After a seemingly ever-escalating scale of movies, Marvel shrinks the scale of the adventure with Ant-Man.
When Henry “Hank” Pym (Michael Douglass) was a scientist and former operative for SHIELD he created a technology that he called Pym-particles. The particles allowed Hank to shrink the space between atoms, which meant that it allowed him to cause things to shrink or grow. He infused this technology into a suit that he used to become the hero, Ant-Man along side his wife, who was known as the Wasp. After losing his wife on a mission and suffering side-effects from the use of the suit Hank retired from his hero days and started Pym Technologies, keeping the secret of the Pym Particles to himself. Despite the attempts of his former colleagues at SHIELD or his protege, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) to coax the secret out of him, Hank maintained that it was too dangerous to reveal. Cross grew to resent Pym’s withholding and, along with the help of Hank’s estranged daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), had him removed from his own company. Cross would then use the company’s resources to try to recreate his mentor’s shrinking technology. When it Darren gets close to recreating the shrinking technology, Hank and Hope join forces to stop him from recreating it. Hope might have issues with her father, but she believes him when he says that the tech is too dangerous. She wants to put on the Ant-Man suit and destroy Darren’s research but Hank doesn’t want to risk her getting hurt. Instead, he finds someone new to become the next Ant-Man: Scott Lang (Paul Rudd).
Scott has a masters degree in engineering and made national news when he
robbed burgled a firm that was ripping off their customers and returned the money to those who had been cheated. His heroic exploits landed him in San Quentin penitentiary for three years. On top of that Scott’s daughter is with his mother, who’s married to a cop. That cop also seems to not be a big fan of Scott. Insisting that Scott get his life together before he can see his daughter, both of them work to keep Scott away from his daughter. Hank had been keeping tabs on Scott since hearing about his exploits. After looking into his personal life, Hank realized that Scott was a lot like him; they both have a daughter that they want to reconnect with and are willing to suffer to do the right thing. Knowing that Scott would have trouble getting the money to pay child support as a felon, Hank baits him into stealing the Ant-Man suit. Once Scott puts the suit on, Hank is able to communicate with him and begins testing him to see if he’s capable of becoming the next Ant-Man. Scott passes the test and is brought back to Hank’s home to be brought up to speed on what’s going on. Despite objections from Hope, Hank trains Scott to become the next Ant-Man so he can steal the shrinking technology from Cross and destroy his research before it finds its way into the hands of HYDRA. The training involves martial arts, learning to control the suit’s shrinking abilities and controlling actual ants.
After completing his training and gathering the required materials (a task that required him to fight the Falcon), Scott, Hope and Hank are ready to start their operation. They employ the help of three of Scott’s criminal friends and set out to stop cross on the night that he plans to unveil his Yellowjacket suit. The Yellowjacket is basically a militarized version of the Ant-Man suit and its purpose is to be used as a weapon. As you’d expect, things don’t go exactly as planned and Scott ends up having to improvise. Ultimately he ends up in a one-on-one fight with Cross, who puts on the Yellowjacket suit. After failing to stop Antman from destroying his research, Cross decides to take revenge on him by attacking his daughter. Faced with the prospect of losing his daughter, Scott decides to attack Cross by removing the regulator on the Ant-Man costume and going subatomic, A state that he doesn’t know if he can come back from. Of course, it’s a Marvel movie, so it’s pretty easy to guess that the hero’s not to die in his first movie. Scott returns from the subatomic Quantum World. His success not only saves Hanks research, it gives him hope that his wife could one day be found. Even though Scott’s job is done, he’s got the attention of one of the Avengers and the movie ends with him getting word that they’re looking for him.
Ant-Man is a really fun movie. Paul Rudd is actually much more believable as a Marvel hero that I thought he be. However, he is basically playing the same kind of person that he plays and a lot of other movies. The moment right before Judy Greer shows up on screen I had the thought, “he feels a lot like the guy that he played in ‘Knocked Up’ and ‘This is 40′”, so I almost laughed out loud when Greer showed up on screen since she could easily be mistaken for Leslie Mann who plays Rudd’s wife in those movies. I think that’s why I have trouble getting into parts of the movie early on. I just kept thinking to myself that this whole movie was going to be watching Rudd play another rough around the edges, struggling parent who just needed a little push to get his life going in the right direction. To be fair, that is most of the first act. The only reason that it works is because Rudd is charming and the girl who plays his daughter is adorable. That, and Michael Peña’s comedy mixed in with the lightly humorous dialogue that I’ve come to expect from MCU movies.
That wasn’t the only part of the movie that felt cookie-cutter either. For example, hope Van Dyne’s whole ice-queen-to-love-interest transition hardly seemed like it was necessary. There was also Cross’ almost cartoonish behavior as a villain. It felt like the movie kind of forgot to give him a valid reason for it being as borderline insane as he was. There was never any real direct character of development for Darren Cross. There were just little factoids thrown out here and there, like the fact that using the Pym Particles without the Ant-Man helmet could make you go insane. It feels like this kind of thing is just a byproduct of having to create a MCU movie. Even though this movie was only tangentially related to the Avengers’ on going story, the movie had to make room to fit this movie into that world and to make it feel tonally similar to the other MCU movies.
In the end, none of these shortcomings are huge detractors for the movie. I only noticed these things because I’m sitting down and thinking about the movie after having watched it. During the movie, I didn’t care about any of this. I was just enjoying the movie’s sense of humor and the great way that they managed to work in the shrinking visuals. The visuals reminded me of Honey I Shrunk the Kids but without feeling cheesy at all. There are some really cool moments that happen with the visuals when Ant-Man is small. However I think it’s more important to note that there aren’t any moments that just look silly when he gets small. Not only were the visuals not silly, but they played an integral role in the movie’s humor with different sight gags. There was also Ant-Man’s ability to talk to and control ants. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this that I realized that I watched a movie where a man was controlling ants and I never had a moment where I thought, “this just looks ridiculous”.
I think the other thing that really helps this movie is that it’s not really a superhero movie at its core. It’s actually a heist movie. If you think about it from that perspective, but it makes perfect sense to have Paul Rudd as your lead. More often than not heist movies are fronted by leading men who are intelligent, charming and can either play the rogue or the debonair thief And Rudd fits that role perfectly. He nails being a quick witted superhero in a way that feels very different from Robert Downey Jr.’s Ironman. Ant-Man is more self-deprecating with his wit which is probably appropriate for a guy whose ability is making himself a little. Micheal Douglas is also spot on as Hank Pym. Not necessarily as the man who we know as the original Ant-Man, but as battle hardened soul who just wanted to put the dangerous thing he created behind him and get his family back. Now, these portrayals might not be completely comic book accurate, but I think we’ve all realized at this point that these movies are not meant to hold a mirror up to the comic books. This movie is meant to be fun, family entertainment that doesn’t feel like it’s taking place on the same epic scale that the avengers movies do. And it achieves that goal completely.
- It feels different than the other MCU titles
- Paul Rudd's charm draws you to the character
- Some aspects of Scott Lang feel more like normal Paul Rudd type-casting than a Marvel hero
- Disposable villain