Ant-Man’s Fluid Physics
Wait… Ant-Man’s physics MAKE NO SENSE!
Last summer’s Ant-Man was one of the unexpected delights of the Marvel cinematic universe. Not only did it give us the one founding member The Avengers had been missing (albeit in the form of a different incarnation of the hero) it was also one of the funniest, and most fast-paced movies in the MCU.
But there is one thing that’s been bugging the hell out of me about the movie since I saw it, and I’ve decided now’s the opportunity to rant about it.
In Ant-Man, our hero Scott Lang is able to shrink himself (or grow himself) by use of the patented ‘Pym Particles,’ invented by the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym.
In the movie, they explain that Pym Particles can shrink or grow things by, and I quote, ‘reducing the space between atoms.’ That’s why even as an ant-sized hero, Scott retains ‘the strength of a full-grown man.’
Hope Pym explains why Ant-Man is so dangerous.
So it doesn’t reduce mass. It just reduces the size of that mass. So while Scott is as small as an insect, that means he still has the same weight as a full-grown man, because it’s not the atoms that have been shrunk, it’s just the space between them that’s smaller.
And to a certain, extent, we see this. In the scenes in which Scott first uses his suit, he’s tossed out of a bathtub and lands on the bathroom floor – cracking the tile he lands on (because you have 200lbs of weight landing on a spot the size of an insect.)
In the fight against Yellowjacket, a toy train is about as deadly as you’d expect it to be against a full-grown man. Even an ant-sized one.
But Marvel plays very fast and loose with this phsyics. Later on in the movie, Scott Lang runs across the barrel of a gun while a goon is aiming it – seemingly weighing no more than an insect. Yet, in theory, he should weigh 200lbs (and he certainly hits like he does.) Earlier, Anthony the ant flies off with Scott on his back… again, ignoring the fact that he technically weighs 200lbs (Anthony must be the strongman of ants. “Do you even lift, brah?”)
…and yet in another scene, Scott seems to weigh as much as an ant.
It gets increasingly ridiculous towards the end of the movie, in which Hank Pym reveals that his bitchin’ WWII tank keyring isn’t a keyring at all – but a real tank that he blows up to full size with the use of his Pym particles.
Which – considering a Sherman tank weighs a whopping 33 tons, or 66,800lbs – means Hank’s keeping one hell of a paperweight on his keychain.
In Civil War, Ant-Man becomes ‘Giant Man’ by using his Pym particles to expand the space between his atoms – but according to the physics of Ant-Man, that should have played out very differently. For a start, a 50-feet tall man weighing just 200lbs would float off like a topsail when the wind blew. Secondly, if Ant-Man has the strength of a fully-grown man inside an insect-sized body, wouldn’t that mean that Scott is no stronger than a normal guy even through he’s 50ft tall?
Even a 50ft tall guy would have trouble ripping a jet to shreds.
So how the hell did he rip that plane wing off? Or toss War Machine around like he was an action figure?
I know, I know – it’s suspension of disbelief. What’s the point of bitching about movie physics when the same movie features a man in a flying suit and a witch with magical powers?
But I can’t stop thinking about it whenever I see Ant-Man on screen!
Do you have any similar gripes with the MCU, or superhero physics? Show me I’m not alone – let me know in the comments section below!