Of all the Marvel films, Ant-Man seems like the riskiest move yet. Like Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy, it is important to consider that mainstream audiences may not be familiar with the character(s) and you cannot ignore the pre-production controversy amid creative differences. On a personal note, watching the trailers gave me a feeling I cannot accurately describe. It seemed as though the studio was playing it too safe, taking the Iron Man route with a helping of self-deprecation, while not being afraid of its comic book roots. Going with a template that has worked in the past is a staple of storytelling, but still I find it unsettling what I may find upon admission to Ant-Man. Am I overreacting or is it Marvel’s Heaven’s Gate?
Playing it safe is the worst thing this movie could have done. What I thought was a retread of old ideas and a potential failure as the result of cooperate interference is instead a thoroughly enjoyable and Marvel’s most unique movie to date. If my word has any merit, you should stop reading and go see Ant-Man immediately.
In an attempt to get his life and family back together, ex-con Scott, played by Paul Rudd, does what he does best and burglarizes an expensive home at the behest of his thief friends. What he finds instead is the Ant-Man suit of former SHIELD operative and super scientist Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas. After putting on the suit, Scott experiences its shrinking capabilities and becomes the reluctant participant in Pym’s plot against his own company and former ward Darren Cross, played by Corey Stoll.
Where Guardians of the Galaxy failed in my opinion, Ant-Man succeeds. Both are the same in terms of eccentricity and level of humor, and both are centered on retrieving a McGuffin to stop the bad guy. The difference between the two is a focus on story reinforcing character.
The narrative of Guardians does not change the characters, with the exception of Starlord because the main protagonist must always change by story’s conclusion. Everyone else remains much the same before and after they form the team. Gamora stays the same, Drax does not know how to change, Rocket is still crazy, and Groot is Groot. Guardians’ plot was a vehicle for its weirdness and humor, but it left its characters behind.
Ant-Man’s heist narrative affects everyone, even the villain to some degree, but when you’re a psychopath with a pseudo-Electra complex (I know that does not make sense, but see the movie and try to explain it better), you can only spiral further into insanity. Scott begins as a criminal who thinks criminality is his sole solution to doing good and becomes a genuine hero. Evangeline Lily’s Hope learns to trust others while making amends with her estranged parent. Even the minor characters that have no real involvement in the story are different by the end.
Another exceptional aspect of Ant-Man is its comedy. Edgar Wright might have left before filming, but he still wrote a script with his name on it. I have seen and own all three Cornetto movies and Scott Pilgrim and as a fan, I can safely say Wright’s latest is just as good. He makes great use of the Marvel property and the idea of a hero that can shrink in both the gags and action sequences. Even the ants are excellent as Scott’s sidekicks with their own insect-specific personalities. Ant-Man is what Honey, I Shrunk the Kids wanted to be, but did not have Wright’s talent and imagination behind it.
Everyone on the cast did well. Rudd was a nice choice for a thief seeking redemption that does not know how to handle a world of superheroes. Lily could have easily taken over the movie with her strongest performance yet. It is hard to judge if Douglas did Hank Pym justice because both versions are different. Comics Pym is naïve and unaware when his creations may do more harm than good, and movie Pym is the exact opposite. To that effect, Douglas was believable as a kind of older, seasoned Tony Stark without the sarcastic whit and playboy personality.
At this point in my critiques I usually mention the faults, but I cannot find any worth talking about. I would say Ant-Man runs a little long if the whole 117 minutes was not enjoyable to sit through. You will want all that and more from beginning to end. Were it not for Fury Road, it would be the best film I have seen this season. It is Winter Soldier perfect.
Why are you still here? Get a ticket already!