Battle Of The Movies: Iron Man (2008) vs Ant-Man (2015)

Which is Marvel Studio’s best solo origin movie? That’s a question worth discussing after Ant-Man became a refreshing summer blockbuster.

There’s certainly fan support for Captain America: The First Avenger, The Incredible Hulk and Thor. But to prevent an all out civil war, this post will focus on what many regard are the two top contenders for best solo debut movie.

Time to pick a side! It’s a battle of the movies between Iron Man (2008) versus Ant-Man (2015). After going head to head in several categories such as Story, Heroes and Villains we’ll turn the floor over to the people’s decision (that’s you!) for your all important vote.


  Story

In constructing a superhero origin movie the comic book source material can be used as a blueprint and there are certain conventions which can be followed.  Marvel got it right by picking Iron Man as the first superhero in MCU. Superpowers? Yes, but Iron Man’s abilities are grounded in quasi-technology not fantasy. He’s a somewhat realistic hero to introduce moviegoers to the MCU. A gateway hero if you will, eventually paving the way for more relatively unknown, fantastical heroes in Marvel’s catalogue.

Secret identity? Nope, Tony Stark is Iron Man. His love interest, Pepper Potts, knows this from the beginning and by the end of the film so does the rest of the world.  The hero’s mission? The story does a great job of showing us first hand why a billionaire weapons industrialist would have a change of heart and fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. He’s saving people from the weapons he’s created. The screenwriters made sound decisions in adapting the comic book origins to the silver screen, such as contextualizing the story within the war in Afghanistan for a modern audience. 

While Iron Man got the ball rolling, Ant-Man’s story concludes Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on a strong note. After a barrage of comic book movies of late, the story cleverly side steps superhero fatigue by focusing less on how the Ant-Man originated and more on how the mantle is passed on to the successor. There’s a fresh angle to the mentor and protegé relationship that could have been lost if Ant-Man was a straight-up ‘superhero saves world type story’. If anything, Ant-Man pokes fun at big blockbuster action movies, the kind of movies Marvel is very good at making.

Whereas Iron Man shows the progression of the suit from prototype to the classic red and gold armor, the Ant-Man suit was already created decades ago. The brief back story of the original Ant-Man ties into present day events and hints at exciting possibilities to come.  We’ve seen plenty of intricate heist movies before but add in shrinking powers, an army of lovable ants and an incredibly high fun factor, Ant-Man delivers in a big way. And who knew watching ants drop a sugar cube into a cup of coffee could be so entertaining and funny?


 Heroes

Ant-Man-Paul Rudd

In many ways, Tony Stark / Iron Man embodies the tone of the MCU. He’s fun and quippy yet can be taken seriously when needed. Like some other comic book heroes, he’s inherited his billionaire dollar fortune from his deceased parents but he’s not a brooding, tortured soul. Robert Downey Jr. turns a womanizing, prodigal son into a likeable hero we can root for. If you think about it, Iron Man’s powers, identity and costume are essentially one in the same. 

Tony Stark was willing to put his billionaire dollar company on the line while Scott Lang stole from the rich and gave away billions, like a modern-day Robin Hood. Paul Rudd as Lang is an unlikely yet highly likable superhero. Lang isn’t out to save the world, he can’t even keep a menial job because he’s an ex-con. His motivation is personal and relatable: the most important thing in the world to him is his daughter. Hank Pym didn’t choose Lang as his protegé because he’s the most athletic or heroic, but because he has an honorable heart and of course, an incredible talent for high-tech thieving. Strangely enough, Ant-Man who can communicate with ants might be the most humanizing of Marvel heroes.


 Villains

jeff bridges in iron man 2008

The strongest Marvel movie villains aren’t really villains in the strictest sense. Sure, Loki and the Winter Soldier stir up plenty of trouble but they are characters with a deep connection to their hero counterpart and will continue to evolve as the MCU heads into its next phase. The one and done villains in Iron Man and Ant-Man serve an adversarial role to exemplify aspects of the hero. They both depend a lot on the actors’ performance but are largely one-dimensional.

The general concept of Darren Cross / Yellow Jacket may be better than the execution, which in itself wasn’t very memorable. Darren Cross as played by Corey Stoll represents what would happen if Hank Pym was exposed to too much of the particle and didn’t have the moral fiber to keep the technology from being weaponized . At the same time, Darren Cross was the original protégé, whose qualities contrasted with and showed why Scott Lang is more deserving of Hank Pym’s secret technology. 

Raza, the leader of the terrorist organization who captured Tony Stark, worked as a smoke screen for the true villain under our nose. Jeff Bridges is solid as Obadiah Stane, he captured the father figure/mentor role with ease which made his evil reveal all the more deceptively cruel. Stane could have benefited from additional scenes but understandably the origin movie needed to focus on its hero. Interestingly, in their super villain form both Yellow Jacket and Iron Monger didn’t emerge as a direct threat to the hero until the final act, though Stane did have the better villain moment when leaving a paralyzed Stark to die after taking out his power core.


