Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 57 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sci-Fi Action Violence
Directed by: Peyton Reed
Written by: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay & Paul Rudd
(based on the ANT-MAN comics by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber & Jack Kirby)
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Pena, Judy Greer & Michael Douglas
I’m not going to lie. I really though ANT-MAN was going to suck. I wasn’t rooting for the film to be bad, but it looked like this could have been the first big misfire in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After all, there were production difficulties (Edgar Wright was replaced as the director) and this was yet another superhero origin story (something should have been over after the first AVENGERS made a splash). Plus, there’s the irrefutable evidence that Ant-Man isn’t exactly the coolest superhero around. So this latest Marvel movie is on a significantly smaller scale (no pun intended) with only a few locations and a handful of characters, but it comes off as less of a superhero movie and more of Marvel’s version of a heist thriller. What results is a surprisingly solid entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Color me surprised. ANT-MAN is really, really good!
Scott Lang is an ex-con trying to get his life back on track. When no jobs pan out and prospects for seeing his daughter look grim, he immediately returns to a life of burglary…only to wind up in something far greater than he ever imagined. Scott has been recruited by scientific genius Hank Pym to become Ant-Man (a tiny hero with super strength) in order to retrieve a deadly weapon from the evil Darren Cross (Pym’s former protégé). With the clock ticking before the weapon’s completion, Scott (aided by Pym and Hope, Pym’s daughter) must prepare for a high-stakes heist unlike anything ever attempted before…
ANT-MAN feels like OCEAN’S ELEVEN by way of THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN. It’s far sillier and more comedic than any of Marvel’s past efforts (yes, more than GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY). Even though the story takes place on a much smaller scale than pretty much every other film in Marvel’s cannon, it also feels refreshing because we’ve never seen the studio attempt this sort of film before. So far they’ve only had superhero movies and a space opera and that’s about it. Now, we can add sci-fi heist thriller to their filmography. Though it does have a couple of clichés in that this is technically an origin story for a future Avenger, ANT-MAN doesn’t feel like a superhero movie and tonally separates itself from the pack of other AVENGERS movies as a result. That doesn’t mean there aren’t tie-ins to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because one well-placed cameo as well as one piece of dialogue that directly references AGE OF ULTRON got huge laughs from the audience I saw this with…and I was chuckling right along with them. I hope that Phase III of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has more of these unconventional superhero movies (with BLACK PANTHER and INHUMANS down the road).
Paul Rudd is well-cast as Ant-Man. I was hesitant when I saw him in the role, because I mainly know him from comedies. However, he slips so well into Scott’s friendly ex-con trying to do the right thing demeanor that you can’t help but love the character. Michael Douglas shows up as the quirky genius scientist and though he’s enjoyable to watch, the character feels like so many others in past superhero movies (including some in the Marvel Cinematic Universe). Evangeline Lilly is enjoyable as Pym’s daughter, but her character also feels too familiar. Michael Pena is fantastic as the comic relief and somehow manages to steal the movie right out from under Rudd’s feet. Meanwhile, Corey Stoll (an actor that I’ve recently taken a liking to) is enjoyable as Darren (a.k.a. Yellowjacket). His character is cut and dried evil, but Stoll is smarmy enough in the role to make us both laugh at the villain and be intimidated by him.
Color me shocked. Back in January, I never thought it would be possible for ANT-MAN to walk away with a better grade than AGE OF ULTRON…yet here it is doing exactly that. ANT-MAN is a movie that never should have worked and the promotional material suggested that this was going to be a major step backwards for Marvel. However, the movie has wound up as one of the biggest surprises of 2015 thus far. It’s far from perfect (suffering from a few origin story clichés and familiar character types), but the film is all around entertaining and fun! This is Marvel’s take on a heist movie and winds up on the higher end of their Cinematic Universe. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but ANT-MAN comes highly recommended!