7 out of 10
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang / Ant-Man
Directed by Peyton Reed
After being released from prison, petty burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is coerced into breaking into a safe where he finds a costume that gives him the power to shrink to the size of an ant. He soon learns that he was set up by the original Ant-Man, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who wants Scott to use the suit to break into his old company and stop his successor, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), from using his technology for nefarious military purposes.
In this movie review, possibly the most amazing thing about Marvel Studios’ latest superhero movie is that it exists at all, because let’s face it, Ant-Man is not even remotely the most popular or known character in the Marvel Universe. When you think about how badly comic book-based movies have been screwed up in the past—Daredevil, Ghost Rider and Catwoman to name three—Ant-Man is surprisingly not bad, even without the theoretical dwelling on what could have been if director Edgar Wright remained on board. Getting involved well into development, Peyton Reed does a fine job with what is clearly weaker material than past Marvel movies, but he also ends up with a movie that’s not among the studio’s best (or worst).
Before we’re introduced to Scott Lang, having one last fight on his last day in prison, we get an introduction to Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym in a flashback sequence where he’s arguing with Howard Stark and Peggy Carter about the use of his technology. After being let out of jail, Scott is coerced by his roommates (themselves having criminal pasts) to break into a high security safe, giving us an idea of Lang’s impressive breaking and entering skills as he MacGyver’s himself a way through a seemingly impervious thumbprint scanner. He also meets Hank’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), who wants to take on her father’s research but is subject to a combination of parental protection and outright sexism.
There’s no question how well Paul Rudd works in the role of Scott Lang, mainly because he has such a likeable personality, but having a decent overall cast around him as a support system also helps, including the fantastic Corey Stoll doing just enough (figurative) moustache-twirling as the baddie Darren Cross. Most of the funniest scenes come from Scott’s enthusiastic friend and colleague Luis, played by Michael Peña, who is used for laughs throughout. Once you get past the startling de-aging process in that opening scene, Michael Douglas fits well within the Marvel Universe in the same way as Robert Redford in “The Winter Soldier,” although it’s harder to adjust to him being anything other than Michael Douglas (It’s a very different take on Hank Pym than the comics, that’s for sure.) Young Abby Ryder Fortson is a real scene-stealer as Scott’s daughter Cassie, while Bobby Cannavale takes on the unenviable role as her police officer stepfather, but it’s not a role that gives Cannavale much to do.
Ant-Man certainly has some enjoyable moments, mostly the action scenes in which they use Ant-Man’s ability to grow and shrink in seconds to good use. There’s also a great face-off with another Marvel character that’s a lot of fun, but overall the movie just isn’t nearly as exciting or entertaining as some of the other Marvel movies, maybe because it never seems like the stakes are particularly high.
The CG is also a little wonky as the ants specifically look a little too cartoonish rather than there being any attempt to make them even semi-realistic, which is quite a contrast to the sets used to create the sense of a shrunk-down Ant-Man interacting with regular-sized objects, ala The Incredible Shrinking Man (which was clearly a huge influence on the character’s creator Stan Lee). We even get a glimpse into the subatomic world, which Hank tells Scott is a no-no.
Ultimately, things do come together with a great fight between Ant-Man and Cross in the Yellowjacket armor, but even Peyton’s attempts to get laughs during this battle are weak, mainly since the main joke being ripped off from the “Night at the Museum” movies. (As has been the case with most Marvel movies so far, you’ll want to stay through the very end of the credits as there are two teaser tags, both about the future of Ant-Man in the Marvel Universe.)
The Bottom Line
Ant-Man is more good than great, and while that’s disappointing when compared to some of the better Marvel Studios flicks, it could have been a lot worse and that in itself is a small miracle.[Gallery not found]