presented himself as this individual to the other Avengers after suffering from chemical-induced schizophrenia.
Could the villain of Ant-Man then be … the Obi-Wan Kenobi of this story? And is this trick with light a literal bit of foreshadowing?
In the comic book version, Yellowjacket plays a critical role in Lang’s origin story.
Lang first steals the shrinking suit from Pym, then uses it to raid the headquarters of Cross Enterprises for his rescue of Dr. Erica Sondheim. Once he’s out of the woods with Sondheim, he planned to return the stolen suit … but Pym was already onto him.
He followed him while wearing the Yellowjacket suit.
We get a sense of Pym’s stalker tendencies in this shot, as the older man informs Lang: “I’ve been watching you for a while now.” But we hear those words over an image of Pym sitting at a bank of monitors. Right up at the top is the image we just saw of Lang being arrested. (Where is this image coming from?)
Next page: Honor among thieves …
We see Pym meeting with Lang in what appears to be an interview room at a jail or prison. Pym is offering Lang a second chance, and that definitely mirrors Lang’s comic book origin. After the adventure rescuing the doctor, Lang is ready to ‘fess up and pay his debt to society for stealing from the scientist. But Pym is impressed by his noble motives and offers to let him keep the suit as long as he keeps using it for the right purposes.
In this case, the right purpose is helping Pym break into the tech company from which he was ousted. Here, Cross isn’t head of Cross Technological Enterprises — he’s running a company named after Pym.
Within this sequence, we get our first image of Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne — apparently working for Cross at Pym’s old company. Comics fans know the name Janet Van Dyne as the secret identity of Wasp, who was Pym’s wife (and the victim of the attack that forever marked Pym as a wife-beater in the minds of many readers.)
Hope is estranged from her father due to past family ugliness, according to what both Biel and Douglas revealed to EW at Comic-Con, so it’s likely Marvel Studios isn’t shying away from this controversial element of Pym’s backstory. Maybe his horrible behavior as a husband and father is what drove her away from him.
It’s interesting to note that when Pym is using Lang’s daughter as a way to motivate him to join forces, he says, “It’s not about saving our world. It’s about saving theirs.”
Earlier, he also notes to Lang: “Second chances don’t come around all that often.” This second chance may not only be Lang’s, but Pym’s.
I think this only adds to my theory that Pym is not to be trusted. The best villains are a mirror image of the hero. Similar … but reversed.
Next page: Montage time!
From there, things start moving really quickly, and it’s hard to glean much from the rapid-fire imagery the trailer throws at us.
We get a nice, close-up of Rudd in the suit, which he tries on and tests in his bathtub, for some reason.
The first lesson of Ant-Manning? Clean your tub first, you disgusting animal. Just because it’s where you get clean doesn’t mean it stays clean.
We get a glimpse of Ant-Man riding a flying insect, but we don’t get to see him use his rapid shrinking and embiggening power to take down foes. (Although we do get to see him throw a Cross henchman through a plate glass window.)
Whatever her differences with her father, Hope does team up with Lang for a little kickboxing training. This may be another reason Pym needs someone else in the Ant-Man suit, so he can play Cyrano from afar and win back his daughter’s respect.
Then there’s this vaguely Middle Eastern-looking military compound. I have no idea how that fits into things, but Marvel thought it was important enough to include in the trailer.
Overall, it’s a fairly heavy presentation given Marvel’s sense of humor about itself — but it all builds to a very good joke.
For people who weren’t already into Ant-Man, “Is it too late to change the name?” was exactly what they were thinking.