So I’m going to be honest here: I’m not a passenger on hype trains. Don’t get me wrong – I like stuff. But I don’t think I like it the way that most people do. I might plan on seeing a movie on an opening night, but I generally don’t amp myself up to levels of unreasonable excitement. It’s just my nature. With Ant-Man I wasn’t really hyped but I also was not expecting much. After all, a few delays, a few director drop-outs – hell, there were plenty of skeptics who thought Ant-Man might become Marvel’s first bomb. In fact I remember Jon from 2 Angry Guys discussing that with us on an episode of Asked. Even Landin was mocking “who the hell wants to see a movie about Ant-Man?” earlier today on Facebook (before Facebook deleted me for the 877th time).
I knew I was going to see it. While Ant-Man as a comic book character may not have the fanfare of a Captain America or a Thor, he is a well-known Avenger and I felt maybe it’s worth a watch, even if Paul Rudd is playing the Scott Lang version of the Ant-Man (admittedly I’m more of a Hank Pym kind of guy; it’s just the comic book era I grew up in). What I found was that I was immensely surprised by the film. Ant-Man is a refreshing comic book movie with a lot of fun as well as references for those loyal fans such as myself to enjoy.
Plot is pretty simple, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is trying to stop the Pym Particles which allow him to alter his own size and the size of others from getting into the hands of his former protégé, Darren Cross, portrayed by Corey Stall (who is best known recently for his role in the Strain as Dr. Ephrain Goodweather). He’s also trying to keep the technology out of the hands of both Stark Enterprises and S.H.I.E.L.D. as well with the help of his somewhat cold-and-distant daughter, Hope (played by Evangeline Lilly).
Pym, who once was the Ant-Man years ago through the use of his technology decides to find a new (and unlikely) successor in ex-convict and burglar Scott Land (Paul Rudd). The ensuing chaos leads to a confrontation with an Avenger, creative use of ants, and a whole lot of property damage (every superhero movie has massive property damage).
One thing I found interesting, is the comedy element mixed in. Rudd is primarily “insanely white guy” in like every Apatow movie ever, and it’s the same here. Yet somehow the dry, just snarky enough, white-guy-who-ends-up-having-really-bad-luck persona Rudd plays in pretty much everything works very well in Ant-Man. Additionally, we get a comic sidekick in Lang’s ex-cellmate Luis, portrayed by Michael Pena who some of you may know as “that really tripped out Hispanic security guard Dennis in Observe and Report,” and he plays almost the same character, and is joined in comic relief by David Dastmalchian, as a hacker named Kurt and rapper T.I. who portrays Dave, a criminal getaway driver.
The comic relief in this film is just right. It’s not rampant like in, let’s say Guardians of the Galaxy, but it is just enough to break up the serious moments without subtracting from them – I’d say more akin to the first Iron Man film. We do get a cameo from an Avenger in this film, and I’ll spare you the spoiler so that you can have some fun surprises, and some decent fight scenes. And of course we get ants - tons of ants (even CUTE ants – yes, CUTE ants are a thing), and we even a little education about different types and species of ants so that we can say we actually learned something. Actually, come to think of it we also learn how to lift fingerprints and break into a safe… okay, so maybe we shouldn’t try this at home… right?
I also have to give props to taking the Ant-Man and the Yellowjacket costumes and making them look pretty badass. The shrinking scenes are done to perfection and Ant-Man’s powers are used in a way that makes it less cheesy, and less pathetic than would be expected from “guy who shrinks.” I think one of the major factors I took from Ant-Man is the maximization of their time. There wasn’t a lot of “fluff” or “filler” in this film, and I felt like Marvel may be taking lessons from the likes of DC’s Arrow and The Flash in making a light-hearted yet interesting set of characters. One of the trials of Marvel films is to make a character really endearing within 2 hours. Do I like Thor? Yes. Is he an endearing character that strikes with me? Probably not. But in Ant-Man we get some very interesting, and very flawed characters. Lang struggles with the problems of being an ex-criminal and becomes relatable as he’s a guy just trying to do the right thing so that he can take care of his daughter who is in the custody of his ex-wife and gung-ho cop fiancé. Pym is marvelously flawed as the character is supposed to be and Michael Douglas, who has always been a great actor in my opinion hits them all – his temperament, delusions of grandeur, and even his age and stubbornness all factor into his portrayal and he really manages to steal the show to a point this film feels like it’s not about one Ant-Man but two – the former, and the current, which makes this feel much better. As for the exclusion of Janet Pym, the Wasp, let’s just say it’s all covered and that’s all I can say about that. Her daughter, Hope, is also an equally flawed character who somewhat mirrors her father’s stubbornness and anger at times, and of course the villain, Darren Cross is a complete sociopath, which is amplified by the fact some of the same qualities that make him such a bad guy here are the same character traits which make his “good guy” character so interesting on The Strain. The roles are played very well, and I found that I could relate to these characters more than I could the cast of the Hulk, or Iron Man, or Thor. In viewing it I think half of the crowd “got it” and half didn’t, but that’s alright. I like my superhero genre stuff with a little depth and I was not disappointed.
That’s not to say that the movie doesn’t have great action – and there’s so much you can do with a character who can grow/shrink at will as well as can make other objects grow and shrink at will. It’s interesting to see the interaction with the ants and even to watch Scott Lang establish a connection with them. The fight scenes are very vivid and imaginative, and even still manage to throw in some comedy with it. It’s refreshing, somewhat unpredictable and even surprising to see, of all people, Paul Rudd as the guy throwing punches and kicks in a film. All in all I had a great time with Ant-Man, and I am interested to see where this franchise continues since they left just enough to make the potential sequels intriguing. While it’s still a Marvel Super Hero film at heart, it had a lot of moments that were a refreshing take, and I would definitely recommend this one being worth a watch (and a sit through the credits for the two bonus scenes in them).