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The film version of Ant-Man seems to generally be limited to two sizes: regular and ant-sized. I imagine Marvel is purposely saving his ability to grow larger than normal for later, but that still leaves all sizes between ant-sized and regular-sized.

Why can't/doesn't Ant-Man become any other sizes?

As of Captain America: Civil War, my prediction about him growing larger is correct. I've edited my question to reflect that.

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  • If he gets stronger when he's small maybe he gets weaker if he grows bigger? I know this doesn't match up with the comics but the MCU has different rules. – Boelabaal Nov 28 '15 at 6:20
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So far, in the MCU, we haven't seen any evidence that Hank Pym has tried to use his Pym Particles to make giant-sized people. We do know he's developed the growing technology, since he gives Scott "shrinking" and "growing" disks that, among other things produce:

A train-sized sized toy train and a dog-sized pet ant.

The only thing we haven't seen them do is make a person bigger than person-sized, so it's possible there's a limit to how big they can make things. With that apparent limitation, we're left with Scott being able to go between normal sized and ant sized using the suit.

However, it's incorrect to state that Ant-Man only has two sizes. He only uses two sizes, but the suit is capable of more. This is a key plot point in the climax of the movie. The suit contains a "size regulator" that prevents it from shrinking the user smaller than the size we normally see Scott in. When the regulator was disabled,

Scott (as well as Hope van Dyne) shrunk down much smaller than an ant, to what Hank calls "quantum level".

In other words, the small size we see Scott use in the movie was calibrated specifically by Hank to be the best "smaller" size he feels a person can safely take on. There doesn't seem to be any technical reason Scott couldn't stop somewhere in the middle. The question, though, is what would that accomplish? Is there any benefit to being the size of, say, a mouse or a cat, instead of an insect?

Though it's not shown, we can probably assume that Hank, during his time as Ant-Man, figured out by trial and error what the most effective small size was, and decided that it was "approximately ant sized." That sizes gives him the benefits of a smaller, denser frame as well as allowing him to make use of the actual living ants he can control.


Of course, thematically that also works out perfectly: the character is Ant-Man, it only makes sense that he works at two sizes: Ant and Man.

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    About that first sentence, remember the training montage, with the size-changing discs? He embiggened a garden gnome in that scene. – user1027 Nov 28 '15 at 2:31
  • @Keen perhaps he hasn't been able to make it work on living material, then? Otherwise there's no real explanation why Goliath doesn't exist in the MCU... – KutuluMike Nov 28 '15 at 2:33
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    That sounds more accurate to me. Although the elephant in the room is Cassie's new pet from the end of the film. – user1027 Nov 28 '15 at 2:34
  • i forgot about that stupid ant. I have no idea why he doesn't grow himself, we'll just have to ignore that part :) – KutuluMike Nov 28 '15 at 2:35
  • When he first tries on the suit, he presses the grow button first, when it does nothing, he tries the other one and shrinks. – Zikato Nov 30 '15 at 12:23
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If I am to understand the question, you are asking why Ant-Man never chooses sizes between being ant-sized and being Human-sized. In the comics, The answer for this is two-fold.

  • The first: The Pym Particle serum had to be calibrated and Pym's goal was to reduce objects in size, possibly for economic gain. Pym's experimentation with the Pym Particles was sporadic and tempered by his need. His earliest experimentation was focused around shrinking specifically, seeking to shrink objects without deleterious effects.

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  • The second: Being smaller than a regular Human but larger than an ant, offers little in the way of offensive capability or defensive posture to make the in-between states, say 3 feet tall, to offer no significant advantage to aid him in any way that his ant-size wasn't superior to in every way.

  • Ant-sized, he was nearly invisible, almost untouchable and against normal Humans he was easily a superior combatant. Since Dr. Pym was not specifically trained as a fighter, the advantages of his size were simply too good to consider doing anything different. The Pym particles were difficult to control so he calibrated his equipment to benefit him at the size he could use to move around on ants.

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Dr. Pym would remain Ant-Man until he joined the Avengers and started to feel physically outclassed by the muscle or fighting skills most of the Avengers had. It was then he started experimenting with the Pym Particles, directing them toward growth and durability enhancement. He would experiment with them until he had achieved several size variations including:

  • Twelve to fifteen feet tall: At this size he was significantly stronger than a Human being, capable of moving about five tons. At this size he could still fit inside buildings and was better able to hold his own against stronger metahuman combatants. His first transformation into Giant-Man was in Tales to Astonish #49 (1963).

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  • Twenty-five feet tall: This was his go-to size when he was outdoors and had a bit more room to maneuver. He was stronger here, capable of moving up to 20 tons, but his weight also increased significantly so he had to be careful when achieving this size to be sure the area he was standing in could support him. There was a great deal of trial and error in his experimentation and using himself as a laboratory animal was probably not the wisest course of action over time.

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  • Pym did experiment for a time with a version of his serum in capsule form which did support sizes larger than ants and smaller than Human but it is unknown how long he used this capsule format before switching away from it or whether he deemed it effective enough to continue using it.

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  • In the beginning of his experimentation, he had not learned how to manipulate the properties of the particles, such that when he was at his full 100 foot size, he was unable to lift himself from the ground. It would take years of experimentation before he could move at this peak capability.

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  • At his peak, he could grow to 100 feet tall and was capable of lifting 100 tons. This was the largest he could grow to without experiencing difficulties in concentration. There was also significant stress on his body when he was this size so he generally didn't maintain it long (often less than an hour).

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  • Over time he would eventually discover his size-changing would cause permanent and lasting stress on his body (and his mind) and he would limit himself to about 12 feet tall. Tall enough to add to the physical complement of the Avengers but small enough he didn't have stress issues when he would change from Human to Giant-size. This limitation also allowed him to choose to shrink down if he needed to without too much additional stress.

Over the decades however, size-changing (along with his identities of Ant-Man, Giant-Man, and Yellowjacket) would eventually take its toll and he would retire from the superhero biz taking on the identity of Doctor Pym. While he would no longer change sizes, he could treat his weapons and technology with Pym Particles and expand or shrink them at will due to his long-term exposure and familiarity with Pym particles.

In the MCU

  • Pym's career as Ant-man is apocryphal and we are not privy to it. What little footage was shown indicated Hank Pym was a capable combatant during his period as Ant-Man. He was able to shrink himself and his equipment without difficulties.

  • It is also shown that after his retirement, he continued to experiment (without anyone being aware) in order to shrink and grow objects beyond their normal parameters. Toys could become the size of buses, gaining mass, tanks could be shrunken down to the size of a key fob (and lost corresponding mass as well).

  • It is obvious he continued to experiment with the technology allowing Scott Lang the option to expand himself to his hundred foot size with the corresponding strength and durability. There may be unexpected side effects in the MCU which have not been revealed yet.

See Also:

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    In fact, I think those side-effects were hinted at in the movie; Pym says something about the suit taking it's toll on him and never really explains it. – KutuluMike Nov 28 '15 at 17:52
  • The panel of Hank talking about the particles in capsule form sounds like something straight out of a spam email. Clearly, it was ahead of it's time. – Ellesedil May 10 '16 at 17:23

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