**** (out of 5)
July 17, 2015
Paul Rudd as SCOTT LANG / ANT-MAN
Michael Douglas as DR. HANK PYM
Evangeline Lilly as HOPE VAN DYNE
Corey Stoll as DARREN CROSS / YELLOWJACKET
Bobby Cannavale as PAXTON
Judy Greer as MAGGIE LANG
Abby Ryder Fortson as CASSIE LANG
Michael Peña as LUIS
David Dastmalchian as KURT
T.I. as DAVE
Directed by: Peyton Reed
BY KEVIN CARR
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After the wild success of both “Avengers” movies and last year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” it can sometimes be hard to remember the early days of Marvel Studio’s films. Yeah, the “Iron Man” movies have always been huge blockbusters, but many people forget the successful-yet-not-unprecedented performance of movies like “The Incredible Hulk,” “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger.”
However, Marvel has pulled things back a bit as they prepare for Phase Three in their roll-out, giving us an old-school origin film for a somewhat obscure character in its superhero universe. In this sense, “Ant-Man” has more in common with the earliest films in the series than the box office juggernauts of the “Avengers” and “Iron Man” films.
In fact, this is rather refreshing, considering “Avengers: Age of Ultron” kicked off this summer’s movie season with dozens of characters that tied together multiple existing properties and planted the seeds for four or five other movies down the road. It’s nice to see the series settle down a bit and just give us a movie that isn’t expected to reinvent modern cinema.
Unless you’re an avid reader of Marvel’s comic books, the character of Ant-Man is likely unknown to you. He has similar powers as DC’s The Atom (prominently featured in the CW series “Arrow”), but he’s always been a second stringer for DC’s lot as well.
In “Ant-Man,” Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, a burglar who is trying to stay connected to his young daughter after getting out of prison. Scott gets a chance at redemption when Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) taps him to wear a special suit that allows him to shrink down to microscopic size. Pym enlists Scott’s help to break into his former company and stop them from developing the suit into weapons.
At it’s heart, “Ant-Man” is really just a punchy heist movie masquerading as a superhero film. It’s different from the other characters in Marvel’s staple, which gives it a bit of a unique feel in the cinematic universe. Additionally, with a lighter delivery coming with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor and sarcastic moments, “Ant-Man” plays friendlier and more fun than the darker slate of superhero movies coming down the pike. (I’m looking at you, “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.”)
The silly and sometimes absurd humor in the film shows signs of Edgar Wright, who was originally attached to the film but left due to creative differences, and final director Peyton Reed (best known for rom coms and overt comedies) keeps things light. This leads to a certain degree of formulaic storytelling, but it’s forgivable for me considering this is coming from an old Stan Lee comic book that originated in the 1960s.
The actors do a fine job with Rudd playing the sarcastic Scott Lang exceptionally well. Evangeline Lilly provides a nice female foil for Rudd, hinting at possible future endeavors with her own superpowers. Rudd comes with his own team of Three Stooges for comic relief, featuring Michael Peña, David Dastmalchian and T.I. If you like your superhero movies without a shred of humor, this group will annoy you, but I enjoyed watching their antics, which fit well within the context of the film.
In the end, “Ant-Man” plays less like an anchor release for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and more like a one-off lark that offers some great characters, hilarious comic relief and fun action worthy of the Marvel name. Not everything has to be a massive movie like “The Avengers,” and I got the sense watching “Ant-Man” that they weren’t expecting this to break any records. Instead, it serves to introduce audiences to the characters before he has a greater role in “Captain America: Civil War” next year, and to give filmgoers a rollicking good time with a fun superhero movie.
Just because “Ant-Man” isn’t going to live up to “Iron Man” as a character intro doesn’t mean it’s less of a movie. The studio has a game plan, and “Ant-Man” fits into it quite well. Not to worry. After all, this is the studio that made a movie starring a tree and a talking raccoon last year, and it became the biggest hit of the summer. They know what they’re doing.