ANT-MAN: An Ant and a Neo-Cubist Sneak into a Raveā€¦

Ant-Man movie posterThe Original Problemed Super-Hero

When Stan Lee thought up scientist Henry Pym, whose discovery let him shrink to the size of an insect, he wasn't trying very hard. As the deadline for TALES TO ASTONISH issue #27 loomed (Jan. 1962), he might have been up late watching THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957). Maybe he thought any explanation would get them through seven pages of Jack Kirby drawing his take on that movie. As a result, another scientist inexplicably decides to experiment upon himself. Hank Pym is no Dr. Jekyll, and his pronouncement of success is a far cry from Victor Frankenstein's "It's alive!" It's rather mundane and reads, "It works! I've done it!! I've reduced the chair to doll size." With that, Henry Pym decides the next logical step is to try the serum on himself. He pours the serum on his arm, like misusing a liniment, and shrinks; antics ensue.

Unfortunately, shrinking was not that big a deal in comics. A year earlier D.C. rebooted their WWII era pugilist as The Atom a shrinking scientist in D.C. Comics Showcase #34 (Oct. 1961). Named after the science fiction writer Raymond A. Palmer, the straight-laced physicist and university professor secret identity was typical for the time. Pre-dating them by a generation is Doll-Man, who debuted in four-page story entitled "Meet the Doll Man" by cartoonist Will Eisner in Feature Comics #27 (Dec. 1939).

Stan Lee recounts "I did one comic book called 'The Man in the Ant Hill' about a guy who shrunk down and there were ants or bees chasing him. That sold so well that I thought making him into a superhero might be fun." The science-fiction anthology TALES TO ASTONISH (term used loosely) would feature Hank Pym as ANT-MAN as of issue #35 (Nov. 1962). Spider-Man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962) that summer and the kids all seemed to want bug-themed super-heroes. Sporting generic red, black and blue costume, he was distinguished by the silver over-sized helmet from which he huffed the gases of his size-changing formula. After decades of publishing history with The Avengers, there would be an intervention. Sparing the details of domestic abuse, mental breakdowns and creation of the genocidal A.I. (who just appeared in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)); let's just say Henry Pym was a superhero with issues.

That said, it's no surprise the movie adaptation would have its own troubled history. Dating as far back as 1987, there has been some attempt at an Ant-Man movie adaptation, including Stan Lee personally suggesting it at any boardroom meeting he could. Come the turn of the century, Artisan Entertainment joins Marvel in a plan to produce movies based on such characters as Captain America, Black Panther, Deadpool, Iron Fist, Morbius, Longshot, Power Pack, Mort the Dead Teenager and Ant-Man. Despite almost immediately being offered the project, it takes years for Edger Wright, of SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) & HOT FUZZ (2007), to have his ANT-MAN script seen. In 2008 Wright would tell Empire Magazine “It’s written and we’re doing a second draft of it. It’s certainly not a superhero spoof or pastiche and it certainly isn’t a sort of HONEY I SHRUNK THE KIDS endeavor at all.” Ten years after submitting his first script and just weeks before filming would begin, Edger Wright removed himself from the director's chair. After five rewrites and more that excluded Wright's input, a chunk of the cast and crew would depart production.

The Grasshopper and the Ant

Fight coordinator Walter Garcia is not the first martial artist in his family. His father Walter Sr. has been a long time practitioner of Judo and Karate in New York City and set his son on his martial path beginning at age six with Taekwondo. Along the way, Walter Jr. would delve into such arts as Ryu Jujitsu, Capoeria, Muay Thai and Hapkido. His 4th degree TKD Black Belt allowed him to live and teach martial arts in Korea until his return to the states in 2009. Based in Orlando, Florida, home to Northern Mantis Grandmaster Chan Pui, it would make sense that Walter Garcia Jr. would specify Wah Lum Kung Fu as among his robust skill-set. Establishing an independent production team, ENSO Productions, he acted in his first short film A SPANIARD’S TALE (2010), and was also fight choreographer and stuntman. He said in an interview with the, "Enso Productions is really based off of a team of stunt performers here in Orlando. I kind of built a team of the most talented people I could find who work in the amusement parks here in Orlando — Disney, Universal and SeaWorld. We just networked and built a team out of that." The 2011 interview was a bit of online geek-cred earned with the release of the superhero fan film BATMAN The Last Laugh (2011).

