I’ve been a passionate Marvel fan ever since Iron Man first hit theaters in 2008, and have stood by every decision that’s been made with the ever growing cinematic universe. While not every film has been a runaway success, they’ve each played an important role in establishing a world that audiences, myself very much included, have obviously fallen in love with.
However, Ant-Man is the first time I was left scratching my head. I’m not a diehard comic fan, but I’ve been reading Marvel’s material for a couple years now and have learned a lot just by listening to the internet, but I still couldn’t wrap my head around why Marvel would green light a movie about a shrinking guy who can talk with ants. Even Guardians of the Galaxy had a retro, sci-fi theme going for it, but Ant-Man? I was skeptical, to say the least.
Yet, after watching it opening night and again earlier this week, Ant-Man has proven to me once again that Marvel knows exactly what it’s doing with their upcoming movie slate. Ant-Man is another uproariously entertaining superhero movie that is able to revel in its shared universe while also feel like something markedly different from its predecessors.
Ant-Man won’t change your mind about Marvel’s movies if you’re not already a fan, but it does an excellent job at offering a standalone adventure that can be easily enjoyed regardless of your knowledge of Marvel’s comic or movie history. By focusing on a normal, offbeat guy thrown into an extraordinary situation, Ant-Man creates a tone that is focused more on the likability of its characters than it is with the intricacies of its plot.
Ant-Man is equal parts heist-movie and straight up comedy, and as bizarre a combination as that may seem for a superhero flick, it gives Ant-Man the incredible gift of being unlike anything else on the market. While the combination of suspense and comedy doesn’t always work as well it wants to, the fact that it’s successful at all is a testament to how great the characters are.
Scott Lang, our protagonist and down-on-his-luck thief/father, is the kind of everyman that is impossible to root against and easy to fall in love with. Behind his roguish demeanor, which we’re first introduced to on the last day of his prison sentence, Scott is a heartfelt, sarcastic guy who wants nothing more than to put his past behind him and be the hero he wants his daughter to look up to.
But, that’s not quite what happens. Instead, Scott is roped into a complicated heist that puts him in league with Hank Pym, a retired scientist formerly of S.H.I.E.L.D., who recruits Scott to help keep his valuable, world altering technology out of the hands of an egotistical genius who intends to sell it off to the highest bidder.
While the primary premise is straightforward and lacking any real originality, Ant-Man uses its simplicity to carry the story forward while continually supplying its characters with great situations and dilemmas to overcome. Character trumps plot, in this case, and while it makes for a story lacking in twists, it makes up for it with the charm of its characters.
The entire cast is at the top of their game here, and it’s their seemingly effortless chemistry that carries the movie to success. Paul Rudd is perfectly cast as Scott Lang, as his easy charm and charisma make him one of Marvel’s best protagonists to date. He’s more than capable as a leading man, and I can’t wait to see how he’ll fit in with the rest of Marvel’s Cinematic heroes in the near future.
This is without a doubt Marvel’s goofiest movie to date, but the comedic timing of the characters, Scott in particular, do an excellent job at easing the audience into the occasional absurdity of the plot. So when Hank Pym is describing the intricacies of his shrinking technology, it’s easy to just go with the flow because Scott is always on hand to drop a clever one-liner to remind everyone to have fun with it.
Michael Douglas is also great as the aforementioned Hank Pym, and while his character falls into a typical mentor/father figure, Douglas gives such a strong, emotionally centered performance that he’s able to make himself stand out from the stereotype. The only issue I have with his character stems from his slightly cliched relationship with daughter Hope, which I would’ve liked to have seen developed a little more thoroughly.
However, Hope herself is a wonderful character, played here by the always great Evangeline Lilly, and she is easily one of Ant-Man‘s best features. Marvel movies have had a somewhat rocky past with their female characters, mainly because there are so few of them, but Hope has the potential to stand alongside Peggy Carter and Black Widow as the best of the best.
Even though her less-than-favorable relationship with her father lacks the depth I was looking for, Hope carries herself with the kind of authority and compelling intensity that makes it impossible to look away. Lilly is great in the role, and has a lot of fun playing off of Rudd in their many scenes together, and I hope to see a lot more of her character in the coming years.
As is almost always the case with Marvel’s movies, however, Ant-Man’s greatest flaw comes from its primary antagonist. While actor Corey Stoll has a lot of fun with the egotistical role of Darren Cross, his character is ultimately shallow and lacking a concrete motivation. His ‘Yellow Jacket’ super-suit is cool, and his fight scenes with Scott at during the climax are a lot of fun, but there’s not much here that makes him stand out as anything more than a plot device.
With that said, when it comes to the action scenes Ant-Man more than delivers. The fight scenes are diverse, perfectly paced, and somehow manage to be hilarious one second and wrought with tension the next. Director Peyton Reed does an excellent job at carrying the audience through the action, especially during the awesome finale, and his work behind the camera plays a huge part in making the movie’s action come across as dynamic and exciting.
Ant-Man is also a very, very funny movie, and could almost be classified as a comedy just as easily as it could an action movie. The jokes are fast, clever, and rarely miss a beat, with even the supporting characters, such as Scott’s ‘thieving’ buddies, nearly stealing the show at times. Michael Peña is a particular stand-out, and his fast-talking humor works really well to lighten the mood amidst some of the more exposition heavy moments.
While Ant-Man does occasionally struggle with some pacing issues, such as a slightly sluggish beginning and some overdone exposition in the middle, the movie is genuinely funny and heartwarming, and delivers a summer experience that is gleefully different from any of its competition.
It may not win over any new fans, but after a dozen movies, I doubt Marvel is really that concerned about it at this point. Instead, Ant-Man offers fans, both hardcore and casual, an entertaining and lighthearted adventure that they will want to watch over and over again.