by Sherry Lipp
Ant-Man is decidedly smaller scale than the more recent entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), particularly the bombastic The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack a punch. Ant-Man brings phase two to a close with an emphasis on humor and heart rather than epic city-leveling battles. While it lacks some of the zip of the preceding Marvel movies, Ant-Man in a fun ride with an enjoyable performance from its star Paul Rudd.
Since the release of Iron Man in 2008 there have now been 12 films that are a part of the MCU. All of these films face the burden of telling their own story as well as tying in with each other. They are no longer mutually exclusive and references to the other films are now being peppered throughout these stories. Sometimes these references are pretty cool, like the cameos we get in this film, and sometimes they are pretty awkward, like the obligatory line, “I think we should call the Avengers.” Because all of these films are a part of bigger pictures, it becomes increasingly strange that the world seems to go on as normal despite all the incredible events that have happened over a relatively short period of time.
It’s hard to believe anyone could be conducting super-secret fantastical research in the wake of S.H.I.E.LD. and Hyrda, but it turns out a former partner of Howard Stark has been doing just that. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) has developed the shrinking technology that will create super soldiers the size of bugs. The trouble is he has lost his company to his former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who has vowed to continue the research so he can sell it to the highest bidder.
Being way too old to don his old uniform to take on his enemy, Pym recruits electrical engineer Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) for the job. Lang is a total mismatch for the job, which lends a lot of humor to the film. We learn right off the bat that Lang can’t even throw a decent punch. He also has a checkered past as a Robin Hood-type thief who stole from his large corporation employer to give back to the people he believe were bilked out of their money. So he’s a crook with a heart and that’s exactly what Pym needs.
The movie is the most fun when Lang is training with Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lily). The fish-out-of-water scenario really works as Lang tries to make himself at home in the world of Ants and being a real hero. Where the film falters is in the clichéd relationships department. Because of Lang’s crime he estranged from his wife (Judy Greer) and young daughter. His wife has moved on to new boyfriend Paxton (Bobby Canavale), but Lang is desperate to still maintain a relationship with his daughter. While it gives Lang motivation to improve his life, it’s all a little boring.
The juxtaposition between heartwarming and humor can get a little clunky, but at the very least the film does manage to avoid some totally obvious clichés, which is something I really liked about it. Origin stories have become par for the course in these films and it’s hard for them to not be predictable. I will give this film a lot of credit for Lang’s unique transition from normal guy to Ant-Man. That was probably one of the most fun sequences of the film and something we definitely haven’t seen before.
Despite some flaws, Ant-man is totally enjoyable and a nice deviation from the action blowouts we’ve come to expect. Don’t take that to mean there isn’t any action in this film, because there is plenty. It’s just on a smaller, and more personal, scale than most of the other Marvel movies. I sincerely hope Marvel fans won’t skip this one, because it’s definitely worth the watch.