“I’m Ant-man” … “What? Sorry Iron Man was already taken.”
Forced out of his own company by former protégé Darren Cross, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) recruits the talents of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a master thief just released from prison. Lang becomes Ant-Man, trained by Pym and armed with a suit that allows him to shrink in size, possess superhuman strength and control an army of ants. The miniature hero must use his new skills to prevent Cross, also known as Yellowjacket, from perfecting the same technology and using it as a weapon for evil.
Few things sound more ridiculous than the phrase “I am the Ant Man” and yet Paul Rudd and Peyton Reed found a way to make it seem cool. Arguably one of, if not the most goofy of the Marvel Comic book characters, Reed found a way to cajole an audience into believing Ant Man could be a great action film, and he was correct. The movie is unbridled, unabashed, and uncomplicated fun, the likes of which the Marvel universe may have never seen. Ant Man develops its characters and story with a specific joy that will play well to mass audiences on the fence of whether or not this property is worth their money. Director Peyton Reed delivers what ultimately feels like a comedic heist film with superhero elements. What Marvel has decidedly done quite well with it’s stand alone films as of late, is open their characters and projects up to interesting new genre’s. Cap’ 2 was more of a political spy thriller and Guardians was an epic space western, then of course there was Age of Ultron, which was as all over the place as a film could get (admittedly, it gets worse with each viewing). Coming into Ant Man it was foggy regarding just what angle the mostly comedic writing directing team would take. The project originally to be handled by Edgar Wright (Shaun of The Dead, Hot Fuzz), who unfortunately stepped away due to creative differences, was eventually handed to Peyton Reed (The Break Up, Yes Man). Mostly known for campy romantic comedies, it was unclear the direction they were going with this project when they made the switch to Reed, but Marvel has proven time and time again that they know their stuff when it comes to picking directors, and Ant Man is no exception.
The movie opens in 1989 to and angry Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) berating a particularly silver, elder Stark (John Slattery) and a slimy fellow in Mitchell Carson (Martin Donovan). This heated exchange revolving around the lauded Pym Particle, which is the juice that powers the suit that allows individuals the ability to shrink to the size of, you guessed it, an ant! Pym clearly worried this tech will fall into the wrong hands refuses to allow Stark, or anyone else for that matter, to use his incredible concoction. Fast forward to modern day where we have a weary Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) just released from prison and looking for a way to piece his life back together for his daughter’s sake. Lang is an extremely talented burglar that is looking to get on the straight and narrow to avoid prison bars and be there for his family. This story sounds sentimental, and it is. The importance of creating motive for Lang to jump head first into life endangering situations cannot be understated. He is a desperate man who has fallen into dire circumstances in his own mind and his way out is to continue his life of crime. By this point I’m sure, reading this, no one is laughing, Well rest assured that while the base of the plot is a little somber, the overall tone is anything but. Even as Lang exits the prison he is met with his partner in crime Luis (Michael Pena) who just happens to be the endless source of levity as the initial storyline unfolds. Ant Man is a comedy, and it’s an action film, and it’s a heist film, and it’s a comic book film. it’s almost strange that a single property can be all of these things and still be a cohesive and concise movie with a lot of heart and a lot of fun.
One of the bigger concerns the public seemed to express was the idea that Paul Rudd was going to be a superhero. This just can’t be, and he is going to ruin the Marvel Cinematic Universe, right? Ant Man will finally be the film to bring down the house of cards, right? Wrong, Rudd is inspired casting, and he is a talented actor that was able to infuse his own personality on a basely comical character, yet was still able to emote and inspire an empathetic response. He plays a good guy with good intentions, but he makes a lot of questionable decisions. Michael Douglas is solid as always in the mentor role of Pym. Playing a wise old man with some quirky character traits is right in his wheelhouse. Evangeline Lilly is as wonderful as ever as the beautifully jaded and cold daughter of Hank, Hope. The rest of the cast is comedy gold, but never detract from the story. Rapper T.I. Harris and David Dastmalchian were both indelibly funny as the sidekicks, and Bobby Cannavale was pleasantly earnest and comedic in his own right as well. A bulk of the film’s success will have to go to Corey Stoll, playing the villain Darren Cross, who after forcing Pym out of his own company, then conspires to obtain the shrinking particle and sell it to the highest bidder. In a cinematic universe whose biggest issues derive from their lackluster villains, Stoll as Cross as Yellow Jacket is surprisingly fleshed out, well acted, and formidable. The worry was that we would get a series of campy flashbacks to showcase how Cross became so jaded, but that never came, and instead Reed unfolded this character’s story through dialogue and subtle hints placed methodically throughout the film.
The film’s pacing may be the only real concern. The timeline of events, as in all marvel movies, seems slightly unrealistic in relation to the story. The action seem to unfold at a pace that can sometimes leave the audience scratching their heads as to how this happened so quickly. The relationship between Rudd and Lilly’s characters also pose a few minor issues. There are a few moments that foreshadow the impending coupling of the two, but they are a bit cringe inducing and the story may have been better served if the two remained more platonic.
The stakes are subtly high here in Ant Man. The story seems so small in relativity to the rest of the properties, but it actually carried a lot of implications that will likely extend to the rest of the universe. In actuality Ant Man is nearly as large in scale as Age of Ultron, though it may not seem that way given the material. The movie doesn’t need to topple cities for its beats to land emotionally with an audience. Instead we get a centralized plot focussed on one city and tearing into the family dynamic to infuse its main conflict. In reality these characters are actually saving the world, but they are doing so in a way that seems so compact. Reed choosing to rely on the emotional response that families can bring was actually brilliant. There is so much to balance here, with the visual complications that can come from shrinking down and blowing up your main character, but the visuals are as impressively stunning as any Marvel film thus far. The film was smartly written and included only the elements pertinent to the story. It was a very focussed film and nothing was added that didn’t belong in terms of scene structure. Ant Man is ultimately a comedic Heist film with grand stakes that ripple through the Marvel Universe. It’s is one of the most refreshing Superhero films we’ve seen, allowing itself to open the doors to several genre’s but still adhering to the overall theme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it provides a devilishly clever take on it all and becomes very buoyant while cohering to the greater good of franchise. Furthermore Ant Man gave us not just one, not two, but three endings, thanks to classic Marvel end-credit sequences in both the middle of the credits and the end. That said the best part of theses sequences, the part that had us smiling ear to ear was simply the tagline “Ant Man will return.”
3.8/5 Pretty Cool Bro