Director: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lily, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, and Michael Peña
Ants can be highly determined insects with the right motivation, and they can move an exceptional amount of weight in relation to their tiny size. It’s not surprising that Stan Lee would utilize these informative features of the formidable creatures as the source for another superhero. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has expanded their reach beyond the well-known heroes, bringing in characters to accommodate the ever-expansive world that is being built. With “Ant-Man”, directed by Peyton Reed, the Marvel world of heroes saturates the story of the minuscule hero throughout, offering name drops and cameos from other properties. Still, amidst some of the clunky narrative pieces, “Ant-Man” is fun to watch, one of the better recent superhero offerings.
Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is a brilliant scientist who created a substance that when utilized with a specially built suit will shrink the person wearing it into ant-sized form while also increasing strength. Dr. Pym, wanting to keep the secret of the substance from falling into the wrong hands, hides his creation. A former protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), has dedicated his life to recreating Dr. Pym’s invention and he is getting closer to finding success. Wanting to thwart the progress of Cross, who is shopping the technology as the ultimate military weapon, Dr. Pym enlists a former thief named Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to don the suit to protect the future.
There is an ingrained formulaic structure that superhero films fall into too often, a Saturday morning cartoon that puts the hero into tumultuous situations that are devoid of danger. Yes it has happened that some of the secondary characters in these comic book films don’t survive, an emotional tool for the narrative, but the hero is most often safe. “Ant-Man” falls and leaps over some of these trappings, and for much of the film the result is positive and enjoyable. Peyton Reed, who took over directing duties after Edgar Wright left amid creative conflicts, moves the film swiftly through the set-up origin with Dr. Pym and into the bulk of the conflict with Scott Lang. There is a quirky and cartoonish atmosphere throughout much of the film, whether the interruptions in action sequences that feels wholly attributed to the style of Edgar Wright or the narrative comedic breaks that undercut many of the dramatic scenes. The tone of the film is never set too serious but this isn’t reflected in the crafting of the Ant-Man character, which takes the superhero completely serious. This helps in making the Ant-Man and his associated abilities feel more significant than silly.
Paul Rudd plays some of the spotlight with his usual smirky charisma, though this characteristic is underutilized and severely hurt when the Ant-Man costume is put on. Rudd is simply overshadowed by the mask but is offered one great scene in the Ant-Man uniform where he verbally and physically spares with another Marvel superhero. The supporting roles are better; Michael Douglas is good as the ornery Dr. Pym and Evangeline Lily, playing Dr. Pym’s daughter Hope, fits nicely into the mixture of Rudd’s comedy and Douglas’ straightforwardness. The best of the group is Ant-Man’s thieving sidekicks, played by Michael Peña, T.I., and David Dastmalchian, who offer the best laughs of the film.
“Ant-Man” has an unusual quality of feeling too big and too small at different moments, which makes some of the film feel uneven. More-often-than-not the film succeeds in making this comic book world interesting; whether transferring from minuscule mayhem amidst enlarged everyday environments right into a normal perspective that registers as minor, overlooked disturbances, breaks up the typical action monotony these comic book films embrace. “Ant-Man” may be one of the smaller, lesser know heroes in the Marvel universe, but this film makes it feel just like one of the heavyweights.
3.75 out of 5.00