Wall-crawlers, Norse Gods, blind vigilantes and incredible green men with anger issues. The last decade truly has been a wondrous time for comic-book nerds everywhere. Who would have thought that movies with talking racoons and walking trees would be setting the box office on fire? Well, I guess Marvel did. It seems that anything the studio touches becomes cinematic gold. But even with their penchant for creating sure-fire hits, making a film starring Ant-Man, a hero who can shrink and grow as well as talk to ants, still seemed a little bit crazy. Add the fact that the marketing team didn’t know whether to promote the movie as a comedy or a serious action flick, and you have a film that a lot of the movie-going public were unsure about.
As you can tell, Ant-Man was already on the back-foot when it was released. The movie stars Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, an ex-cat burglar, who has just been released from prison and is struggling to find a job to make ends meet. In an effort to provide for his daughter, he once again resorts to a life of crime for that one big final job, and ends up being sucked into a crazy world beyond his wildest imagination.
The main instigator of the adventure that Scott Lang embarks on is Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the scientist who created the Ant-Man suit and who chooses Scott as his successor. Of course Scott’s past as a criminal (and electronic engineer) leaves him ill-equipped for his foray into the world of heroism, but luckily Hank’s estranged daughter, Hope Pym (Evangeline Lily) is a worthy mentor and quickly puts Scott through his paces in Kick-Ass 101. And Scott needs to learn to kick butt in a hurry as Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), Hank Pym’s protégé, has discovered the secret that drives Ant-Man’s ability to shrink and grow and wants to weaponize the tech (as any Marvel bad guy would).
That’s Ant-Man in a nutshell. Now while most of the other movies in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe tend to veer towards epic, bombastic set-pieces, Ant-Man bucks the trend and provides a film that is probably the most intimate storyline that the House of M has done. I mean, what do you expect when one of the final scenes takes place in a little kids bedroom?
Paul Rudd’s Lang is the type of everyman that anyone can relate to. He’s just an ordinary guy who happens to have extraordinary things happen to him. Rudd is naturally likeable in the role and his comic timing helps the story immensely. His innate goofiness and casual sarcasm gives Ant-Man a down-to-earth kind of feel, making the hero believable, even in the scenes when he’s running around surrounded by a myriad of ants.
Michael Douglas brings a lot of the emotional weight in the movie. There is a lot of focus on the strained relationship between him and his daughter, and it lays a lot of the groundwork for his motivations for his role in the film. Evangeline Lily does fine as Hope Pym, but unfortunately her character is a bit poorly written, flip-flopping from empowered woman to fragile damsel based on the needs of the script.
Corey Stoll works with what he’s given but like Hope, his character is not really fleshed out. Marvel has long struggled with their villains, and unfortunately Darren Cross doesn’t fix that. He comes off as a one-note, almost moustache twirling kind of bad guy, which is a shame because Corey Stoll is a great actor. Then again, with such great performances from Rudd and Douglas, the spotlight really isn’t on Stoll anyway.
But let’s talk about the surprise highlight of the film. Michael Pena. Pena plays Luis, one of Scott’s ex-con buddies turned good guy. A lot of Ant-Man plays like a heist film, and Pena delivers a lot of the Ocean 11’s type dialogue that explains the set-up of the heists, and the way these scenes are shot are hilarious in themselves, but when you couple that with Pena’s comedic timing, you have comedy gold. It’s worth watching the movie just to see Pena’s shtick.
The visual effects that run through the film are well done and not too in your face. When Ant-Man shrinks down to microscopic size, there is almost a haze that’s applied to the environment to give it a contrast to the scenes when Ant-Man is normal sized. The ants themselves are imbued with personality, and rendered in a semi-realistic way so as to be not too alien to the audience. One ant in particular forms a special bond with the titular hero, and make an impression with the audience too. Not bad for a CGI insect.
Ant-man is a very different movie from Marvel’s usual fare, but that’s not a bad thing. It focuses more on the relationships of the characters than on crazy action sequences but it doesn’t shy away from some great sequences here and there. If you do go and see it, stick around for the end credit scenes (there are two of them, so make sure you stay until the end of the credits).
I give Ant-Man a 7.5 out of 10.