Directed by Peyton Reed
Written by Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish and Adam McKay & Paul Rudd
While a Patty Jenkins directed Thor: The Dark World is something interesting to think about, I think almost everybody agrees that the Edgar Wright version of Ant-Man is the biggest “what if” of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Part of this is due to the tremendous reputation of Edgar Wright as a filmmaker and he would have marked the first “auteur” style director to the series, in so much as his style brands a film as his. The other part I think is due to the somewhat lackluster response to the film ultimately produced by director-for-hire Peyton Reed. I think a lot of that criticism is unwarranted, perhaps Wright’s film would have been terrible. But Ant-Man marks an important marker in the franchise. With the “creative differences” between Wright and producer Kevin Feige, Feige essentially put his stamp on the MCU as being his, not the directors. But an odd thing soon happened: visionary directors Taika Waitii and Ryan Coogler would also soon sign on to direct installments.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) was successful, until he decided to pull off a Robin Hood-type heist and landed in prison. Upon his release, he moves in with his old cellmate Luis (Michael Pena) while trying to regain the love and trust of his ex-wife (Judy Greer) and daughter Cassie. Failing to get his life going, Lang joins Luis and his crew to perform a heist, that is later learned to have been setup by tech giant Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) as a scouting op to find someone capable of manning his Pym particle fueled “Ant-Man” suit with the intent to infiltrate Pym’s former company, now run by the greedy, ill-intentioned Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who is close developing the same tech, but for profit to the highest bidder. Lang, Pym and Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) must team together to stave off Cross.
This is the comedy and heist genre entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’d mentioned in a previous review that the unique thing about the MCU was its ability to tell a variety of stories in a variety of ways, but still tie them all back together. With Ant-Man, we get noted comedic actor Paul Rudd as the lead actor, delivering his schtick as expected, while also getting to go through the paces of a standard heist movie. The planning montages, the exciting thrilling twists and turns. Even the anti-hero bit is played up with Lang being an ex-con, but yet still our #1 hero.
For that reason, Ant-Man becomes a fun journey along the way to all the huge explosions, world jumping, Thanos destroying Avengers movies. Ant-Man is way its own thing in some ways like no other Marvel movie has been. It feels like it happens in a vacuum, and this smaller scale approach is really refreshing, especially coming down off the high of Age of Ultron, which was everything this movie is not. Creating balance within the series, and smaller moments with smaller stakes, smaller characters (quite literally in this case) helps promote a sense of creativity within the series, while also avoiding series fatigue. Films like this and particularly Guardians of the Galaxy, which feel so different and apart, really help break everything up and keep it from feeling a sense of sameness throughout.
Smaller stakes, smaller scale, it does mean that this is a smaller movie that might not offer the same kind of high entertainment value as an Avengers movie, but I would land largely positive on the Ant-Man experience. For one, Michael Pena’s Luis character is easily one of my favorite of the series, with his patented storytelling instantly becoming one of my favorite things about the MCU. And as a comedy, this is a pretty funny movie. The others have had funny lines, funny quips here and there. The comedy of the MCU is a hallmark, but Ant-Man as a full comedy goes above and beyond and fills the room with the presence of Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas. Look, am I over the moon about this movie? Best of the series level? Absolutely not. But I just love that Marvel had the cache and vision to be able to deliver a smaller scale movie like this instead of shying away from the creative liberties a project like this can afford creative people. A few more of these will be sprinkled in, but I definitely look forward to Marvel producing more like it.