'Ant-Man': The Potential Problem With Pym Particles

Marvel's Ant-Man Movie Logo (Textured)

Hank Pym may be one of the founding members of The Avengers in Marvel Comics, but what makes him standout is his genius intellect. Much like Bruce Banner a.k.a. The Hulk and Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man are some of the world's brightest minds and most innovative inventors, Pym (Michael Douglas) devised his own way of making himself a superhero, to become Ant-Man.

One of Pym's inventions lets Ant-Man communicate with and control ants, and that will be a key differentiator in Marvel's Ant-Man film when Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) takes up the Ant-Man mantle to help the aged Pym steal from Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). The other invention though, the one the drives the plot of the film and the one we're going to focus on here, is that of Pym Particles.

In the comics, Pym discovers and finds a way to manipulate subatomic, extra dimensional particles which he labels "Pym Particles." These allow not only for the obvious altering of size, but of mass as well. So, Pym formulates a serum of sorts and a special suit that serves as a delivery mechanism for this serum in order to shrink himself down to the size of an ant while maintaining his full-size strength. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Ant-Man movie won't spend too much time on the discovery of the Pym Particle, according to Kevin Feige who says the story is instead focusing on character relationships, but there will be a strict and clearly defined set of rules when it comes to the science behind it, and how shrinking functions from a physical standpoint. That last part if crucial to director Peyton Reed.

Ant-Man Photo - Darren Cross & Hope Van Dyne

What's interesting about the discovery of Pym Particles, much like Bruce Banner's experiment which turns him into an uncontrollable green rage monster when angry, there's a downside. In the comics, prolonged use and exposure to Pym Particles has negative effects on the user's physical and mental well being. Too much use can even see a person start organically generating these particles (again, in the comics).

When we visited the set of Ant-Man last October, Reed hinted that using Pym Particles does take a potentially serious toll on the human body. We suspect, this may one of the reasons why Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), hasn't used his Ant-Man suit in a long, long time when the movie picks up. When we interviewed Corey Stoll the following day on set, who's character (Darren Cross) is after the Pym Particle technology and developing his own version of it in the film for seemingly nefarious reasons - and who develops the Yellowjacket suit which also uses the particles - he teased the mental health consequences of shrinking.

"Well, it’s an addled brain to be but, and especially I mean that’s another conceit too, is that the more you shrink, it affects your brain.  And so, there is a definite arc within the movie in terms of his judgment. [LAUGHS] And a lot of the movie’s about the telling lies to yourself and rationalizing things to yourself. And Scott does it, in terms of how good a father he is. And Pym does it and Darren is the biggest sort of culprit of sort of self-delusion. "

Following up on this topic, last week we traveled to Industrial Light & Magic to speak with director Peyton Reed again and to watch some near-finished sequences on the film. We asked him and producer Brad Winderbaum if the mental consequences of using Pym Particles was still a subplot in the film and Winderbaum responded, confirming that there are "still hints of that. Yes."

Ant-Man may include Spidey references

We watched a flashback sequence where a younger Pym (played by a de-aged Michael Douglas) confronts Howard Stark (John Slattery), Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Martin Donovan's character, seemingly upset that they (S.H.I.E.L.D.) have taken his serum against his better judgement and he places a vial of the red liquid down. It's vials like this that are visible on the Ant-Man costume, and when the user clicks the buttons on each glove, it seemingly injects the serum into the suit via the piping, causing the shrinking effect. Peyton Reed explains:

"In some ways it’s the particles and the suit is a delivery system for that. the suit has sort of a regulator on it that regulates the amount of Pym Particle that goes through. So Pym is calculated exactly how much of that particle is to be released to shrink down to the size of Ant-Man and also to grow back to normal size. So it is a distribution system. We were very strict about how that works. But as you see the movie, there are other devices that come into play regarding the Pym Particle."

As for what other devices come into play, that's anyone's guess but fans of the comics may immediately think of the Microverse or the Big House (a shrunken prison for shrunken supervillains). It sounds though as if the use of Pym Particles - the MacGuffin of the film - may be partially responsible for the actions of some of the characters. Perhaps Pym or Lang find a way to master the Pym Particles since we know Ant-Man returns next year, and rumor has it he may have a new costume.

Next: Ant-Man Joins The Avengers in Captain America: Civil War

Marvel’s “Ant-Man” stars Paul Rudd as Scott Lang aka Ant-Man, Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne, Corey Stoll as Darren Cross aka Yellowjacket, Bobby Cannavale as Paxton, Michael Peña as Luis, Tip “T.I.” Harris as Dave, Wood Harris as Gale, Judy Greer as Maggie, David Dastmalchian as Kurt, and Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym. Directed by Peyton Reed and produced by Kevin Feige, Marvel’s “Ant-Man” delivers a high-stakes, tension-filled adventure on July 17, 2015.

Ant-Man opens in theaters July 17, 2015; Captain America: Civil War – May 6, 2016; Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man reboot – July 28, 2017;Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Black Panther – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – November 2, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019;Inhumans – July 12, 2019.

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