Ant-Man is another MCU charmer
Guaranteed to feature 2015’s best climactic battle atop a train set Ant-Man is f-ANT-astic fun and the year’s most pleasant surprise.
After being plagued with production delays, a public relations nightmare after Edgar Wright — the director/screenwriter who’d been working on the film for nearly a decade — clashed with the studio over creative differences and left the project featuring a C-level character, Ant-Man seemed poised to be Marvel Studios’ first creative and financial disaster.
Based off the finished product, it’s hard to know exactly how much of Wright’s fingerprints are left on the film and how much credit is due his replacement Director Peyton Reed, but somehow it all works wonderfully giving Marvel Studios one of its most enjoyable debut outings.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is an ex-con trying to get back on track in order to be an active participant in his daughter Cassie’s (Abby Ryder Fortson) life. His ex, Maggie (Judy Greer, Jurassic World) is a lot less convinced Scott’s changed and has already moved on with Paxton (Bobby Cannavale, Chef), a cop who has little use for an ex-con.
With little opportunities available, Lang decides to join a heist that brings him into contact with Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a brilliant inventor who needs Lang to steal tech from Pym’s protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll, Non-Stop), that would weaponize particles that could shrink organic matter. Cross plans to sell it to the highest bidder and Pym realizes it’s too dangerous to be put in the wrong hands.
To do that, Pym offers Lang the use of a specialized suit that allows him to shrink in an instant and control ants.
That doesn’t sit well with Pym’s daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly, The Hobbit trilogy), who knows she can do the job better than the inexperienced Lang. Lilly has a strong character to play with who is much more of a rival than romantic interest.
The script mostly avoids the cliché origin treatment, instead putting a far greater emphasis on the various personal relationships — fathers and father figures is a main theme — rather than Lang’s learning curve in becoming Ant-Man.
Rudd (This is 40) has always been a reliable performer who delivers exactly what’s needed for each role and he’s an ideal relatable every-man kind of guy that’s easy to root for on his journey to becoming a hero. Rudd couldn’t have played another character in the Marvel movie universe as Lang is such a perfect fit for him.
Borrowing a page from rival DC’s CW TV shows, Ant-Man features a very diverse and entertaining support team with Pym as the encouraging mentor, Hope the demanding trainer and Lang’s fellow ex-cons Luis (Michael Pena, American Hustle), Kurt (David Dastmalchian, Prisoners) and Dave (T.I.) as well-intentioned, but out of their element sidekicks. Keeping the spirit of classic heist films, Reed utilizes a fun method in having Luis break down the plans.
Wright and his co-screenwriter Joe Cornish retained a screenwriting credit for the script as their superhero heist theme remains largely intact. Adam McKay & Rudd reworked the script followed by a rewrite by Gabriel Ferrari and Andrew Barrer, likely adding in the Marvel-mandated connections to other Marvel characters, but the finished product retains the classic Marvel feel with a lot of heart and tone-appropriate humor.
Similar to most Marvel films, the villain is a little underwhelming. Cross isn’t the typical bad guy as his motives are largely understandable and Stoll gives him enough depth that at times, Cross actually comes off as sympathetic.
Of all the elements of the film that may have become distorted from Wright’s original vision, Cross seems to be the most glaring example.
None of Reed’s previous experience including Bring it On and The Break-Up indicated he would be able to handle the action elements of a Marvel blockbuster. Reed shows a surprising fluidity in fully realizing the potential with Ant-Man’s unique abilities and fighting style. It’s part parkour, part misdirection and rapid deployment of colony after colony of ants as backup. Who needs a legion of Iron Man suits when you can send out nearly undetectable crazy ants?
Smartly, the tone of the film never makes Ant-Man the butt of the jokes.
Clearly the success of Guardians of the Galaxy has emboldened Marvel that it doesn’t have to sell audiences on its characters anymore and the confidence is evident. There’s a sense of ‘no apologies needed’ from Marvel as it has the winning superhero movie formula down pat now no matter who gets the spotlight. Bring on Nova, Hercules and the New Warriors.
The effects are handled well, with only a few soft spots while Ant-Man is riding along on his ants, but it’s a rush watching Ant-Man and his pals flying around or going on the offensive. Most Marvel films are fine without seeing in 3D, but it was used better than normal and is worth spending the extra bucks.
Strangely, Ant-Man features by far the most profane language of any of the films under the Marvel banner. I could almost hear Captain America saying ‘language…’ throughout the film. In every instance, the s-bombs could have easily been replaced without losing any impact on the dialogue. Make sure to stay through the mid-credit scene and post-credit scene for direct teases to upcoming Marvel projects.
Ant-Man is Marvel Magic at its best. Taking a character no one knew they care about before and leaving the audience eagerly anticipating his next adventure or interaction with other characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Captain America: Civil War can’t arrive soon enough.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pictures credit: Zade Rosenthal/Marvel