Hat vs stoned – change the way you see the MCU as new Ant-Man arrives

Grown up Marvel kid Dominic Corry embraces a binary Marvel movie designation that went viral while anticipating the new stoner-friendly entry.

It seems crazy to say it out loud, but we are now fifteen years into this whole Marvel Cinematic Universe thing, and it’s safe to say that our feelings are evolving.

Speaking as someone who grew up as a Marvel kid, it still amazes me that we live in a cinematic world dominated by movies based on Marvel Comics. Marvel Comics-derived movies of course existed prior to Iron Man’s debut in 2008, but Kevin Feige and his friends at Marvel Studios changed everything by so heavily leaning into what made the comics work.

Before the MCU, comic book movies had moderate-to-little regard for their source material. But Feige showed that by respecting the comics, you can soar above the Distinguished Competition.

The most obvious way the MCU movies took inspiration from the comics was by implementing a strategy that Marvel Comics deployed to revolutionary effect in the 1960s (referred to as the “Silver Age” by some, but as the “Marvel Age” by many): it connected everything together into one shared “universe”. On the big screen, that interconnectedness has driven the MCU to unheralded heights, helping to turn it into the most successful movie franchise in the history of the medium.

But there are other aspects of the 1960s Marvel Comics that have come through in the movies as well: one being just how freaking trippy they were. Artists like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and later, Jim Steranko, included all manner of weird visuals in their work, and many of the films have taken inspiration from those visuals (including, by all advanced appearances, the latest one, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania).

Which is partly why we here at Flicks were so taken by this viral tweet:

Although undeniably reductive, it’s nevertheless a brilliant distillation of the current state of the MCU.

We were so impressed by BAKOON’s musings that we reached out to him for comment.

“I would say the inspiration struck when I was bored watching one of the previously mentioned ‘hat’ type films,” BAKOON responded. “One of the Russo brothers Marvel movies that feels kind of like eating cereal with no milk. That Captain America film with Robert Redford is the prime example of the hat film to me. It was something that was novel in the comics, a ’70s type very serious paranoia political thriller starring Captain America from the 1940s, but as a film it was not novel at all. It was aping better films and the action was not conveyed very well.”

While I can see where BAKOON is coming from here, I myself was rather impressed by the film he is referring to here: 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which, as BAKOON recognises, channelled ’70s thrillers like Three Days of the Condor (which itself starred Robert Redford) and The Parallax View. But BAKOON’s description holds true to an amusing degree. These ARE hat movies.

He continues:

“That first Doctor Strange and maybe the second, those are the good stoned ones.”

Damn straight.

Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange movie was arguably the first MCU film to fully embrace the “cosmic” visuals that Steve Ditko so memorably brought to the Doctor Strange comics. Sam Raimi’s 2022 sequel is representative of the more divisive nature of the second decade of the MCU, but it certainly contained some very stoner-friendly trippy imagery.

“The Ant-Man films as well. He grows very small and very large.”

An accurate assessment. Although Ant-Man technically grew very large for the first time in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, a Russo brothers entry which predominantly gives off strong ‘hat’ vibes.

“The sillier Thor ones as well, especially the most recent one that lots of people didn’t like, I loved that one. Golden blood spraying from arteries and Thor shamefully admitting that they used to eat babies in Asgard.”

BAKOON has correctly identified that the Taika Waititi MCU entries are more stoned than most. Taika, a true patriot if ever there was one, does not make ‘hat’ movies.

“I do like that first Captain America film. It’s silly and feels like The Rocketeer and Tommy Lee Jones does his usual shit which does tickle me”.

I wholeheartedly agree with BAKOON here. Captain America: The First Avenger is my favourite MCU film. It’s no surprise it “feels like The Rocketeer” as it shares a director with that 1990 Disney cult classic. But it is a “hat” or a “stoned”? I suppose not all Marvel easily fall into one category or another.

“And yes, I am going to see Ant-Man 3 on opening night. I hope “whale man” Daniel Gooobler makes another appearance.”

BAKOON has touched on something here that greatly increases the Ant-Man sub-franchise’s stoner bona fides: the involvement of the two hosts of On Cinema at the Cinema: Gregg Turkington and Tim Heidecker.

The former showed up in the first Ant-Man as Scott Lang’s Baskin Robbins’ boss, and the trailer indicates Turkington will also reappear in the new one. Heidecker cameoed in the second movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp, as the “whale man” BAKOON references. Daniel Gooobler (three ‘o’s) is the captain of the whale-watching boat that a giant-sized Ant-Man inadvertently terrorises in the 2018 film.

If Gooobler shows up again in the third film and anyone in your audience cheers for his appearance, they are stoned.

The sheer eye-opening novelty of the MCU may have waned somewhat in its second decade, but with his salient tweet, BAKOON shows us that there can be new, fun ways to approach these movies. We asked him if he thought any other franchises could be broken down along hat/stoned lines, this was his response:

“Hmmm. Not really. They are either all hat (Mission: Impossible etc) or all stoned (Nightmare on Elm Street and what have you).”

Can’t argue with that.