This fun, “smaller” Marvel movie about a heist spotlights a man seeking to be an example, but often coming up… well, short. I had the opportunity to address an audience after a showing of the film and map out the narrative parallels.
Enjoy the video exploration below, or the written review with visuals based on the presentation!
The mini-Marvel hero’s story begins by laying out the way guilt divides and fractures relationships…
Sometimes the guilt we feel is based on real things that we’ve done, and it has damning consequences.
Then there is a felt guilt and shame that perpetuates brokenness, such as Hank feels about the loss of Janet.
However, his guilt has also caused a rift between father and daughter, which Hank struggles to mend.
“I lost your mother – I didn’t mean to lose you too.”
Meanwhile, Scott Lang is estranged from his daughter, who thinks the world of him. More than once he is told what he ought to do…
…but as Hank points out, “The moment things get hard, you turn back to crime”.Sin is easier, and more seductive. Even when we want to be the hero of the story and have the universe revolve around us, eventually even our most ardent fans start to see the cracks. His daughter asks “Is Daddy a bad man?”
What Scott needs is a redemption that is offered from outside himself. In Ant-Man, this comes in the form of Hank Pym, who offers him a shot at redemption. “I’ve been watching you for a WHILE…”he says, and admits “Second chances don’t come around all that much.” Think about who this offering comes from, and how:
A father figure who Scott STEALS from… gives him grace…
In fact reveals it’s all part of a plan…
He’s totally guilty, but he gets grace.
Hank literally calls it “a shot at redemption”
His benefactor gives him an out – a choice – and Scott takes it.
Scott assumes he’ll need to change EVERYTHING about himself, but Hank informs him otherwise. In this, we see a redemption not only of his life, but of his particular gifts.
We also see that new, amazing gifts are given for Scott to employ… some new “armor” to wear in his new mission. Parallels of spiritual gifts and armor aren’t hard to correlate here:)
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6 ESV)
We also see the hero of the story is not alone: he’s given a team to work with – ants that have different groupings of gifts – that functions together like one body to get the job done.
When we think about verses of many members working together as “one body” (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12) it doesn’t really get much more coordinated than an anthill.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6 ESV)
Different ants, all working together… but of course they need a leader: they need a head.
We also see that Scott doesn’t simply do everything perfectly right away… in fact, Hope seriously doubts he’s up to the task. Likewise, we have gifts, but they must be exercised, they must be trained.
“…train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:7-10 ESV)
Why are the heroes that rise up so often from humble origins? Why do they seem insignificant? From the little giant-killer David to the seemingly inadequate Scott Lang, we see a recurring theme.
Hope seems more capable and better than Scott in every way… and there are personal reasons the very HUMAN father Hank chooses Scott above Hope. But this is a familiar trope – the underdog given a chance to be the hero. The LESS capable overcoming the trained, the weak overcoming the strong.
The use of the weak to shame the strong, the foolish to shame the wise, the ignoble to upend the noble… this is a common theme in the way God chooses and uses instruments of change in the Bible.
And thus the damaged, undertrained, and underequpped Scott Lang overcomes the big tycoon with ALL the advantages.
The story’s forward movement is sustained by the promise of reconciliation, on several levels:
Fathers and daughters
Mothers and sons
Brothers and sisters
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; – 2 Corinthians 5:18
that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:19
This is not a poor reflection of the promise of the gospel…
…as we wrestle with our guilt and shame, wondering how we get out from under that stain…
…washed clean, given a second chance… born again…
…an outside force brings us Hope… and a promise of redemption…
…one that bears a participatory nature: believe, receive… old talents redeemed and new gifts added.
It’s a plan that uses foolish things to shame the wise… with the promise of reconciliation: now and future.
Hank also stresses that “It’s not about saving our world – it’s about saving theirs!” There is a strong current of sacrificing and serving not just in terms of self-redemption,but out of gratitude for the grace and the second chance… a chance to live anew and lay down that life for others.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, (Philippians 2:3-9 ESV)
Scripture says the almighty, all powerful, bigger than the universe God humbled himself to become an incarnate servant: in other words…
God became small to change the world.
The incarnate Christ atoned for the sins of the world – glorified God the father…
…and now, in him, we make ourselves small to accomplish big things.
If you’re looking for that – a second chance, redemption, reconciliation… thanks to the good news of Jesus Christ…