The latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is Ant-Man, a comic book movie that’s as scaled down as its pint-sized hero.
Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) has kept his revolutionary subatomic particle technology, nicknamed “Pym particles”, a secret from the world. With the help of a hi-tech suit, the particles allow the user to change size at the blink of an eye. Afraid his Pym particles would be used for evil, Pym buried the technology and hid his famous Ant-Man suit in a safe. Decades later, Pym’s former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) militarizes a similar version of the Pym particles known as Yellowjacket. Dr. Pym is forced to recruit master thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a former systems engineer who’s “Robin Hood” efforts landed him in prison, to wear the Ant-Man suit and sneak into Pym Technologies to destroy the Yellowjacket program before it can be sold to HYDRA.
Ant-Man is best described as a heist movie cloaked in superhero clothes. Yes, these characters exist in the same world as The Avengers – Pym makes references to the events from Age of Ultron, and there’s a cameo from one of the Avengers. Even with the MCU’s symbiotic attachment, Ant-Man’s wonderful mix of action and charming comedy make it a heist comedy at its core.
Scott Lang’s low level criminal crew, played by Michael Pena, Tip “TI” Harris, and David Dastmalchian, provide most of the comedic relief, but Pena steals the show as Lang’s old cellmate Luis. Pena, most notably known for his roles in 2012’s End of Watch and 2004’s Crash, steals every single scene he’s in. The funniest scenes are Luis’ animated retelling of stories coupled with a reenactment of the conversations by other actors. It’s impossible not to laugh during those scenes.
One of the biggest surprises is the action during the fight scenes. Ant-Man changing size as he fights could’ve been crutch for the action scenes to lean on; instead they’re mixed in at the right time and never overused. Ant-Man is a more of resourceful superhero than a one-note crime fighter, it was good to see the story incorporate that into his character. During Ant-Man’s final showdown with Yellowjacket, there’s fight scene inside a briefcase that’s brilliant and reminded me why people love Marvel films so much – they’re fun.
Director Peyton Reed does a wonderful job keeping the story extremely well paced. Clocking in at just under 2-hours, there isn’t a lot of wasted time on screen. There are so much history with these characters, yet the plot doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on backstory. They introduce the major players are (sorry nameless HYDRA guys), give their abbreviated backstory, and get to heisting. There’s training montages and the predicable “I don’t know if I can do this”moment, but those are standard for any origin story.
Who knew Paul Rudd could be a superhero? He’s as charming and enjoyable as a lead as you would want. He’s not as slick as Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. He’s not the physical specimen Chris Hemsworth is as Thor. But Rudd is ideal as a humorous ex-con who stumbles into his superhero role with the help of an aged hero. Marvel Studios doesn’t get enough credit for its casting – Rudd is another perfect fit for the MCU.
Not to be outdone by Rudd and Pena’s antics, Corey Stoll and Michael Douglas bring their A-game along with Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne. I wish we could’ve gotten more of Stoll as Cross/Yellowjacket. He was good a scorned mentee who never felt he was good enough. He also looked like a badass in the Yellowjacket suit.
Ant-Man is a scaled down version of the film’s we’ve seen from Marvel Studios in recent years. There aren’t any huge action set pieces or big things falling from the sky during the finale. The film’s silly tone and Scott Lang as the improbable hero make for a satisfying family film. And if you want all the comic book goodness, don’t be alarmed. The two post credit scenes are some of the best Marvel has put out. Ant-Man has a different feel and adds much needed diversity to the MCU landscape, while still holding on to the character’s comic roots. In true Marvel fashion, there’s something in this film for everybody.