Supporting Characters

set_evangeline_lilly_paul_rudd_michael_douglas_ant_man

The heist in Ant-Man lent to a good utilization of the supporting characters. The standout is Luis (Michael Peña) providing laugh-out loud comedic moments. Just when Hope Van Dyne’s (Evangeline Lily) cold bitterness was about to become overbearing the script gives us a breakthrough moment between her and Scott Lang and we begin to see her warmer side. Their romantic relationship wasn’t ideally set up and largely played for laughs at the end. A hero himself, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym has a knack for making everything he says sound believable, a great casting choice for a movie with a far out premise. Let’s not forgot the adorable Cassie Lang and Paxton (Bobby Cannavale), the ex’s cop boyfriend who’s actually not made to look like a total jerk.

Iron Man has a smaller supporting cast to work with. Both Lt. Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes and Pepper Potts play off of Tony Stark very well and in different ways. Here’s a dissenting opinion: Terrence Howard is the better fit to play Rhodey (and War Machine if he was in the Iron Man sequels) although Don Cheadle is the more likable, suave actor. The chemistry between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) was more of warm admiration than sizzling electric. However, overall Pepper proved to be important in moving the story along in a couple of key scenes and given that she doesn’t have superpowers it’s understandable her contribution in the climatic showdown was to relegated to pressing a button.


Overall

When it comes down to the intangibles, it’s really like splitting hairs. Ant-Man has the edge in comedy, take for example the smile-inducing fight between new Avenger Falcon and Ant-Man. It’s harder to stack up the action scenes since Ant-Man doesn’t have major action set pieces in the traditional sense, save for the final scene which is as much a satire on the genre itself.

Iron Man’s special effects hold up very well, there’s hardly a moment where the CGI takes you out of the viewing experience.  In terms of rewatchability, Iron-Man has proven it’s got staying power and is a huge fan favorite. Although Ant-Man did well at the box-office, it will gain more reverence over time as movie goers who overlooked it in theaters discover it on home video. Like Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man is a film which even if you’re tired of watching superhero movies, it’s different and fresh enough to pull you in.

Both Iron Man and Ant-Man are the right debut solo movies for the Marvel phase they are in. The success of Iron Man and Marvel’s first phase paved the way for the little known Ant-Man. At this point, Marvel Studios is pumping out multiple movies per year, but Ant-Man is anything but cookie cutter or formulaic.  What it comes down to is your own personal preference and gut, emotional reaction. Do you find Paul Rudd adorably irresistible as Ant-Man? Do you love Iron-Man and will always remember your first? Or is there another Marvel solo debut movie you think deserves to get more recognition? 

Keep Fighting the Good Fight:

Battle Of The Movies: Captain America: The Winter Soldier vs Guardians Of The Galaxy

Battle Of The Movies: Spider-Man (2002) vs The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

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About Eddie@Jaccendo

Movies, TV shows, comics, and video game news & review.

Posted on September 26, 2015, in Comics, Movies and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. I thought there was going to be a poll at the end.

    I didn’t like Ironman as much as I like the (Ed Norton) Hulk movie but that wasn’t an Origin. I loved Ant-man a lot. However the edge, IMO, still goes to Ironman because RDJ and Gweneth Paltrow are two of my favorite actors. But if we’re talking origins (non-solo category), X-Men First Class is the best for my money. But it had the advantage of being a prequel. We already knew the characters. We just needed to see them get together. Sadly there is no origin story for mutants. It’s just: … then their mother gave birth. But honestly, if we’re talking about when they discovered their powers, the scene with young Magneto in the concentration camp is still the absolute best. But anyway my choice would be Ironman slightly over Ant-man because of the casting. Nice post. I thought there’d be a poll.

    • Okay, I’ve added a poll. I went with Marvel’s Studios solo debut movies, hopefully that makes sense (ie. includes non-origin movies but not team ups or sequels).

      I enjoyed Ed Norton’s Hulk, even though it’s not a movie I feel like I have to rewatch anytime soon. RDJ is fantastic, the casting to me is great overall in both Iron Man and Ant-Man. I liked X-Men first class on first watch but it worked better for me the second time. I really liked the relationship between Magneto and Xavier. Yeah the concentration camp scene is awesome, pretty much all things Magneto in that movie is great!

  2. I haven’t seen Ant Man yet so I can’t comment on it, but I loved Hulk, even though it’s not really a Origin movie, and Iron Man. I liked Captain America a lot too though so that I got my vote in the end since I don’t count Hulk as an origin film :].

    The X-men films are horrible imo.

