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While Ant-Man’s special shrinking and growing powers are arguably the most anticipated elements of the character’s upcoming film, fans shouldn’t forget the other unique ability that that the titular character possesses: his ability to communicate with ants. On paper, this may seem like kind of a silly gift for a superhero to have, but going by what we learned on the set of the blockbuster, it’s very likely that this element as well as the ants themselves will wind up being scene-stealers in the new Marvel Studios title –as they’re a key part of many fantastic sequences in the movie.

Along with a small group of other film journalists, I had the chance to sit down for a roundtable interview with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige last year on the set of Ant-Man, and it was during this conversation that we learned to be very excited for the portrayal of the titular insect in the movie. Discussing both the film’s approach to its insect characters as well as the general perception of their place in the story, Feige compared the film to the odd-ball characters of Guardians of the Galaxy. Said the producer/executive,
It’s not dissimilar to the way I would talk about Rocket and Groot. There were some people that just inherently understood a talking raccoon with a machine gun is cool… A lot of people do not, and a lot of people went, ‘What, so it’s a raccoon, it’s a tree?’ and I would go ‘Yes!’ And you sort of laugh at the tree in the beginning, but at the end you sort of get a feel for the tree!

Discussing the way that we will perceive the ants in Ant-Man, Feige noted that at the start they will be seen as the same kind of gross annoyance/pest that most people see them as in real life, but it will be as the movie goes on and we see the characters connect with them that our perception of them will change. Right at the center of this is a flying ant that Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang affectionately nicknames "Ant-tony," who is obviously key in helping Ant-Man get around when he is shrunk down. Feige explained,
By the middle of the movie into the end of the movie, the ants have personalities and a lot of the ants become characters - not in a Pixar way, but hopefully in a photo-real/slightly elevated kind of a way… There are so many different types of ant species, and we’re going to see a good half dozen of them in this film, and I hope that you’re sort of cheering for them and are upset if one or two or three get blown away by the bad guy.

Obviously one hurdle that the movie will have to get over is the fact that ants actually look pretty damn creepy – both up close and from far away – but it’s not just the animation that’s been utilized to try and combat this feeling. Because of the way Michael Douglas’ Dr. Hank Pym and eventually Scott Lang control the ants, the feeling of creepiness is meant to eventually give way to a feeling of wonder that overpowers it.

To help enforce his point, Kevin Feige described one of Ant-Man’s key ant-related scenes. Shortly after they’ve first met, Dr. Hank Pym and Scott Lang sit together in Pym’s Victorian-style house and discuss the abilities of the Ant-Man suit and what it can do. In the midst of this scene, Scott is poured a cup of tea, and when Hank offers him sugar, the cube is actually delivered by an ant lugging it across the table. This kind of weirds Scott out a bit, and he rejects the offer – but then he comes to the realization that he is actually completely surrounded by ants. This revelation occurs when there is a sudden shift in the pattern of the black-on-blue wallpaper all around the room.

As someone who has been afraid of insects for as long as I can remember, I will admit that there is a part of me that has apprehensions about this aspect of Ant-Man, but it sounds so cool that I think I’ll be able to get over my personal phobia.

Ant-Man arrives in theaters on July 17th.
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