'Ant-Man' Review: Small Hero, Big Heart
Ant-Man was one of the most troubled Marvel Cinematic Universe productions. Developed by Edgar Wright for nearly a decade, after he was officially named director of the coda to Marvel's Phase 2, he abruptly left the project mid-shoot, which caused fanboys everywhere to cry that Ant-Man would never amount to more than a "could have been great" film. Peyton Reed took over the film, with his experience primarily consisting of comedies including Yes Man and The Break-Up. Despite all the production troubles haunting Ant-Man, it is one of the most refreshingly original takes on the super hero origin in recent memory.
Ant-Man benefits from a relatively straightforward story, convicted felon Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is given a chance at redemption by joining the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly) as they try to destroy commercialized attempts at replicating the Ant-Man formula, led by Pym's estranged protege and now CEO of Pym's own company, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). While there are callbacks to the other Marvel films, with one scene directly being influenced by Age of Ultron, Ant-Man is a fairly self contained film that doesn't require too much prior Marvel knowledge to follow. It essentially lays itself out as a heist flick that incorporates super heroes.
The cast is what truly makes the film shine. Douglas' ornery Hank Pym and Paul Rudd's Scott Lang have incredible chemistry and it's an absolute joy to see them riff off one another. Unlike most Marvel heroes, Lang is an actual criminal who only has one motivation for assisting Pym, clearing his name and finally being able to be there for his daughter, Cassie (played by the adorable Abby Ryder Fortson). Both Pym and Lang share key conflicts in wanting to be their for their daughters but not knowing the correct way to go about it. The juxtaposition of the relationships (Hope hating her father as he tries to protect her, and Scott being an almost absentee father in Cassie's life) show these men as vulnerable and willing to do whatever it takes to protect the ones they love. Less caricatures and more fully realized characters, the strong writing for the individual characters stands out. The supporting cast is also fantastic. Michael Pena's character is absolutely hilarious. His delivery and flashback montage sequences that lay out the heists are absolute highlights of the film, providing comic relief at exactly the right times. Even T.I. and David Dastmalchian are given humorous things to do and say in their relatively unnecessary roles.
Unfortunately, Darren Cross suffers from a weakness that a lot of the Marvel films share by having a relatively one-note personality. Stoll's performance is actually pretty good, and Cross is a true villain, but other than some lines about feeling spurned by Pym, we don't truly understand what makes him tick other than profit and a degrading sense of sanity. A little more time developing the villain into a fully realized character would have benefited the film. That's why films like The Winter Soldier have resonated so well, because the villains are just as interesting as the heroes.
Despite having a shallow villain, the Yellowjacket suit looks amazing, and the action sequences utilize the shrink effect incredibly well. Seeing Ant-Man shrink punch someone and blow back to regular size never gets old, and Peyton Reed shows a surprising eye for visceral movement. Per usual, Ant-Man has an end of credits scene (actually, it has two), and they both push the Marvel universe in a positive forward direction and are worth waiting for.
Ant-Man may be the hardest sell of any character that the MCU has delivered, but thanks to a great cast, original action, and intimate story, we are given a new character to look forward to in future iterations of Marvel films. Is it too late to ask for a Michael Douglas led prequel?
Final Say: Watch It