When Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), an expert cat burglar, attempts to pull of one last job he returns with a little more than he bargained for: the Ant-Man suit. Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man, has led Lang to the suit, desperately needing a suitable thief to break into a highly secure laboratory and prevent a similar suit with shrinking abilities from being sold and militarized. Ant-Man is really compressed compared to many of its fellow Marvel movies, and it is this small scale aspect that allows it to truly shine.
Peyton Reed, takes over at the helm for Edgar Wright, who still retains a writing credit. Although one would expect Reed to adhere strictly to Marvel-norms after replacing the unique voice of Wright, he directs Ant-Man with a lot of spirit. There’s a big commitment to little moments, such as Michael Peña’s hilarious character recounting how he got the tip for a job, that we’d never get in other Marvel films. Not since 2008’s Iron Man kick started the Cinematic Universe have we gotten such a small focused, singular, and contained movie from the studio. Sure, there are Marvel staples here, such as Darren Cross (a venomous Corey Stoll) becoming one more bland, forgettable, cookie-cutter villain – a far cry from Loki. A mid-film action scene involving a certain Avenger also reeks a bit too much of brand continuity, and ended up jarring me out of Ant-Man‘s otherwise wonderful vibe.
Luckily the cast is fantastic. Gone is the less-likeable “smug Paul Rudd” from recent years, replaced by “charming Paul Rudd.” He is relentlessly endearing, bringing loads of humor and charisma to the film. Speaking of charisma, Michael Douglas is better than I’ve seen him in years. This is really the story of both Ant-men, as they both deal with rocky relationships with their respective daughters (Evangeline Lilly is also great as Pym’s daughter Hope). Also along for the ride are a whole host of superb actors in roles of various relevance and hilarity (Peña is a highlight, but also keep an eye out for David Dastmalchian as a screwy member of Lang’s heist team as well as comedian Gregg Turkington in a small role as manager of a Baskin Robbins). The humor as a whole, brought to life by this great cast, is the real pull here – the comedy is consistent, inventive, and largely family friendly. Ant-Man won’t induce any cringes with “hide the zucchini” lines tossed out as I sit next to my 10-year-old brother.
With such a small focused plot (Ant-Man is simply a caper flick at its core) Reed turns his focus towards these characters, almost all of which never don a suit throughout the film, as well as the spectacular action. The suit’s powers alone would be exciting enough, but there’s an off-kilter execution to these action sequences that hits as both funny and awe-inspiring. Ant-Man cleverly subverts the Marvel formula (while slyly adhering in its own way) asserting that “bigger is better” (there are no cities being dropped from the sky in this movie). Perhaps the best example of this is a sequence in which Lang attempts to avoid gunfire, in the suit’s “Ant mode,” sprinting through a model city as bullets rip it to shreds. More importantly, Ant-Man never forgets to have fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. Character development occurs, and there are stakes (I really cared about our main players, and even a few in minor slots), but Reed and company always remember that we’re watching a movie about an ant-sized superhero who commands an army of ants, and this is a very good thing. I was smiling throughout.
★★★★ out of 5