Directed by Peyton Reed
Written by Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish and Paul Rudd & Adam McKay
Admittedly, I am not a comic book “nerd” (and I use that term affectionately). In fact, my exposure to the Marvel Universe, like so many others, has been through the Cinematic Universe, and the MCU alone. Now, I happen to rub elbows with a few comic book “nerds”, who are much more familiar with the characters of Marvel, and have quite a bit of insight when it comes to them and their movies (I’m told to highly anticipate Doctor Strange). So I at least knew a little bit about Hank Pym and Ant-Man before seeing this screening. But my anticipation was more from a filmmaker standpoint even then a storyline perspective, mostly because of the talked up removal of Edgar Wright from the project, most notably the director’s seat. While Wright still receives a screenwriting credit, many have feared that Ant-Man, with the absence of Wright, would become just another superhero movie to add to Marvel’s collection.
The story, for those like me who are ignorant of the comic books, starts with Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) who is a brilliant scientist who has just developed what he calls the Pym Particle, which allows him to shrink matter into tiny sizes, therefore allowing him to essentially disappear and reappear from his enemies. But when Howard Stark (of Stark Industries) wishes to militarize the breakthrough, Pym decides to start his own path under Pym Industries, where he recruits another young, brilliant mind Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) to be his apprentice. Cross will eventually push Pym out of his own company, and when he is close to replicating the Pym Particle for military use, Hank finds ex-con Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to become Ant-Man and help thwart his former protégé with the help of his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), who has become emotionally distant from Pym since the mysterious death of her mother.
Typing out that synopsis made me realize just how much is going on in this movie, but it never really feels too jumbled. In fact, Ant-Man, comes off as a little less complex than any of the other Marvel films, perhaps because it mostly does feel smaller (pun intended) and therefore not bloated by big personalities and too many central characters to keep track of, which allows us to get to know and care about the ones we do keep track of. The dynamic between Rudd, Douglas, Lilly, and to some extent Stoll really seems to work, despite its fairly telegraphed plotting. There is nothing really all too impressive about the film, no scenes or moments that stand out above the rest of the film, or the MCU, but Ant-Man manages to be greater than the sum of its parts by being fresh.
Ant-Man just feels a bit different from the other Marvel films out there. I think much of that stems from Scott Lang, our central hero. He is an amalgamation of Tony Stark and Star Lord, bringing comedic relief (albeit not at the snarky level of Iron Man) together with a sense of a rebellious every man mystique. The film does feel a bit disjointed in the early goings, lacking a sense of natural flow from scene to scene, but the jitters are soon relented and the story really hits the ground running, because a fun adventure/heist type film, which also seems to set it apart from some of the other doomsday type superheroes from Marvel’s past. Its genre makes it unique in the Universe and therefore a fresh entry into the catalogue.
Some may find it too “vanilla”, as they pine for the Edgar Wright directed version of the film. However, I want to play devil’s advocate for a minute on this one. While I understand the fanboys who love both Wright and Marvel wanting to see what the combination of two of their favorite things would bring, it is quite possible that Marvel removed him from the project for the right reasons. I know, hard to believe, but the final result is quite entertaining. I, for one, can certainly say that with Ant-Man I had fun with not just the character, but the world created by the unique “superpower” of shrinking yourself to ant-size. Imagine if Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was a superhero adventure movie. It allows for some great ideas and use of special effects. Whatever your taste may be, Ant-Man at the very least appears to be trying something different while still managing to stay within the framework of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the expectations it has created. Could it have been better? Perhaps. Was it fun, enjoyable entertainment? Absolutely!
*** – Very Good