If only he knew mantis kung fu.

Over the intervening years Garcia would find his most consistent work as a stuntman, most notably as assistant stunt coordinator in THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014). More importantly he would get to use his fight training as stunt fight coordinator for five episodes of the HBO series TRUE DETECTIVE that same year. Episode four of the first season "Who Goes There" was particularly noteworthy for the eight-minute-long single-take action sequence. It's more reminiscent of Joe Wright's HANNA (2011) than the hallway fight from Netflix's DAREDEVIL series (2015). Cary Fukunaga wrote about directing that episode of TRUE DETECTIVE for "I don't mean action in terms of an action movie, but action in terms of present-tense storytelling… We could create this gauntlet that Cohle had to run in order to survive and it would be awesome. I just didn't know it was going to last that long – it turned out to be an eight-minute sequence when we were walking through it. It took a lot of planning…We had stunt guys coordinating with stunt drivers to pull up at the right time, special-effects guys outside throwing foam bricks and firing live rounds."

This year Garcia will have been fight coordinator for two Hollywood films. He's helped maintain Jason Statham's reputation during his latest foray into comedy as the villain Rick Ford in Melissa McCarthy's action/comedy SPY (2015). Much has been said online about McCarthy's heroic efforts in performing her own stunts and fights. It's encouraging to see that ANT-MAN is just Garcia's second project as Fight Coordinator, considering the level of ambition that has infused his work to date.

Garcia should make good use of the other Fight Coordinator with whom he shares this task.  Peng Zhang has put work into fight scenes and stunt-doubling since 2003, an un-credited role as stunt double for Chow Yun Fat in BULLETPROOF MONK  (2003) and stunts in THE LAST SAMURAI (2003). Crossing paths with Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen and Corey Yuen on the set of BLADE OF KINGS (2004) he has since worked on many projects along side plenty of action stars. He fought Vin Diesel in THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK (2004) and played a Ninja opposite him in THE PACIFIER (2005). He did stunt work in BLADE: TRINITY (2004) as well as in TRANSPORTER 2 (2005) where he first worked with Jason Statham. He would work with Statham a few more times, in IN THE NAME OF THE KING: A DUNGEON SIEGE TALE (2007) and WAR (2007) where he quietly doubled for Jet Li, all the while joining Jackie Chan's stunt team in time for RUSH HOUR 3 (also in 2007).

Come the following year he would get his break working on HELLBOY II: GOLDEN ARMY (2008) as Assistant Fight Coordinator along side Chan Man-ching, who's filmography includes POLICE STORY 3: SUPERCOP, DRUNKEN MASTER II, RUMBLE IN THE BRONX, POLICE STORY 4: FIRST STRIKE, MR. NICE GUY, RUSH HOUR, WHO AM I? GORGEOUS, THE ACCIDENTAL SPY and ROB-B-HOOD. Peng Zhang evidently made the most of time spent with mentors as his growing list of fight choreography accomplishments reveal his influences while high-lighting his penchant for unique epic super fight scenes. Notable projects include NINJA ASSASSIN (2008), KICK-ASS (2010), SCOTT-PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (2011), THE WRATH OF VAJRA (2013), 47 RONIN (2013) and KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (2014). That last one should be seen both for the body-modified version of a "sword-hottie" as well as the bikini-clad brawling beach-goers.

What did Pink Panther say when he stepped on an ant?

