As Marvel fans, we’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment over the last decade with introducing our kids to these stories; first watching at home, then as they got older, seeing them in theatres and witnessing them flip out with giddy excitement at character reveals and plot twists. But recently we realized: we’ve never watched all of them as a family, and certainly not in release order. And that’s left some gaps in their understanding of the relationships between all these heroes.
Thus, as a family, we pledged to embark upon an epic MCU rewatch before we see Avengers: Endgame in the theatre, and answer the all-important question: should you watch these with your kids?
ICYMI: read our thoughts on Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron.
On the heels of the heavy themes and high death toll of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel wisely changed gears to give us another origin story, but a highly original one. Ant-Man is at its heart a heist movie, with a lighter tone and lower stakes than its MCU predecessor but still brimming with suspenseful moments.
Former thief Scott Lang (the famously ageless Paul Rudd) is newly released from prison and looking forward to going straight and reconnecting with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), but can’t find steady employment due to his criminal record. With his visitation rights in jeopardy, he reluctantly agrees to one last job with his old gang, thanks to a tip from his buddy Luis (Michael Pena).
The job – breaking into a mansion, cracking a safe, and stealing the contents – goes smoothly, with just one hitch: the safe doesn’t contain the expected valuables, just an old motorcycle suit. Lang is disappointed, but takes the suit anyway. Back home, he tries it on, and suddenly shrinks down to the size of an insect.
After that harrowing experience, Lang goes back to the house and breaks back in to return the suit, but is arrested on the way out. Despondent in his jail cell, he receives an unexpected visitor: Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the homeowner, and the original Ant-Man. Pym developed the tech that allowed him and his wife Janet, aka The Wasp, to shrink to insect size and used it to fight evil; but when he found out that SHIELD wanted to replicate his suits, he vowed to keep it a secret, believing it could easily fall into the wrong hands.
Pym helps Lang break out of jail and reveals that the theft was a setup: he wanted to test Lang, and help him become the new Ant-Man. The catch is that Pym needs Lang to conduct another heist: his former protege, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), has been working on replicating the Ant-Man technology in order to make his own suit, the Yellowjacket. Pym and his daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) know that Cross is dangerous, and need Lang, as Ant-Man, to break into Pym’s former company and steal the Yellowjacket suit.
It all sounds very serious, but this film is really a lark. With a script co-written by Edgar Wright, it’s full of wit and even some slapstick; and I mean come on, is there a single soul who doesn’t find Paul Rudd insanely charming? To me, the only sour notes in this delightful heist comedy are that Evangeline Lilly is forced to be the dour, serious character, and that the incredibly talented comedienne Judy Greer is wasted as Lang’s chastising ex-wife.
So, should you watch it with your kids? I mean, sure, it’s a fun movie and a welcome, even necessary, palate cleanser between the high-stakes adventures of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War. That said, it is a bit of a side adventure, and as long as your kids know the basics of who Ant-Man is and what his powers are, it could be skipped as it doesn’t factor into the larger mythos of Thanos and the Infinity Stones.
Bottom line: Spend the $5 and rent it on iTunes to give yourself a break between the beats of the bigger story arc. You deserve it.