Big things come in small packages, and Ant-Man is no exception. I have been waiting for Ant-Man for the better part of a decade, and I’m pleased to say that the latest offering from Marvel Studios is worth the wait. This pint-sized motion picture is fun, energetic and full of superhero charm.
Movie Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
The only real complaint I have about Ant-Man is that it’s not great enough. In a day and age where we are surrounded by high quality superhero movies and TV shows, especially from Marvel, Ant-Man doesn’t immediately shoulder its way into the top of the pack. But is not being as good as the first Iron Man or Captain America: The Winter Soldier really a complaint?
As a more low key superhero adventure, Ant-Man delivers with humor, action and some pretty amazing special effects. His iconic shrinking super-powers are a sight to behold, and this movie definitely puts the ‘ant’ in Ant-Man. I’m talking insects. They may not be as immediately marketable as the Minions, but the insect armies in Ant-Man are just plain cool.
I kind of wish Ant-Man had taken a little more time to build up the personal relationships between it’s stellar cast — I knew Paul Rudd was perfect for the role! — but perhaps director Peyton Reed was shooting for a tighter movie. He succeeds, because there isn’t an ounce of Age of Ultron bloat in Ant-Man (though some of the Age of Ultron cameos are very exciting!).
Let’s hope the ants go marching one-by-one into the theaters this weekend to make Ant-Man another Marvel hit! Join me after the jump for my full review, which will contain some SPOILERS. So watch out!
Marvel Studios have reached the point where nearly everything they touch has been gold. I may be an avowed fanboy, but I don’t think I’ve had a single real complaint in the near-decade that Marvel has been putting out movies and, now, TV shows. They cast great actors, put together stellar creative teams, and deliver top-quality entertainment. Some critics out there may decry the tsunami of superhero movies, but not me. This is my golden age.
This is all a round-about way of saying that Ant-Man has a lot to live up to, and that Ant-Man falls a little bit short is not a knock against the movie. Ant-Man is a very good flick, but it just doesn’t soar to the greatness of some of Marvel’s best work. I would compare it to Inside Out‘s place in the Pixar stable of films.
Ant-Man is about a superhero who can shrink to the size of an insect. The hero is a guy named Scott Lang, played by Paul Rudd, an accomplished thief, convict, and dad who just wants to spend time with his young daughter, Cassie. But Scott is actually the second Ant-Man. The first Ant-Man is the guy who invented the shrinking technology, Hank Pym, who used to be a super-spy for S.H.I.E.L.D. back in the day. Now Pym is a retired inventor, and another scientist, the villainous Darren Cross, wants to turn the shrinking technology into a weapon.
So Pym hires Scott and his crew to use the Ant-Man suit to break into Cross’ lab and steal the new shrinking Yellow Jacket suit Cross has built. Ant-Man is a heist film with superhero elements. It’s Ocean’s 11 with super-powers.
And all of that works perfectly. The heist is very exciting. Like any good heist film, there are multiple steps that must be accomplished in perfect order, and Lang’s kooky crew pulls them off with aplomb. Likewise, the superhero action is a blast. The Ant-Man suit is probably my favorite superhero movie costume of all time, and it looks great in action against the equally awesome-looking Yellow Jacket costume. Lang and Cross do battle in a variety of scenarios, both big and small, and the fights are easy to follow and uniquely fascinating. They battle inside a briefcase, they fight on top of a toy train, and they use weapons like ping-pong paddles to swat each other around. It’s a lot of fun. The movie gets a lot of mileage out of the shrinking angle.
And like I said before, the use of ants throughout the movie is a blast. Along with shrinking, Ant-Man can control ants and turn them into armies and accomplices. The film uses a wide variety of different ants, from fire ants to carpenter ants, and they get involved in both the heists and the fights. It really adds another unique bit of comic book cool to Ant-Man. Nobody else has super-powers like this!
The elements that make Ant-Man a movie all work wonderfully. The only place that Reed and company fall short is in character development, but even then, they do a good enough job to be entertaining.
I knew from the moment we heard that Paul Rudd had been cast as Scott Lang that he was perfect for the role. He’s funny, he’s charming, he’s relatively low key; all aspects that make Lang a friendly and likable guy. He’s a solid superhero. Michael Douglas as Hank Pym has all the right gravitas to play the aging mentor, with more anger than sage wisdom. Corey Stoll brings psychotic menace to Cross, along with a puppy dog need to impress Pym. And Michael Pena is pretty darn hilarious as Luis, one of the crooks in Scott’s gang. Pena is a definite scene stealer.
Strangely, I have yet to mention Evangeline Lily as Hope Van Dyne, Hank Pym’s determined and somewhat estranged daughter. She’s a pretty major character in the movie, but in the end, she’s not all that important to any of it. Lily is awesome in the role, and she helps out in the heist, but Hope is really only there to make this movie about more than just a superhero and a heist.
Ant-Man wants to be a film about fathers and daughters, and to an extent, it succeeds. Hank and Hope have been distant ever since her mother died, but working to stop Cross is slowly bringing them back together. And Scott wants to be a good dad to his daughter, Cassie, and being Ant-Man will bring him the respect he needs to make that happen. There are obvious parallels between Hank and Scott in regard to their daughters, and there’s a really strong plot thread about how Hope thinks she should be the one in the Ant-Man suit instead of the convict, but her father is too scared to lose her.
But these personal storylines don’t get enough time to fully develop. I could have used more time on Hank and Hope Pym. And Abby Ryder Fortson is just so adorable as Cassie Lang that her reduced screen time is a crime!
I would have loved a few more scenes of Scott and his daughter. Heck, they cast the amazing Judy Greer as his ex-wife, and she also suffers from a criminal lack of screen time. I realize that Scott’s story involves being kept from his former family until he cleans up his act, but I would have loved a bit more depth for the Lang family. Sadly, Greer’s new husband, Paxton, played by Bobby Cannavale, has a bigger role than either Greer or Fortson. He’s fine, but Lang’s relationships with his ex-wife and daughter were more important to develop than his relationship with his ex-wife’s new husband.
I feel if Reed really wanted that fathers/daughters element in the movie, he could have given us a little more time with the fathers and their daughters. Unless you count Hawkeye’s breakout scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron, this is the first Marvel movie where the hero has a real family to worry about.
Speaking of Age of Ultron, I do want to note that Ant-Man does an amazing job tying into the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There’s an amazing scene midway through the flick that incorporates elements from Age of Ultron and other films, and the crossover actually adds to the movie. No Thor baths in this film.
Ant-Man is a very good movie. It’s fun, it’s energetic and exciting, and it’s charmingly funny. It’s everything you could want from a Marvel superhero movie, even if it doesn’t reach the same greatness as some of the studios’ other recent efforts. Paul Rudd’s diminutive hero might not have the name recognition of Iron Man or Captain America, but he’s a nice addition to Marvel’s cinematic storytelling.
Now it’s time to get excited for Civil War next year! I can’t wait to see Ant-Man get a cameo in the larger universe!