Director: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll, Evangeline Lilly, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Michael Peña, David Dastmalchian, Tip “T.I.” Harris
It’s time for another Marvel movie, thus concluding Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You may have thought that Avengers: Age of Ultron would have been the conclusion, but they’ve snuck this little guy in there and tied him into the story lines of what came before in terms of the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D, and Hydra. Scott Lang (Rudd) is seen enjoying his last few hours in prison by getting a goodbye ritual. He is looking forward to getting his life back together again and hopes to have a relationship with his daughter who is living with his ex-wife (Greer) and her fiancé (Cannavale). It’s hard for Scott to stay away from the tempting world of theft and larceny when he has trouble finding work and needs to pay child support. He feels no choice but to take on a heist involving the goods inside an ultra secure safe in a neighborhood home. The safe door opens only to reveal a strange looking leather suit and funny looking helmet.
This suit is none other than the highly secretive Ant-Man suit created by Dr. Hank Pym (Douglas). Hank has long since given up those days of donning the suit, shrinking down to ant size, and saving the world. The powers were beyond dangerous and put his life in jeopardy. He feels that the time as come to bring the suit out of retirement when he finds out his protégé Darren Cross (Stoll), the CEO of Cross Technologies, is trying to steal his idea by making a copycat type of suit known as Yellowjacket. Hank and his daughter Hope (Lily) train Scott into being the Ant-Man and use his roommates/former convicts (Dastmalchian, Peña, and Harris) to help stop Cross and his diabolical ways.
If you’re thinking this sounds all too familiar, it has a very similar feel to many of the other Marvel films when we got introduced to a new character who is given special powers. Up until this point, many of the recent Marvel movies were sequels where we could start having fun with the characters. We know them, love them, and can go on whatever journey they need to take to battle an even nastier villain than before. Overall Phase 2 has been more enjoyable than Phase 1. Due to the fact this is the first time we are meeting Scott Lang and his alter-ego Ant-Man, it feels like a bit of a step back to go and have to tell an origins story. Guardians of the Galaxy was tasked with the same idea of setting up a new universe with crazy characters but did it far more effectively. I get a bit restless when so much of one movie decides to tell the story of where they came from and how they cope when given a greater responsibility. There are whole scenes from Ant-Man that could easily been trimmed down or told through flashbacks to still get the point across. The story also suffers by using the old “mad scientist turns evil” plot where they create the same sort of invention or prototype used by our hero because they think they can create it better and use it against them. Didn’t we see that in Iron Man?
I think part of the disconnect and unoriginal aspects of the film come from how it came into production. Originally Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) and Joe Cornish were attached to write it with Wright directing it. I think Marvel wanted to rush it into theaters shortly after the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron in order to tie it in with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I can only guess that this led to creative differences with Wright who then decided to leave the project. Maybe it was a mutual decision between both parties. They are still credited as two of the writers, but star Paul Rudd and Adam McKay came in for rewrites. Peyton Reed (Yes Man, The Break-Up) took over the directing duties. Reed, Rudd, and McKay come with comedy backgrounds and aptly fit the tone, which is needed for the film. It’s not slapstick, but you can’t take yourself too seriously when the superhero of the movie shrinks down to the size of an ant and has ants that he can manipulate to help him out. Ant-Man does have its funny moments, but didn’t quite have the zany feel that Guardians did. The humor comes out more once Scott feels comfortable with being Ant-Man. This also happens to be the time the movie gets really exciting as the structure of the climax is based around a heist premise. Marvel did something similar with Captain America: The Winter Soldier being an espionage conspiracy theory type story.
The movie is by no means a train wreck and is saved by its cast. You have to give credit to the powers that be over at Marvel for continuing to line-up the perfect cast for each of their movies. They are hot commodities and can attract big time actors like Michael Douglas to play along. Paul Rudd is that perfect mix of being a good looking, funny leading man with charm and charisma but can be taken seriously in this sort of action hero. I don’t think anything here is outside what we’ve seen from him before, but that doesn’t really matter. Corey Stoll (This is Where I Leave You, “House of Cards”) nails the crazy scientist bit injecting 100% cockiness into the role right from the beginning. He’s also given one of the coolest costumes when he turns into Yellowjacket. The costume design is pretty clever for both he and Ant-Man. Michael Peña is another highlight who brings out many of the film’s laughs. Marvel regulars Hayley Atwell, John Slattery, and Anthony Mackie also pop up.
Ant-Man would have been better under the complete creative control of Edgar Wright. It would have felt fresh, funny, and different. In its present state it’s passable and enjoyable, even if it isn’t as up to par as Marvel’s other films of late. At least, it’s still better than The Incredible Hulk. The character has a lot of potential now that we’ve gotten this obligatory origins movie out of the way. Rudd will be back as the character next year in Captain America: Civil War. He should pair well with some of our other Avengers who take themselves far too seriously. Don’t forget to look for the Stan Lee cameo, and there are two credit sequences you will want to stay for.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Die-hard Marvel fans will get a kick out of it.
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS