I had the opportunity to check out Marvel’s latest movie this weekend — admittedly one that I wasn’t immensely excited about. Ant-Man was never a huge draw for me, and was never immensely popular among avid comic book collectors, either. There was also a lot of media drama surrounding this movie, as Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World) abruptly left the director’s chair during production; citing “creative differences” with the bigwigs at Marvel Studios. I was bummed when I heard this news, as I’m a huge fan of Wright’s humor and Sam Raimi-style shooting techniques.
Ant-Man’s opening weekends was kind of an upset compared to the regular fare, bringing in a less-than-stellar (for Marvel) 58 million dollars. It is officially the worst opening weekend for Marvel since 2008’s The Incredible Hulk smashed it’s way onto the big screen. These numbers were to be expected, though. Most common folk have no idea who Ant-Man is, and his skills aren’t what you would call typical for your basic superhero movie. Despite Ant-Man’s actual heavy importance in the Avengers and the Marvel universe as a whole, he doesn’t typically end up on fans’ favorite heroes lists.
Marvel definitely took a gamble with this one, and it’s a trend that is only going to continue as we slide our way into phase three. Increasingly more obscure characters are soon going to be flooding through the gates and into the spotlight, and each consecutive movie is going to fall more heavily under scrutiny. It’s too soon to say whether Ant-Man’s stint in the box office will continue, but it’s possible we could see Marvel looking at these movies in a different light after this point. Who can say?
I suppose I am deviating from the major issue, though. Is Ant-Man any good? In short…yes. It isn’t quite that simple, though. Allow me to elaborate….but first!
WARNING: This review may contain some spoilers for Ant-Man. I’ll try to keep them at a minimum, but if you want to keep it safe, scroll down to the “final thoughts” section for a brief summation.
As a Marvel movie, Ant-Man is thoroughly entertaining. It hits most of the major plot points that it needs to to keep you invested. It follows a tried and true formula that has been shown to work. At the same time, the movie plays it a little too safe when you consider the capacity for this hero’s power. If you’ve seen Iron Man, then there won’t be a whole lot terribly new here. A brilliant scientist and inventor creates an impressive new technology that everybody wants. An old friend gets jealous of the potential power and dollar signs he could be making, and decides to take the power for himself. You get the idea.
The major wildcard in this formula is Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), who doesn’t fit your typical “hero” bill. Before he meets his destiny, Lang is a pretty shady character, who’s often tiptoeing on the wrong side of the law. The movie actually begins with him just finishing some time in prison for burglary. He’s been in lock-up one too many times, as he is finally trying to strive to become a better man for his daughter. This is actually considerably close to Lang’s actual backstory in the comics, which I salute Marvel for. Scott Lang was an interesting choice for the titular character, as Hank Pym was the first, and arguably most popular of those to take up the mantle. As far as origins go, I think they manage to make it work, though. True, the deadbeat dad trying to do right by his estranged child routine may be a bit overdone at this point, but Marvel had to start somewhere. Realistically, it may have been difficult to have Pym as the central focus without tying him too closely with the Avengers. Ant-Man WAS a founding member of the original Avengers, after all. Maybe they chose Lang specifically to avoid this connection. I just can’t say.
Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, and he does a decent job. Paul Rudd has an undeniable charm that more often than not enhances movies rather than detracting from them. While his typical zaniness is a little stifled in this, he does manage to provide us with some hefty laughs. It was a strange casting choice, though. The whole time, it seemed like Paul Rudd never really fit in that well with the other cast members during their scenes together. He doesn’t come off as a surprisingly agile burglar, or someone who would be known to affiliate with typical, run-of-the-mill riffraff. I feel like another actor may have been more suitable for Lang, but I still enjoyed Paul Rudd being in the movie. It’s kind of a complicated situation. I never disliked him as Ant-Man while watching it, he just seemed like an unexpected choice is all.
Evangeline Lilly plays Hope van Dyne, Hank Pym’s slightly jealous and overlooked daughter. She desperately wants to be the person to continue down her father’s past, even if it puts her in harm’s way. Lilly does a great job at dealing with the emotional scenes (you could possibly thank Lost for that), as well as being able to come off as quite the badass. It’s refreshing to have a superhero movie that doesn’t rely on the female lead becoming a damsel hugely in need of saving. She is a formidable opponent all on her own, and even helps train Lang to make sure that he isn’t utterly incompetent. I’m definitely excited to see what role she’ll take on in any subsequent movies. It’s good to see her getting more work, especially in something as major as a Marvel movie.
Corey Stoll, well known for his role in House of Cards portrays Darren Cross, the wicked schemer that inherits Hank Pym’s company. While Stoll does what he can with the material, his character was by far the weakest aspect of the movie. I think the writing was mainly to blame for this. It was just hard to understand his motivations, so much so that a character had to literally shout out to us why he was being so demented. Marvel has always had issues with their villains, unfortunately — something that DC tends to have a huge advantage with — and this time is no different. It would have been much more interesting if Yellowjacket was actually Hank Pym’s alternate persona (like in the comics), and HE actually became the major villain of the story. Stoll is a decent enough actor, but his role in the movie is easily forgettable.
Not forgettable was Hank Pym, himself. Michael Douglas is back in fine form as the original Ant-Man, and he shines in his scenes throughout the movie. We haven’t seen Michael Douglas around in quite some time, but he doesn’t seem to have lost any of his inherent charisma onscreen. They even write in a clever joke to nod at his absence from Hollywood when Pym assures us “No, I’m not dead.” Pym’s backstory is handled with care, and ends up being one of the more interesting parts of the movie. It actually made me really curious to see him in his own story from the past, as he fights in several wars with his wife and trusted comrade, Wasp. It’s interesting that he hopped on the Marvel train for this particular movie, but I’m happy he’s there, and he adds a great deal to the overall story.
A lot of people really enjoyed Michael Peña’s character Luis, or Lang’s partner in crime. While I thought he and the rest of Lang’s entourage brought a little bit of comic relief to the movie, I felt like they were included just a little bit too much. Paul Rudd is fully capable of providing audiences with laughter on his own, and I felt like the writing could have been focused elsewhere to make it a more cohesive film. They are certainly funny, and some of Peña’s parts are more than enjoyable. I just don’t think any of them were truly necessary for this movie. That could just be me, though.
While I was upset when I heard that Edgar Wright wasn’t going to be directing Ant-Man, I wasn’t let down at all by Peyton Reed. As almost an homage to Wright himself, the movie maintained plenty of the style that Wright and Raimi are well-known for. Extreme close-ups, and humorously quick transitions made the movie visually interesting, and Reed did a great job at juggling the film’s lighter tone while not making it too hokey. The set pieces themselves were some of the most interesting to date, and this was hugely thanks to the character himself. With Ant-Man, even the most mundane things — like a child’s bedroom — quickly become massive and entertaining warzones. It conjured up memories of first seeing movies like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids when I was growing up, and I love the movie for this.
Another thing I enjoyed were the cameos. Ant-Man’s minimalist tale gets larger-than-life at one point when he is forced to face-off in a head-to-head match with an Avenger. I wan’t expecting Falcon to show up, but the ensuing battle was great, and it really helped to cement the fact that Ant-Man isn’t a foe to be trifled with. You’ll have to watch it, if anything just to enjoy this part. Stan Lee also shows up once again, but I won’t spoil his part for you. Just keep an eye out for him. For some reason, I’m totally okay with Stan Lee popping up randomly in all of these movies. It’s just a fun easter egg that will always put a smile on my face. Including other characters from the Marvel universe at large was probably a smart way to go, as it will be easier to integrate Lang into the fold further down the road, and it further maintains the “always connected” approach Marvel has been taking for years now.
All in all, I had a great time with this movie. It’s one of Marvel’s most entertaining to date.
Ant-Man suffers a little bit due to a copy and paste plot and a cookie cutter villain. Thankfully, it excels on almost all other fronts. This is a movie that you should feel comfortable bringing your whole family to see, as there’s a little something for everybody in the mix. Beautiful shots, and clever action sequences brought excitement, and some moments brought a child-like nostalgia out of me that was much appreciated. It isn’t the best Marvel has made up until this point, but Ant-Man proves that even when you’re pint-sized, you can still pack a hell of a punch. So ends phase two of the MCU. Now we just have phase three to look forward to.
What’s Good: Paul Rudd brings the laughs, Peyton Reed stays true to Edgar Wright’s cinematic style, macrophotography, Thomas the Train
What’s Not-so-good: Yellowjacket is pretty weak, the plot plays it a little too safe, somewhat limited character development
Have you seen Ant-Man? Let us know your thought in the comments below! If you can’t get enough Marvel, come check out us fighting about it on YouTube, as we pit legendary Marvel heroes against each other in a tournament that can only be described as LEGENDARY. Thanks for reading!