Ant-Man is the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie that nearly didn’t exist. Featuring a lesser-known Marvel hero leading his own movie, it got tripped up by the sudden departure of writer/director Edgar Wright right before filming was scheduled to begin. Yet, Marvel held fast to its promised release date, and director Peyton Reed (Bring It On), together with writer Adam McKay (Anchorman) came on board to help the film crawl to completion.
And it’s a good thing they did: Marvel’s Ant-Man is a fun diversion from all the dire “end-of-the-world” stakes we’ve seen in some of the recent Marvel movies. Starring Paul Rudd as the titular hero, Ant-Man tells the story of Scott Lang, an electrical engineer turned burglar who’s trying to get his life back on track. Meanwhile, the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), has kept his Pym particles secret for years after worrying that they would land in the wrong hands, but now his protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is close to a breakthrough. With Cross about to sell his Yellowjacket technology to the highest bidder (no prize for guessing who), Hank and Scott, together with Hank’s daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) will have to find a way to stop Cross.
Ant-Man works well as a straightforward heist movie – find a way to infiltrate Darren Cross’ lab, steal the suit, go home (which, well, isn’t quite the plot of this movie). Heist movies when well executed are a delight to experience, and Ant-Man manages that well, despite the additional superhero elements – things only blow up if heists go awry, after all.
But what makes the movie special is the humour behind it – the most memorable parts of the movie are the funny bits, and while it’s fun to guess which was an Edgar Wright invention and what Reed and McKay added to the plate (you might be wrong – I was), the tone of the humour is consistent throughout without resorting to slapstick or bawdy jokes. Special kudos go out to Michael Pena: His character, Luis, is one of Scott’s bumbling sidekicks, and he truly steals the show – twice! – you’ll know it when you see it.
Rudd himself is no slouch either – his everyman appeal makes the movie work. Michael Douglas adds a bit of class to the proceedings too, and Evangeline Lilly brings a nice steely edge, but this is Rudd’s film through and through.
The action sequences are also wonderful to behold. From fist fights to battles at the microscopic level, it’s great to see the action take place from all angles. Fighting at various sizes opens up the possibilities, and there definitely are some great sequences worth revisiting. To top it off, the Ant-Man costume looks great in action, and there are some great sequences that might tickle the noggin of ant enthusiasts.
Still, compared to the other recent Marvel movies, here the stakes are smaller, more intimate – “ant-sized” even. At risk is the father-daughter relationship, between Hank and Hope, and between Scott and his own. But without the easy “end-of-the-world” scenario for audiences to latch on to, these relationships don’t actually feel threatened, especially with Cross being more crazy than criminal mastermind (despite a good reason for this).
That’s not to say that the movie doesn’t have heart – Hank telling Hope the story of her mother, Janet van Dyne, is a powerful moment (moreso if you’re a geek) – but there just seems to lack that extra touch that drives people to become heroes. This means that Ant-Man is a pleasant, enjoyable time, sure, but the movie does run the risk of being somewhat forgettable compared to, say, Guardians Of The Galaxy.
Between the humour and the action, Ant-Man moves at a brisk pace, mostly free from the need for exposition. Still, some scenes do stick out like a sore thumb – basically those which call the wider Marvel universe into focus. On the grand scheme of things it’s a great set up (meaning we should see more of Paul Rudd before long), and it does add a new dimension to the MCU mythos, but it’s still a pity that Ant-Man wasn’t allowed find his stature as a hero before partaking in the larger MCU.
Nonetheless, Ant-Man is a wholly enjoyable movie that’s perfect for the family. The movie might always have a “What If?” hanging over it thanks to Wright’s depature, but Reed and gang have done a great job. A lot of this is thanks to the humour sprinkled heavily throughout, together with Rudd’s likeability in the role. As we await Ant-Man’s homecoming to the Avenger’s rank and file – and maybe one day, The Wasp – the movie works as a nice little palette cleanser before the MCU gets torn up with Civil War.
And yes, do stay for two scenes during the end credits – and also keep an eye out for easter eggs during the movie.