“I think our first move should be calling the Avengers.”
Occasionally, a small package can be a good thing. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has just finished serving some time in the San Quentin state penitentiary after doing a Robin Hood-esque hacking job of sorts, returning money that his previous company had more-or-less stolen from their customers. He desperately wants to make an honest living now, and see his daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), more frequently.
Meanwhile, in the corporate world, a battle is being waged for an revolutionary piece of technology developed by physicist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). This powerful piece of tech grants the user the ability to shrink to the size of an insect while increasing their strength, making for a devastating weapon. Temporarily hanging in the possession of a shady company he once founded, Pym is willing to give a second chance to a man who desperately needs one. Dr. Pym recruits Lang to don the Ant-Man suit and take back the blueprint of what he created.
With all of the development problems for a film allegedly in the works since the 1980’s, it is really a victory that Ant-Man, the latest in Marvel’s sizable cinematic universe, is not horrid. As the official end to Phase 2, this doesn’t end the period with a lot of momentum but does give the universe another (lesser) character to intersperse in future installments. From it’s cinematic brethren, it is different in the way it goes about carrying itself, which is good and bad for yours truly.
Ant-Man is a basic origins story, which isn’t all that different from any character’s first movie in Marvel. But this origin tale feels a little lifeless, honestly, especially in the first third in hitting all of the familiar notes of troubled character ultimately misunderstood, family problems, father figure, etc. As ho-hum as that is, what is admittedly cool about this superhero offering is that, it does feel like its own movie that exists separately from the MCU. Take away the few mentions of The Avengers and this could work as its own…work.
Part of the reason why is because it takes itself so lightly and whimsical in tone, making Guardians of the Galaxy look heavy in comparison. The idea of a man decreasing in stature yet increasing in strength and controlling every variant of the ant colony is ridiculous, but director Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Yes Man), seems to know this. Ant-Man behaves just as much as a comedy as it does an action, if not more so. Where others in the universe try to inject humor to various and sometimes pathetically forced degrees, the humor in this fits the film better because it is already coming in at a fixed tone. This actually does help the action stand out more. CGI of course it is, but I’ll admit I enjoyed the small-scale battles being treated like humongous clashes , as well as the eye-catching underground ant sequences.
Still, this is a Marvel movie, and as such, it is sort of impossible not to think how this compares to what came before it. The biggest issue that may be had with this latest superhero is simply that it feels like it lacks importance. It is hard to see how more desire can be drummed up for another feature outing. Unlike Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, or the Guardians, Ant-Man feels destined to be a side character, though the credits point to at least one later standalone installment.
For the film’s tone, Paul Rudd is everything one could want in the titular role. He’s comedic but never too much of a joke to not be taken seriously when needed. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really get to lose himself in the role, which isn’t his fault. This is probably an unsubstantiated belief by yours truly (I’m not a comic-book nerd), but the Ant-Man character doesn’t feel like it has the requisite backstory like other characters in their own films do. Even those who don’t read comics know about the characters and in some cases personalities of guys like Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man, while the same can’t be said for Ant-Man. But that is probably the point, I suppose.
The rest of the cast does mostly well enough to aid Rudd. Pure comic relief is provided by David Dastmalchian (Prisoners), T.I, and Michael Pena as Scott’s criminal friends, with the latter providing the most laughs everytime out. Evangeline Lilly really provides nothing that a hundred other women couldn’t provide as a love interest. I can’t remember the last time Michael Douglas was in something nationally released that was not targeted to an older crowd, so it is nice to see him playing perhaps the most intriguing character of the whole movie. Corey Stoll gets to be the hero’s opposition, and he is formidable even though he is essentially a guy doing being bad because the script calls for it. His performance is fine, but kind of overacted in spots as well.
Have to end with an obvious size pun, right? Ant-Man stands small when put next to most Marvel works, but it doesn’t get completely squashed either.
Photo credits go to 411mania.com, screenrant.com, and cosmicbooknews.com.
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