Volume 4, Issue 30
“Movie Review: Ant-Man”
Ant-Man is always going to be a “what if” movie. Like The Dark Knight Rises or X-Men 3, it’s a film that will always have an alternate reality version where the original plan for the film (in this case Edgar Wright directing) stayed intact. However, despite the behind the scenes drama, Ant-Man is an extremely solid Marvel movie. Sure, it doesn’t have the stakes or star power of any of the Avengers films, or the off-beat quirk that made Guardians of the Galaxy a smash, but the Peyton Reed directed superhero flick has a charm all it’s own, and shines brightest when it focuses on Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang and Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym.
Ant-Man finds former criminal Scott Lang (Rudd) released from prison and attempting to get his life back on track so he can see his daughter. Of course, old habits die hard after being fired from another crappy fast food job, and his latest burglary brings him to the attention of Hank Pym, the former CEO of Pym Industries. Pym needs Lang to help him stop his former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from selling his “Pym Particle” program that can shrink humans down to the size of insects. With help from Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), Lang and Pym set out to steal Cross’ new Yellowjacket suit and wreck his plans for the future.
What makes Ant-Man work is, for lack of a better term, the smaller scale of the film. Sure, Hank Pym says that his Pym particle suit would be potentially disastrous in the wrong hands, but despite this the film doesn’t really seem like it’s dealing with a world-threatening threat like Age of Ultron. In fact, Ant-Man has more in common with heist films like The Italian Job or The Bank Job than any of the other Marvel films, and that’s what makes this movie a breath of fresh air. It’s Marvel trying out their brand in a whole new different genre, and for the most part it works.
Ant-Man’s casting for the two leads is what makes it so entertaining. Paul Rudd’s natural charm shines in the role, and I’m extremely happy that he’s in the MCU now for the long haul. His Scott Lang is instantly relatable from the moment we meet him, and his scenes with his daughter set the emotional stakes of the movie extremely well. Also great is Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym, who’s definitely got a bit of the anger issue that we all know from the comics. Douglas sells his lines perfectly, and seems to be enjoying his role as Pym. But as good as these two are, they can’t hold a candle to Michael Pena’s Luis, Scott Lang’s buddy in crime. Pena steals every scene he’s in, so much so that if Marvel announced a spin off anything starring his character I’d be there in a heartbeat.
As good as these guys are, Ant-Man’s still not without its faults. Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross is yet again a victim of Marvel’s lackluster villains Achilles’ heel. With the exception of Loki and Winter Soldier, there are still not a lot of memorable villains in the MCU (and no Thanos doesn’t count yet). Cross’ motivations are sound, but at the same time there’s a feeling that much of the details of his plan were left on the cutting room floor. While the movie’s final battle with Yellowjacket is a ton of fun and has some awesome visual gags, Cross and Lang don’t really have a lot to fight over. In many ways the Cross and Pym rivalry is the conflict that’s more interesting, and the scenes between Stoll and Douglas are way better than the ones between Stoll and Rudd. Evangeline Lily’s Hope Van Dyne also gets shorted here, in a role that starts off promising but eventually goes the route you were hoping it wouldn’t (there’s the promise of more of her in the MCU, but who knows if that will even come to pass).
Ant-Man also has some weird jumps in logic. Pym mentions that his Pym Particles can have negative effects on the human brain, but no one seems to mention or worry about it’s effects on Lang. There’s also the mandatory exposition dump in act two, and at times some of the MCU tie-in lines seem a little tacked on. But for the most part Ant-Man is still plenty entertaining. There’s a spectacular cameo that’s arguably the highlight of the movie (assuming that the marketing for the movie hasn’t spoiled it for you), and the shrinking effects are extremely impressive.
Judging from the Thursday night early screening audience, Ant-Man probably won’t be the surprise megahit that Guardians of the Galaxy was, which is a shame. Despite its problems both on screen and behind them, Ant-Man ends up being a really entertaining film, and has a lot of charm. It’s far from the train wreck that many fans were worried it would be. At this point, Marvel Studios has earned the right to take risks, and for this to be the film that ends up taking the box office hit would be a real shame. Sure, Marvel’s decision to go forward with this film after Wright’s departure was probably more for financial reasons than for entertainment ones, but Ant-Man’s still a lot better than it has any right to be, and proof that the more Marvel diversifies the types of films they release, the stronger they become.