Directed by Peyton Reed
With a troubled pre-production and a practically unheard of property (more so than Guardians of the Galaxy), Ant-Man had a lot to prove. Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) had been developing this film for the better part of ten years, since Marvel Studios was in its infancy. When the film was finally green-lit, Wright left the project shortly after due to creative differences. No director wanted to touch this project, which sounds very reminiscent of the issues that plagued arguably the worst Marvel Studios film, Thor: The Dark World. Needless to say, even when a director was found in Peyton Reed (Yes Man, Down with Love, Bring It On), skepticism was high. Being handed a film that had developed a stigma around it, limited prep time and a script that had gone through several revisions, he had to step in and make everything work like clockwork…no easy task!
The original Ant-Man was Dr. Henry ‘Hank’ Pym, he developed technology to manipulate the size of organic and inorganic matter. He does appear in this film (portrayed with amazing poise and presence by Michael Douglas), but the real story revolves around an ex-con with a Master’s in electrical engineering (they make sure audiences know that immediately), Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). Lang decides to do one more burglary, so he can finally go legit and be with his daughter. Instead of a huge payday, he finds a suit, which will change his life forever…
Rudd, known mostly for his comedic roles working with Will Ferrell and Judd Apatow, delivers a charming performance. His sarcastic, witty banter is there along with his great physical comedy. He can literally make you laugh with a look. The good thing is, though, that he keeps it restrained and makes sure that the comedy doesn’t lose sight of the character. The emotional scenes with his daughter and his drive to be with her never seem forced or melodramatic, he comes off completely genuine. The theme of parenthood is prevalent throughout and is a nice backbone for this film.
Evangeline Lilly (The Hobbit trilogy) plays Hope van Dyne, the somewhat estranged daughter of Dr. Pym. She brings a fresh, powerful take on the character that never makes her a damsel in distress. I applaud Marvel for not taking the cliché route and having her and Scott fall for each other and have the villain take her hostage. No one wants to see that anymore! There is no doubt that she will be a strong presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The primary villain is Darren Cross (Corey Stoll of House of Cards fame), a former protégé of Hank Pym. Who is determined to surpass to his mentor by resurrecting the technology that Pym tried so hard to bury. Stoll does have his “villainous” moments, but they are balanced well when you see his a man trapped in arrested development, who only wants the respect of his idol.
The shrinking and action sequences are breathtaking, full of levity. Wright did such a fantastic job developing the look and technique of how to shrink Scott, but Reed takes these elements and makes some of the most innovative scenes in any of the Marvel films. The Thomas the Tank Engine scene in the trailer is just the tip of the iceberg. It is fairly easy to tell where the script revisions by Adam McKay and Paul Rudd were made from Edgar and Joe Cornish’s script. They added more content to tie the movie into the MCU, which are some of the best moments of the film, and comedic beats. There is some cheesy comedy, but again it’s kept taught and doesn’t detract from the core. This was perhaps the smartest move because Ant-Man could have just become comedy schlock with some cool action beats, instead a fun, entertaining movie is what audiences get.
I went in with the lowest expectations possible and was pleasantly surprised. There really isn’t anything inherently bad in Ant-Man, sure there are some cliché moments, but the ride is so enjoyable it doesn’t matter. This is by no means the best Marvel Studios film, but it definitely is not the worst. This installments is the last of Phase Two and one will find out why throughout. Definitely check this film out! As usual, the 3-D is not great, so seeing it in 2-D works just fine. If an IMAX screening is available – go to that theater. Oh and make sure to stay for everything, there are two post-credits sequences that are just awesome!