Earlier yesterday, Entertainment Weekly released the first image of Ant-Man villain Yellowjacket. Almost immediately after checking Facebook this morning, Ant-Man was at the top of the news. Although Ant-Man doesn't have the same level of interest of Avegers: Age of Ultron, Marvel's audience is curious to see if this film can have the same level of quality that made Guardians of the Galaxy a successful film. The primary way to make Ant-Man a success is to show the audience that shrinking and manipulation of insects can not only be a useful power, but also a very potent power. Although this power is different from the strength of the Hulk, the might of Thor, or the fire power of Iron Man, it purely requires a creative mind to make use of shrinking to it's fullest potential. Perhaps with an understanding of real-world physical properties, it can become possible to see how useful Ant-Man could be.
First we must understand how he changes size. Of course, it is know that Ant-Man will get his powers from Pym Particles, as he did in the comics. In the comics, Pym Particles worked by transporting excess matter into or out from an alternate dimension, known as Kosmos. This allowed all three Ant-Men, Hank Pym, Scott Lang, and Eric O'Grady, to shrink and grow in size as needed. However the film will be unlike to use the Kosmos explanation, as such a concept would take a large amount of time to explain to an audience with any satisfaction. Indeed, all reports from the film seem to indicate that Scott Lang does not lose mass when shrinking, as director Peyton Reed has said,
Also, when he shrinks, he increases his density, so he’s got increased strength.
This means that he cannot be removing mass at all, which means that Pym Particles work differently in the film than in the comics. So how does a man decrease in size but retain the same mass? Most likely, in the film Pym Particles are related to the Higgs-Boson particle, which dictates the relative mass of other particles. In the same way, the Pym Particle dictates the relative size, or volume, of other particles. By making the particles inside of himself smaller or larger, Ant-Man could keep the same mass but decrease or increase in size. Of course this only accounts for shrinking. Growing any larger than a normal human would be problematic to do, but there is a way.
Yes, one thing the trailers have yet to answer at this point is if Pym Particles will also allow an individual to increase the size to a possibly infinite amount. This power is only limited by the human body's ability to withstand strain. One important physical properties to take into consideration is the square-cube law, which states that an objects area and volume change at different rates. An object increasing in size requires significantly more weight to exist. In the comics, Hank Pym could only initially grow to about 10 -12 feet, which is consistent with the limits of the human skeletal structure. Eventually he becomes capable of growing to up to 100 feet, by learning about the Pym Particle's ability to effect both strength and durability as well as size. If the film decides to include this aspect of the Pym Particle as well, then the story's over and we can go home. However, assuming the filmmakers want to keep the properties of Pym Particles to be purely based on size changing, then having the Ant-Man suit also manipulate the Higgs-Boson as well. This would mean that he could increase the mass of himself at will, being able to increase his strength without changing size.
Now that shrinking and growth, as well as the strength and durability aspects of the Pym Particle are explained, let us consider Ant-Man's ants. We know from the trailer that Scott Lang will be manipulating ants with his cybernetic helmet. In comic books, the helmet uses frequency to control ants, but in reality ants primarily use pheromones to communicate with each other. As Hank Pym was a biochemist in the comics, perhaps he discovered a way to simulate the pheromone using his molecule vibration to breakdown the atomic bonds of a chemical of his creation. Varies species of ants also have different useful properties that he could make use of, such as the flying ant seen in the trailer, fire ants seen in the fourth best Indiana Jones film, and the bullet ant, which has a sting that causes continual burning pain for over 24 hours. If this was not bad enough, in the comics Hank Pym discovered a way cause other objects and animals to change in size around him, meaning he could create an army of giant ants to fight alongside him.
Finally take into consideration the technological potential for size altering technology. Batman has a utility belt that seems to never run out of equipment, but imagine a utility belt that literally doesn't run out of equipment. This belt could even contain objects too large to otherwise fit inside. Ant-Man could keep equipment on his person that a normal superhero could not otherwise carry. Additionally, the constant change in size allows for easy stealth, as well as a unique combat style focused on evasion and trickery to outsmart an opponent. This came be demonstrated in the leaked test footage first appearing in SDCC 2012.
Certainly Ant-Man has the potential to be a terrible film. Peyton Reed has primarily had experience with straight comedy films, rather than the comedy-action bent both Marvel films in general and the Ant-Man character has had in recent years. However, by thinking through what powers are necessary for shrinking or growing to be possible, we are able to at least think of a version of Ant-Man that has the potential to be a good film. Whether or not the film version can grow in size, increase his strength and durability, and change the size of other people and objects around him, has not yet been determined, but come July 17 (or at least the next time Marvel decides to show a trailer) we will have an idea of what the MCU version of Scott Lang is capable of.