Marvel is so big at this point that it’s not afraid to bring one of its smallest heroes to the silver screen. Introducing, Ant-Man.
Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) has done everything he could to keep his life’s work out of the wrong hands. Leaving his own company in order to keep his secrets safe he has survived early retirement well enough. Now, fifty or so years after having first discovered the secret to changing the size of a human being, his work is in danger of being uncovered by none other than his prior protege, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Afraid of what the impetuous younger engineer might create, Pym knows that it is up to him to do something.
Enter Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). Recently out of prison for taking justice into his own burglarizing hands, Scott is just who Pym needs to undertake one of the strangest heists ever. Despite Pym’s daughter’s (Evangeline Lilly) objections and Scott’s own hesitation, he agrees to help. It might be the only way to redeem himself in the eyes of his ex wife and young daughter, and besides, it could mean saving the world too.
Also appearing, among others, is Michael Peña as Luis, a faithful member of Scott’s gang who is even better at stealing scenes than merchandise.
Probably an even bigger question mark than Guardians of the Galaxy was, Ant-Man is a fairly obscure property and the marketing campaign and trailers haven’t been quite as compelling as they perhaps could be. Once again, it’s going to be the strength of the Marvel name that will get people into theater seats opening weekend. It doesn’t help that fan favorite Edgar Wright departed the role of director at the eleventh hour, prompting many to wonder if this would be Marvel’s first big strikeout. Only time will tell for sure, but if my opinion is to count for anything, Ant-Man is a solid RBI double, anther hit for team Marvel.
Reflecting the nature of its hero, this film is much smaller in just about every way from previous MCU films. The stakes are potentially high in the long run, but here, right now, it’s a simple heist job in order to keep something bigger from happening later on. There’s no ticking fuse on the planet, or the galaxy, and no Thanos pulling otherworldly strings to orchestrate chaos. Other than a few key players, in fact, nobody even knows about this little adventure. Scott’s relationship with his estranged family feels almost as important as anything else going on, and *gasp* no cities are destroyed in the process! (Spoiler?)
The battles are deliberately scaled down in a way that acknowledges the tendency for this type of film to go overboard on the destruction. Taking place in such locations as inside a briefcase, an architect’s miniature mockup, and on a little girl’s play table, we still get the big action feel without the tired real-world mayhem. It’s a fun way play with the genre.
Though it is a smaller, mostly self-contained film, it’s still big on the comedy, big on the action, and contains some satisfying connecting threads to the larger Marvel universe as it closes out phase 2 of these films.
Rudd is, of course, known for being the funny man, but it is Michael Peña who brings the most memorable laughs to the table. Completely sincere, completely likable, and just downright entertaining, he’s sure to shoot to the top of everyone’s list of favorite non-Avengers Marvel characters. Rudd on the other hand, doesn’t quite nail down Lang’s sometimes sincere, sometimes sarcastic attitude, and I hope he’s given some room to grow in future films. He’s not bad, but something about his performance feels a bit restrained by the dual nature.
Actionwise, Ant-Man contains some of the most satisfying and imaginative fights in the superhero genre. Perhaps as a result of Wright not being there to fine tune what was originally his vision, the camera work sometimes doesn’t seem to do justice to the visual candy that’s going on, but it is nonetheless fantastically realized. There are moments when I was distracted by things seeming a bit “Wright light,” but mostly because that was on my mind going in. I don’t think I would have noticed otherwise. Reminiscent, at times, to the memorable Nightcrawler sequence in X-Men 2, Lang pops in and out of sizes quicker than a pufferfish, creating a truly unique fighting style that is ripe for awe inspiring, as well as comedic, moments. At times it feels like a crazier version of Honey I Shrunk the Kids which is a good thing.
While not relying on the established universe of the previous eleven films, Ant-Man places itself firmly within the same world with a few well placed cameos and connections that fans are sure to gobble up with gusto. Thankfully they, for the most part, serve this film well and don’t feel like obligatory references shoehorned into the story.
Easily one of my favorites of this growing and evolving franchise, Ant-Man does have its problems. For one, despite being perfectly suited to the effect, this movie fails to utilize 3D in any meaningful or entertaining manner. I appreciate that adding depth to a scene can bring it to life more and that having things pop out in your face every other minute is a tiring gimmick, but you have to give me something more than just a foreground a background! My main issue, though, is that Marvel still struggles to get a decent villain off the ground. Once again we’re set against scientist who is connected to one of the main characters and who misuses a dangerous technology on himself. He’s either misguided, or evil, or insane, and it’s up to our hero to stop him, using a variation of the same technology. Ever since Iron Man, it seems like just about every one of these films’ villain is some variation of that basic premise, and if the studio isn’t careful, it’s going to get really old pretty soon.
Ant-Man probably won’t become the next Iron Man or Captain America, but his film is still loads of fun, and despite slipping back into the routine formula near the end, it feels fresh and different from what we’ve gotten from the more well known heroes already. A must see.
Mrs. Hamster says:
“I should really stop thinking Marvel movies are going to be stupid. This and Guardians of the Galaxy proved me wrong.”
My rating: Four out of five hats
Ant-Man shrinks into 3,856 theaters, including IMAX 3D, July 17