It’s strange to think that Ant-Man, a member of the original Avengers team, had to wait until Marvel put out nearly a dozen films to get his on-screen debut. But for fans of the comics and movies alike, there is plenty to love in the tiny hero’s time to shine on the big screen. Full of references to the shared Avengers universe and equally stuffed with humor and heart, Ant-Man is a fun cap to Phase 2 of the MCU.
The story of getting Ant-Man produced is almost as compelling as the action on screen. The movie has been in development for years, with legendary action director and geek-idol Edgar Wright penning and directing the feature. However, time went on and Marvel and Wright had a falling out due to creative differences. Wright departed the project and the world collectively worried if Ant-Man was doomed to fail. However, by pairing comedy director Peyton Reed and star Paul Rudd, Marvel struck gold and created a fun action flick with a unique, likeable hero.
Scott Lang, played by Rudd, doesn’t have what you would call a ‘typical origin story’. The film opens with Lang being released from prison and trying to do right by his daughter and ex-wife. You feel compassion for Lang’s inability to provide for his daughter, especially when we learn his crimes were more Robin Hood style than anything else. He has a band of supporting criminal friends (the leader of whom is played brilliantly by Michael Pena, who basically steals the show) and finds his way back into the world of crime.
The plot unfolds as Lang meets Hank Pym, the creator of the Ant-Man suit, and is enlisted to win back the technology from the villainous Darren Cross. Throw in Pym’s daughter Hope, playing both sides as an employee of Cross but remaining loyal to her father, and we have the set-up for a thrilling heist.
Ant-Man‘s biggest success is not playing like a traditional superhero movie. The stakes are never as high as say Age of Ultron, but you care about the characters just as much. It feels more like a thriller or heist story and a damn good one at that. We quickly breeze through Scott’s training montage and get right into the espionage and action at Cross Industries.
While the set-up is pretty original and engaging, the overall plot of the movie is pretty forgettable and uninspired. It devolves into standard ‘stop-the-bad-guy’ superhero action after the second act, and the villain is just not that compelling. Corey Stoll plays essentially the same character he did on House of Cards, just given much less screen time. Yellowjacket looks cool visually, but his motivation is unclear and he effectively is there to get his ass kicked so we can roll the credits. One thing about the fight sequences that stands out is how original they are. From fighting locked inside a briefcase to dueling on top of a model train set, the action in this movie is non-stop entertainment. There is even one sequence in the middle that has remained mostly unspoiled by trailers that had the whole theater roaring.
Ant-Man as a character feels fresh for Marvel. All the scenes where he shrinks to ant size or controls an insect army are a ton of fun to watch, but ultimately the movie feels like standard action fare. The ties to the bigger Marvel Cinematic Universe are fun easter eggs as always, but they don’t feel intrusive as they have in the past. Rumor has it Edgar Wright left due to Marvel trying to stuff the movie full of references, which is a shame, because the movie we got balances originality and continuity rather well.
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