Review: Marvel’s ANT-MAN

antman poster

Directed by Peyton Reed
Starring Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Pena, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Abby Ryder Fortson, Martin Donovan, and Anthony Mackie

One of the keys to Marvel Studios’ immense success with their big-screen superhero films has been their relative flexibility in terms of genre. While all of the movies have dealt with superheroes, the plots have all followed familiar and time-honored film genres, from War to Sci-Fi and Fantasy to Political Thrillers. With their latest feature, Ant-Man, Marvel has given audiences a fun and exciting origin story for a new big-screen hero wrapped up in the trappings of a modern heist film, using the basic components of that particular subgenre to great effect. While it doesn’t quite reach the sublime heights of the two Avengers films, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, or Guardians Of The Galaxy, Ant-Man is a worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and provides a fun, breezy two hours of quality Summer Movie entertainment.

Plot-wise, Ant-Man is not too dissimilar from an Iron Man film in that it deals mainly with a brilliant inventor trying to prevent an unscrupulous rival from using the technology he developed in the past for evil purposes. In this film, that inventor is Dr. Henry Pym (Michael Douglas), who used his Pym Particle formula to create a suit that will enable a man to shrink down to the size of an ant and used it to fight against the Soviets during the Cold War with the help of his now-late wife, Janet Van Dyne. As shown in the opening sequence that features a couple of familiar faces to fans of the MCU, Pym retired from his secret position and put all of his research in hiding, only to reunite with his estranged daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) when he finds out that his former protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is close to developing a suit that will replicate what he did in the past. In order to prevent this technology from going public, Pym enlists the aid of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a skilled and agile burglar who has just been released from San Quentin and is trying to get his life together in order to get closer to his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). The majority of the film deals with Lang’s attempts to master the powers that come with wearing Pym’s old Ant-Man suit, which includes interacting with an army of ants that the suit enables him to communicate with and control, and it all culminates in a climactic battle between Lang and Cross, clad in his patented Yellowjacket suit, over control of this technology.

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While the plot may seem overly familiar to viewers, the movie’s strengths lie in its playful use of editing, cinematography, and special effects, as well as the strong performances of its two central leads, Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas, who develop a strong bond throughout the course of the film not only through mutual experiences with the suit but by the fact that they are both estranged fathers trying to reconnect with their daughters in some meaningful way. The direction by Peyton Reed effectively marries the impressive visual effects with the lighthearted tone of the script and even includes some visual flourishes reminiscent of the style of the film’s original director Edgar Wright. The original script by Wright and Joe Cornish is well-represented by the movie’s use of whip-pans and quick cuts for humorous effect, with additional material provided by Anchorman ‘s Adam McKay and Paul Rudd himself. Even with all of these strong comedic voices collaborating on the script, Ant-Man still maintains a nice balance between comedy and drama, even during the manic final battle sequences, all due to the human connections between the two father-daughter pairings.

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The script for Ant-Man is surprisingly strong, given that it was basically a combination of two different scripts from two writing teams, with hardly any wasted scenes or sequences. One particular scene that seems arbitrarily tacked on in order to connect Ant-Man to the MCU as a whole winds up having a stronger connection to the overall story by the end of the film. The only true weakness comes once again from the movie’s villain, who is ably portrayed by Corey Stoll but never evolves past his default setting as a greedy opportunist willing to sell his tech to the highest bidder without any concern of how it affects the world. I would have liked to have seen more development of his business and personal relationship with Pym and more explanation of how it all went sour. More time also could have been spent developing Pym’s relationship with Hope, though the time afforded to their situation was quite effective. The always dependable Michael Pena does decent work as Rudd’s old partner in crime who is drafted to help his and Pym’s mission, though I could have done without his two goofy sidekicks, neither of whom contribute much besides a funny accent and broad stereotypes until very late in the film.

Despite its few flaws, Ant-Man achieves what all the MCU films have done well to some respect in that it provides endearing central characters that the audience can easily connect with and exciting, visually inventive action sequences. Its arbitrary connections with the wider MCU are handled deftly and are not quite as distracting to the main plot as some of the weaker MCU films. Like the most successful of Marvel Studios’ offerings, Ant-Man provides a nice blend of humor, adventure, and character development and is yet another example of how well Marvel can translate one of their own characters from the comics page to the big screen. Ant-Man earns 4 out of 5 Fallen Ant Wings.

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Ben Gilbert is an avid comic and movie fan, father of two amazing kids, and husband to one awesome chick. He resides in the hills of East Tennessee and still doesn't quite know what he wants to be when he grows up.

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