Marvel movies have a tendency for world-ending stakes. Even when rooted in character, the final bout is often over the fate of mankind or the known universe. After all, how else would we know just how principled and powerful Thor, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, and the rest of Earth’s mightiest are if they aren’t fighting for our collective existence?
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a particular MCU action movie that balances both, forcing Sam Rogers to battle his brainwashed best friend, Bucky Barnes, in a stand against neo-fascism. Their climax is riveting and emotional, but for my money, Ant-Man, directed by Peyton Reed, is the Marvel film whose ending tugs on the heartstrings the most.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has one mission – be there for his young daughter, Cassie. Fresh out of prison for being a thief, he struggles in service jobs, and keeping his cool at family get-togethers around his ex-wife, Maggie, and her new partner, Paxton.
His talents for breaking and entering are noticed by Hank Pym, who gives him the Ant-Man suit, a costume powered by Pym particles that allows the users to shrink to the size of an insect or become a literal giant. This embroils Scott in Hank and his daughter Hope’s efforts to gain back control of Pym Technologies from Darren Cross, otherwise known as Marvel villain Yellowjacket.
None of that corporate subterfuge really matters to me. What does is where the final fight takes place and what comes after. Ant-Man foils Yellowjacket’s plan once and for all in Cassie’s bedroom, couching the entire sequence exactly where it matters most. Afterwards, Scott sits down for dinner with Cassie, Maggie, and Paxton, having successfully earned back their trust.
It’s straight out of the Pixar movie playbook, centred around simple human desires to protect and be present. Like Marlin to Nemo, Joy to Riley, or Toy Story characters Woody and Buzz to Andy, all Scott cares about is being a positive force in Cassie’s life.
Normalcy and routine are not things that come easy to him, as shown by his time at Baskin and Robbins and the fact he’s basically tricked into becoming the Avenger that most sounds like a wannabe Spider-Man. But he’s determined not to let any of that stop him from showing up and being a dad and friend, and resource for Cassie and the rest of their family.
That closing scene, where they all eat together, is as heroic in my mind as any great bout for an Infinity Stone because it shows growth and change and the value of doing what’s needed and learning acceptance. Stopping Yellowjacket is a combined allegory for Scott’s endlessly haphazard life and the lengths he’ll go to for his daughter.
He might be a petty crook, but if minding Cassie means disrupting techno-fascist arms deals and being a thorn in the side of HYDRA, then cool. That’s what needs to happen. Even when Hope and Hank are training Scott, you know all he’s thinking about is doing this gets him back to Cassie.
The happiness and closure during that meal, given just a dash of absurdism by the dog-sized ant, is greater than so many of the MCU’s instalments because it’s simple, relatable, and true. In the real world, this is often what heroism looks like – figuring your shit out enough to be present for those you care about.
The whole setup makes Ant-Man the definition of a family movie, offering something for all age groups. Young viewers see that their parents can be complicated and sometimes disappointing, but even if their living situation changes, that doesn’t mean they’re any less loved. Older audience members have a hero that represents stepping up even when things are challenging.
Change is rarely easy, especially not change we have no control over and change that involves people we love moving on without us, perhaps least of all. Scott redeems himself to a family from whom he’d become estranged, putting his ego aside to build a friendship with Maggie and Paxton.
Scott’s development through the sequels Ant-Man and the Wasp and Quantumania has moved away from being so grounded. Though I enjoy both films, something is lost in him becoming so tangled up in universal enemies.
Ant-Man ends with Scott learning to be an adult, take responsibility, and stop viewing his new situation as some sort of hurdle. Instead, he finds a place within it, allowing everyone to be happy, Cassie most of all. No amount of Asgardian powers, Stark tech, or mystic arts can ever match up to that.
Read our Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania review to see how Scott’s holding up in Marvel’s Phase 5. We have guides on the Ant-Man characters, Council of Kangs and MODOK to set you up for the Avengers 5 release date, as well.