The Marvel Cinematic Universe has gotten pretty big over the past few years. We’ve come from the humble beginnings of a billionaire building a flying suit out of scrap all the way to wizards who bend reality and giant purple men going on apocalyptic rock collecting trips.
All of this has been made possible not only through a massive string of incredibly talented individuals, artists and visionaries but by a clever string of designers who have been, slowly and steadily, raising audience’s tolerances with what they are willing to accept on the big screen.
This tolerance is commonly referred to as the suspension of disbelief, or the ability of an audience to accept that what’s happening on screen would never happen in real life. It’s your ability to see James Bond dodge the gunfire of forty-four trained gunman just by running in a straight line and think, “Man, James Bond is the best,” as opposed to, say, “He should definitley be dead right now.”
If you can suspend your disbelief, you can get around a story’s sillier, larger-than-life aspects and instead focus on the character and people involved.
Maintaining suspension of disbelief from a captive audience is aided if films stick to their own set of established rules. For example, when you’re watching a Bond film, you know that Bond is the best of the best. You know he’s an incredibly suave spy, a viscous ladykiller, and a great shot with any weapon on the planet. You also know that he can’t shoot laser beams out of his eyes. You’d probably be pretty upset if you saw him do that, because, well, he can’t. That’s not what the rules have established.
Marvel heroes use the same kind of techniques to maintain the suspension of disbelief of their audiences, but they tend to set up rules that give them a lot of leeway. “Iron Man Does Smart Tech Stuff” is a set of rules that the character has been running on for a while, and almost every time Iron Man shows up, the movie pushes the border by allowing him to pull off more and more advanced tech stuff than previously shown.
Even if a Marvel film does feel the need to expand on its own set of rules, they make a point of explaining that the rules have changed, such as Hulk’s slow development into his own character through the trauma and betrayal he felt by Black Widow.
And then there’s Ant-Man, the character who breaks his one, single rule all the time and just hops along, hoping no one notices.
The first rule of Ant-Man’s shrinking tech, as it’s introduced to us in the first film, is that the tech works on a theory of mass conservation.
“When you’re small, your energy is compressed, so you have the force of a 200-pound man behind a fist a HUNDREDTH of an inch wide; You’re like a bullet.”
-Hope Pym, Ant-Man (2015)
The movie runs off this idea for a good bit. The first scene where Ant-Man shrinks, he falls and makes a dent in the bottom of the bathtub he’s in, despite the fact that, realistically, he should probably go through the floor. But, hey, at least they’re trying. At least they’re recognizing that this is still a tiny, 200-pound man. At least in this scene. But hold on to your horses, people, because they stop doing that in about ten minutes.
I walked out of Ant-Man hoping I never come face to face with the ants he flies on in that film, because any ant capable of lifting 200 pounds like it’s next to nothing is an ant I never want to come face to face with. In the same way, I walked out of Civil War realizing that Hawkeye is WAY stronger than he lets on, because he was able to fire an arrow with a 200-pound weight on its tip 40+ feet with near-perfect accuracy.
The SECOND RULE established about Ant-Man, after the first “He can shrink” rule, is that his mass stays the same. This rule is broken constantly, and there’s no explanation as to how or why. Maybe if Ant-Man was shown pressing some sort of button on the armor, I’d buy it, but not only does that not happen, Rudd’s character is established not to be the smart one in this scenario – It was Hank Pym who built and designed the suit.
But hey, I’m not a total killjoy. I still did enjoy the first Ant-Man and also enjoyed the recently released – and pretty good – sequel even more. It’s just a minor gripe I’ve had for a while now. All I’m looking for is one tiny throwaway line to explain the whole thing, some new evolution in the tech that lets him shift his mass around, something that tells me why he doesn’t float away like a big dumb balloon when he grows to massive size – but I haven’t gotten that yet. Hopefully it gets here eventually.
Featured Image Via Flickr / agoodfella minifigs