Ant-Man movie posterANT-MAN (2015), the second Marvel movie of the year would prefer that you remember last year's GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014). But rather than inspiring rock and roll nostalgia, one gets the feel of cruising the boulevard to the opening soundtrack. Once Paul Rudd appears on screen with his usual friendly smile - it's as though he's glad people decided to show up to in theaters - he immediately gets punched in the face.

That Schadenfreude-inducing scene might be a micro-version of what's made Paul Rudd so successful and what makes the casting choice work. It's that self-effacing aura Rudd brings to all of his roles that makes him a believable enough Scott Lang in a stolen ANT-MAN suit. This bit of meta-casting lets everyone in the audience acknowledge that there will be flaws in this story of redemption, but hopefully, it will be likable enough. The supporting cast is particularly likable and provides much of the humor.  They reveal how hilarious a 100% Edgar Wright-crafted movie could have been.  Evangeline Lilly confirms as much in her December 2014 interview with

Instead, Marvel has Michael Douglas as Hank Pym build continuity with their other cinematic properties. John Slatery and Hayley Atwell reprise their roles as post WWII heroes who sketch out events leading to the present day. There's some vagueness as to which war exactly Pym served in, and these story elements continue to lean on themes of Super Soldiers and Next-Gen Warfare, all in the service of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016) and perhaps Season 2 of AGENT CARTER. For fans, these parts of the movie will function like back-up stories or an anthology comic like many of the titles mentioned. One wonders if that was intentional.

Evangiline Lilly, a divine Hope Van Dyne

Barely based on David Michelinie, John Byrne and Bob Layton work in Marvel Premiere #47 (Apr. 1979), Scott Lang's origin is funny but starts sappy, a dad trying to live up to his daughter's love. When he's hanging out with his bros, we all have the most fun; and it just so happens his bros live in a very-low-budget OCEANS 11 movie with Michael Peña as George Clooney. Meanwhile it's Evangeline Lilly who look good throwing an arm bar in a training scene we've seen before in IRON MAN 2 (2010), KICK-ASS 2 (2013) and EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014) a.k.a. "Live Die Repeat."

Once we are among the ants, the 3D then becomes a worthy consideration, particularly for those fond of macro- or micro-photography that modern technology allows. These vertigo-inducing scenes are a delight (and a Disney ride waiting to happen). Those with any hint of Myrmecophobia be warned, there are scenes to make anyone bug-out. The visual gags, which begin quietly (watch for the shrinking chair), are on full display as the new Ant-Man finds his footing, but the voice-over action which worked for IRON MAN (2008) is sometimes annoying. The quick cutting "parkour" of earlier scenes give way to free flowing visuals as more time is spent in the movie's micro-verse. The ants alternate from endearing sidekicks to expendable cannon fodder, reiterating some contradictory messages about warfare.

Corey Stoll portrays a great Egghead, nodding to Paul Verhoeven's STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997) when not the over-the-top Yellow Jacket. Once our fight coordinators have displayed their thoughts on fighting someone the size of an ant (it's usually over quick) Ant-Man ultimately extols the virtues of running. Culminating in action figure sized hero vs. villain combat set in a child's bed room, the changing scale of battle, chase, falling and bouncing is sure to induce flashbacks, and bring to mind any number of children's books. Wilbert Awdry and Christopher Awdry might also be pleased with their character's very big screen debut. There of glimpses beyond throughout what is clearly the house design of the Marvel Cinematic, thus the eye-candy is delicious. The super-myrmecology should spark some youngster's science-project, hopefully disposed of correctly.

Hank Pym, environmentalist.


Author's note: While researching this article a plethora of terrible ant jokes were uncovered and it is hoped that once awareness of this problem is raised, society on a whole might work to elevate the standard and variety of the species.


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About Patrick Lugo :
Find us on facebook Patrick Lugo is Senior Designer at Kung Fu Tai Chi Magazine and has done design and illustration work for several martial art books. Most notably, he illustrated the award winning Little Monk & the Mantis. More of his artwork and comics can be found at

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