    • Ant Man is pretty fun and worth watching, you should check it out when it’s available on home video. it’s not a typical superhero film. Yeah, 2008’s Hulk isn’t an origin film but anyone is welcome to vote for it if they love it. 🙂 The first Captain America grew on me a lot more the second time watching.

      Haha, I have a friend that keeps reminding me how terrible the X-men films are. I enjoyed some but not all. I think it’s great that everyone has their own faves and dislikes.

  3. Awesome post! I haven’t seen Ant Man yet so can’t speak on if it’s better, will have to come back when I see it. That being said, RDJ is Tony Stark, such perfect casting. When I heard an Ant Man movie was being made I thought how could that be good. I thought the same about Guardians, and that ended up being good.
    It’s refreshing that the the MCU has been able to make movies that are unexpectedly good. Making obscure or less popular characters a main focus has been genius on their end. Let’s hope they are able to keep it up.

    • Thanks a lot! Casting RDJ as Tony Stark is brilliant and at the time a risky move. Before it was released, I actually wasn’t that interested in Ant-Man. I didn’t know that much about him. Like you said, Marvel has a way of taking little known heroes into the mainstream. It’s a fun movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’ll be interesting to see how Dr. Strange, Captain Marvel and the other new characters will be introduced. I don’t know much about them either. Let’s hope they keep it up for sure!

  4. I’ll admit it took some time for me to fully take to Iron Man on initial release, only because I’d always been a huge fan of the comics which were a tad darker so I wasn’t prepared for some of the goofiness. But ultimately, it stands up and lest us forget it kicked off the entire MCU.

  5. Love this post! In the end I have to go with “Iron Man,” simply because Iron Man is my favorite Avenger, and Robert Downey Jr. is my favorite actor. It has held up very well over time, and it’s still one of my favorite movies. That said, I also really like Ant-Man. Thor used to be my second-favorite MCU origin story, but I think Ant-Man just might overtake it. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and by the fact that I actually liked it more than “Age of Ultron.” Paul Rudd is great, and I really loved this line in your review: “Ant-Man who can communicate with ants might be the most humanizing of Marvel heroes.” I think that’s very true; Ant-Man seems like the most accessible of the Marvel heroes, and I’d really like to see him in other Marvel films and a sequel of his own.

    • Hello there and thank you very much! RDJ is terrific and Iron Man is my favorite avenger too. I also really like Vision but he hasn’t been around long enough. I would like to see Thor again to see how I would rank it now. Ant-Man is really fresh in my head and I had a blast watching it. I’d personally put it ahead of Thor. I laughed more with Ant-Man than Ultron. I like that Ant-Man is a down to earth guy, he’s most accessible like you said. It would be cool to see again soon, maybe in the next Avengers movie?

  6. Hey man! Great post, bloody well written as always and I appreciated all of the points you raised for each film, many of which I agree with. I could talk to you at length about both of these films but we’d probably not get done for a while.

    I apologize that its taken me so long to comment on this post, I’ve had it bookmarked since the day it went online and I’ve just gotten around to it now. When it comes to Iron Man and Ant-Man that is a very tight race. Ant-Man has a great sense of style, humour, pacing and the heist aspect really makes it special. That being said Iron Man is humourous, full of heart drama and action and is the first of its kind. I adore IM1 for its origin, characters, sense of realism and ambition, but those are the same qualities I like Ant-Man for too. Sure both films don’t have very well-developed films, but I think both of them were played by great actors and served their purpose in the film, plus Obadiah Stane has that amazing quote: “Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave! With a box of scraps!” I LOVE that line, so frigging funny and badass. I think I still love Iron Man more because of its originality, but also because of Tony’s journey and change. Plus I adore seeing heroes progress and grow and for Tony it was build his various suits, learning to fly and taking out the bad guys with his arsenal of weaponry.

    With the MCU films, regardless of their failings, there’s a lot of interesting and fun things to appreciate about their origin stories whether it be Cap 1, Thor, Iron Man, Guardians, etc.

    • Hey there! Totally appreciate it whenever you get the time to check out my posts and thoughtfully comment!

      The heist was really well done and set up, I also liked how Scott broke into Hank’s cellar which is sort of a mini-heist. Iron Man’s origin is great, liked you said we saw his progressions as a hero and the suits. The actors playing the villains were good too, I especially liked Jeff Bridges performance and that was a great memorable line.

      Each of MCU’s origin stories are different enough from one another which I appreciate. I really need to rewatch Thor that’s the only one I haven’t gone back to yet. Thanks!

  7. Still haven’t seen Ant-Man but given it seems to compare well to Iron Man (my favourite character in the Marvel franchise and the core of the studio’s best movies so far) can only mean good things. Great read.

    • Hello Dan! Great to hear from you. When Ant-Man was announced I wasn’t that excited about it but I ended up liking it a lot. Hope you enjoy it too. Iron Man is hard to top, I like it more each time I rewatch it. 😀

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