VOCIFERY 036 Ant-Man/WHIH Newsfront (2015)

Welcome to VOCIFERY, my attempt to re-watch every piece of media in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – every movie, every television series, every one-shot, every web series, and every tie-in comic book, using the Wikipedia entry on the MCU as a guide, before the release of Avengers 4 in May 2019. Join me as I write my thoughts about what I’m seeing, as I see it!

Also, spoilers follow – if you’re worried about that kind of thing, view before reading.

Ant-Man/WHIH Newsfront (2015)

I go back and forth on where I place Ant-Man – the origin story of the shrinking hero that stars Paul Rudd as reformed burglar Scott Lang, and Michael Douglas as iconic comic book character Hank Pym – among the best of the MCU. Catch me on a day where the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity is front of mind, and Ant-Man, as a fairly standalone film with relatively few connections to the universe, ranks fairly low.

But if you’re talking about pure entertainment, Ant-Man is one of the best, for me the equal of Guardians Of The Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok and Spider-Man: Homecoming, the standard-bearers for some MCU films’ entertainment-first philosophy.

Foillowing his release from prison, Scott Lang (Rudd) finds himself falling in with his old buddy Luis (Michael Pena) and his criminal buddies (played by rapper T.I. and character actor David Dastmalchian) and taking on an ill-gotten heist that puts him on the radar of former SHIELD scientist Hank Pym (Douglas).

After obtaining the Ant-Man suit, which grants the wearer the ability to shrink to the size of an ant (hence the name) thanks to Hank’s self-named Pym Particles, Lang runs afoul of the police, but finds himself recruited by Pym and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) to lead a heist into his old company, and shut down research into the Pym Particles by the nefarious Darren Cross, who is looking to sell the shrinking technology to the highest bidder.

A routine third-act showdown ensues, of course, but it is a thoroughly entertaining final battle that caps off a funny (Pena is a revelation as Scott’s best friend with a knack for recaps), clever and often-surprising film (I was one of the lucky few who was unaware of Falcon’s appearance in the film before walking in to a theatre to see it).

It wasn’t supposed to be that way, though. Ant-Man is kind of the only MCU film that has a tumultuous production history: the film was originally green-lit based on a script by Edgar Wright (Shaun Of The Dead), who left partway through production due to creative differences. The final film is credited to Peyton Reed, who took over as director, and Paul Rudd.

The final film is a joy from start to finish, furnished with clever action sequences – Lang’s first spin in the suit as he confronts giant rats and a record player is exciting, and the fight with Falcon pushes the film into the wider universe – and hilarious references and shots; the final battle features Lang and Cross miniaturised inside a briefcase, and finds them facing each other down on a toy train-track, complete with a life-size Thomas The Tank Engine. It’s amazing.

The new characters are great too; Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne are great longer-term additions to the MCU, while the aforementioned Pena basically steals every scene he is in as the hilarious Luis.

In addition to Ant-Man, this instalment of Vocifery also includes a series of web shorts titled WHIH Newsfront. You may recognise WHIH as the fake news organisation that has featured in a plethora of MCU titles, including tomorrow’s episodes of Agents Of SHIELD. These five shorts essentially operate as a sequence of clips from a news broadcast: an intro from Christine Everhart – the reporter that Tony Stark sleeps with in the first Iron Man; “you’ve been called the Da Vinci of our time” – leading into footage of the Vista Corp robbery Lang is imprisoned for at the start of the film, followed by interviews with Darren Cross and Scott Lang themselves, ostensibly all filmed and set prior to the film.

They’re an interesting addition, a way of padding out the universe, but they feel very much like a marketing tool as opposed to a legitimate story-telling element. Fun, but completely non-essential.

Unlike Ant-Man: fun, and completely essential.

Next: Agents Of SHIELD Season 3 Eps 01-02!

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