ANT-MAN IS A STRONG ADDITION TO MARVEL’S GROWING ROSTER OF MOVIE SUPER HEROES AND IT PROVES THAT THE STUDIO CAN MAKE BOX OFFICE GOLD OUT OF JUST ABOUT ANYTHING
Director: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Pena, Judy Greer
Running Time: 1 Hr, 57 Min.
Last summer, Marvel Studios turned an obscure, barely known property into box office gold when Guardians of the Galaxy became one of the year’s top grossing movies, launching a new gravy train in the process. The question the House of Ideas, and their corporate owners-The House of the Mouse-are asking themselves this summer is if they can capture that same lightning in a Marvel coloured bottle with the little known super hero Ant-Man. Especially during a year where they’ve been outshone by rival studio Universal Pictures, despite the success of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Pixar’s Inside/ Out. While Time will tell if Ant-Man can match Guardians box office magic, it’s a pretty good entry in Marvel’s cinematic universe and it may not only launch one hot new property for the studio, but possibly two while adding a pair of new faces to Marvel’s list of Avengers-worthy characters.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has just gotten out of prison for “burglaring” a corporation that was robbing its customers (Lang got the swindled customers their money back and publically shamed the corporation in question, making him a modern day Robin Hood). Despite having an electronic engineering degree though, Scott finds that the pickings for ex-cons in the job market are less then slim and his inability to find gainful employment prevents him from seeing his daughter, who lives with his ex-wife (Judy Greer) and her uptight cop fiancé (Bobby Cannavale). Faced with the possibility of losing his daughter, Scott reluctantly falls back into his old life of crime, assisted by his makeshift gang lead by former cellmate Luis (Michael Pena). Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) on the other hand, is a reclusive scientist whose been protecting a lifetime of secrets and mourning his late wife ever since he was forced out of the company he founded by his former protégé Daren Cross (Corey Stoll). But when his greatest secret is uncovered and weaponized for profit, Pym and his estranged daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) find themselves searching for a new ally to help steal this dangerous new technology before Cross can sell it to some very unsavoury parties. The three soon find themselves in a somewhat uneasy partnership.
Ant-Man’s story is about as straight forward as possible. Villain steals a weapon that will make a lot of bad guys really, really dangerous (on a global scale) and the good guys are trying to steal it before the villain can make the world a more dangerous place. In fact the plot is pretty reminiscent of the first Iron Man movie, with themes of technological Pandora’s boxes and corporate greed. It’s well paced, with just enough humour laced through it to supply a few laughs between refreshingly original and fresh action scenes. The film’s visual effects and stunts do a perfect job of exploring a rarely explored movie frontier; the world of the microscopic. Whether it’s navigating a building’s plumbing or leading a stampede of ants through underground tunnels or battling the film’s villain inside a briefcase or on a train set, Ant-Man offers plenty of new super hero action. Director Peyton Reed does an excellent job of keeping the action and fight scenes moving smoothly and organically; the visual approach of insect sized combatants could easily become dizzying and stomach turning but Ant-Man keeps it easy on the eyes without cheaping out. Ant-Man can easily stand on its own as a super hero movie, deftly establishing the hero’s mythos for movie-goers unfamiliar with the character (which is just about everyone), but it drops plenty of references to other Marvel movies (including an fight scene with another recently introduced Avenger) and has just enough story threads woven into the script that it can integrate itself into the larger Marvel Cinematic universe. The post credit scene introduces a new character entirely and could allow Ant-Man to spring board a second property on top of it’s titular one, meaning Marvel could hit two home runs on a single pitch.
Judd is efficient as the good-natured, occasionally wise cracking Lang and Douglas does his part as the elder, slightly cantankerous Pym. Lilly steals more then a few scenes as the tough, emotionally weathered Hope and Pena dutifully serves his role as the film’s primary source of comedy. Stoll isn’t exactly intimidating as the film’s chief villain, but the story doesn’t seem to give his character much venom above his jilted corporate ambition. All in all, Ant-Man isn’t the best that Marvel has offered movie audiences, but it isn’t the worst either. In short (pardon the pun), Ant-Man is a solid addition to Marvel’s growing list of properties and should help keep fresh life in the Avengers franchise as the initial wave of characters prepares for retirement. And isn’t that all you can ask for from a summer super hero movie based on a character almost no one knows?