3.5 out of 5 stars (above average)
On paper, Ant-Man sounds like a terrible idea for a movie. It’s about a guy who can shrink down to ant size to stop evil and communicate with the little insects to help him. Stan Lee tried to get an Ant Man movie made back in the late 80’s, but to no avail: it sounded too similar to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Also, comic book films were not nearly as popular as they are now, and the ones that did come out were not very good.
Thankfully, technology has advanced enough so that an Ant-Man movie is possible, and I must say I was surprised that it was any good. Could anyone else see funnyman Paul Rudd as a superhero before the trailers came out? I sure didn’t. However, my worries were immediately dashed when, to my surprise, the film was light, fast, and surprisingly comedic. This wasn’t going to be a serious film, it was a fun movie with cool action, good humor, and a great cast.
The film follows recently released con Scott Lang (Paul Rudd earning his stripes in the superhero genre), a man who wants nothing more than to see his daughter Cassie (newcomer Abby Ryder Fortson) and stay on the straight and narrow path. Unfortunately, his ex-wife (Judy Greer) and her cop fiancé (Bobby Connavale finally giving a good performance) don’t want him anywhere near Cassie. He’s so down and out that he can’t even keep a job at Baskin Robbins. That is the saddest state of affairs in the world if you can’t keep a job there.
When Scott’s friend Luis (Michael Pena) informs him that millionaire Hank Pym (Michael Douglas having a lot of fun) is out for the weekend and that his place is up for grabs, he initially rejects it, but agrees only to get money for childcare payments. Upon breaking in, Scott finds only an odd suit in Pym’s safe. He discovers the suit gives him the ability to shrink down to the size of an ant and even communicate with them. Hank and his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly) soon contact Scott and train him on how to use the suit so that he can steal a piece of technology from Pym’s old company, and prevent it from being used by Hank’s old protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll from Netflix’s House of Cards) for nefarious purposes.
I really liked Ant-Man. Unlike many other movies in the Avengerverse, this is not a by-the-numbers origin story. I enjoy all the Marvel films, but they needed something new, something fresh. Ant-Man is a heist movie, along the lines of The Italian Job, but with superhero elements. I liked the different feel to this film than other Marvel films, something that I must thank the screenwriters and director Peyton Reed for. This is definitely one of the more memorable post-Avengers movies, and I will definitely be buying it.
This movie is lighter and funnier than Marvel’s recent entries. The banter between characters is well-written, and the entire cast has great chemistry with each other. For example, when Cross and Hank are in a scene together, I get the sense that they were once mentor and mentee, that there is history there. I do not feel like I’m watching Michael Douglas and Corey Stoll read lines to each other, something that I am thankful for. All the leads disappear into their characters, something that only great performers can do.
The action in this movie is also quite unique. When Scott shrinks, the world around him becomes a dangerous one: everything from showers to sinks goes from an afterthought to a perilous situation, allowing the filmmakers to be very creative with their locations. My two favorite fights are both in the climax because they are the most original places for a fight (and no, I won’t spoil them here). The visual effects department has done an extremely good job here with the action scenes. I also felt the pacing was deliberate, as if the film wanted to take its time letting us get to know the main players before they met up, something I respect very much.
I also most comment on the director, Peyton Reed. Reed’s filmography does not tend well to action, with him mostly directing comedies (Bring it On, The Break-Up, and Yes Man are his most well-known). These films are good, but not amazing. I certainly never would have chosen Reed based on them. However, he serves as the perfect director, striking a fun, easygoing tone while also subtlety building suspense for the final act. Nothing feels rushed here; all the characters are likable (yes, even the villain) and we understand their motivations. It’s a true accomplishment to have every main character in your movie be an interesting one, and I give credit to Reed and the four screenwriters for crafting it.
My only gripe is with one fight sequence in the middle of the film. It isn’t bad, it’s just there to link this movie to the others in the Avengerverse. It also ends with a good joke, which makes up for it. Also, the film gets right back on track after it, so it isn’t a big issue.
All in All, Ant-Man is a hilarious, fun, and thrilling ride that should leave the whole family (yes, the whole family) entertained.
Rated PG-13 for Sci-Fi Action Violence (there are a couple of “s” words and some milder language, but nothing too bad)