No one cares about Ant-Man. But that’s okay because Marvel films has a track record of making you care about superheroes that weren’t on your childhood radar, the same way DC films has a track record of making you fall out of love with ones that were. Like Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man finds Marvel risking millions to further prove that their brand name is greater than the notoriety of the comic that inspired the character, and while Ant-Man doesn’t hit a Guardians size homerun, it scores in ways that I couldn’t have imagined.
So who is Ant-Man? Hank Pym was a founding member of the Avengers team along with his wife The Wasp, serving more of the Tony Stark role from the films, than the actual comic book version of Tony Stark. Pym’s role over the years boils down to creating Ultron, and being the first Superhero to be shown committing domestic violence, something played up to greater affect in the Ultimate line. So how do you make a character that’s basically Iron-Man meets Bruce Banner fit into a world where we already have a Tec Wizard and a Scientific Genius on the Cinematic Avengers team? You go with option B: Scott Lang, thief turned hero.
Ant-Man is a heist movie with more in common with Ocean’s Eleven than any of the previous Marvel films. The quick set up is this: Scott Lang gets out of prison for pulling Robin Hood type crimes against the rich, only to find himself dragged back in by his rag-tag friends who want to pull off one last score. The theme at the heart of this Disney-Era Marvel film is Fathers & Daughters. Lang feels if he can’t provide for his little girl, he’ll never truly be allowed in her new life where her mother and step-dad see him as just a crook. What starts as a money grab turns into a suit grab, as the house Lang and his Hole in the Wall Gang rob ends up belonging to Hank Pym. Lang makes off with the Ant-Man suit, and suddenly becomes tasked with becoming the new Ant-Man to right the aging Pym’s wrong. Darren Cross, Pym’s protégé has developed a suit called the Yellow Jacket, and it’s now Lang’s duty to steal and destroy this creation before Hydra gains access, and forever end the legacy of the Pym Particle.
Plot BS out of the way, the only question that matters is, DOES IT WORK???
The first quarter of the movie is slower than Captain America: First Avenger. You’ll need the caffeine in that $10 soda to keep you from yawning at the obvious plot devices thrown out in the first twenty minutes of the film. We have Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang being set up as a loveable hero and father a bit too heavy-handedly. Using ever stereotype to get us to like him, the movie forces Lang as “Become the hero your daughter thinks you are” down our throats in a obvious way. This is clearly a Disney device, where the producers knew that in order to have a criminal as your lead you had to spoon feed the audience the reason he was a criminal in the first place. With that aside, the movie really picks up with the introduction of three characters: Michael Douglas’s Hank Pym, full of piss and vinegar who plays the role of annoyed mentor perfectly, adding more adult humor to Rudd’s dopey child-like comedy act. Hope Van Dyne, the daughter and rightful heir to the Ant-Man mantle is played by Evangeline Lilly. Following in the footsteps of Black Widow and Peggy Carter, we have yet another Marvel heroine who is much more qualified than her male counterparts are. This go around she’s not taking her role on the chin, Hope continuously proves just how better she is at being Ant-Man than both Ant-Man’s, but Lilly’s performance never rises to the point of annoying, just bitchy and bad ass. The final piece of the Ant-Man entourage is Luis played masterfully by Michael Peña.
To say that Peña steals the show, would be like saying Wolverine is a “popular X-man.” Luis brings the type of diversity into a Marvel film that has been sorely lacking. Let’s face it, the Black characters, War-Machine & Falcon, are decent characters, but tragically un-hip (I mean they are military guys, not Kevin Hart, but still they are kinda dry for brothers). Luis, as arguably the biggest Latino character introduced in this Marvel Cinematic Universe is authentic in his presentation. This movie was co-written by Adam McKay, best known for writing and directing Will Ferrell films, and it shows in the set-ups with Luis, and the rest of Lang’s gang (including rapper T.I. who does a good job in a sidekick role). The theater comes ALIVE whenever Luis is on screen, and it's never exploitation as Ant-Man is truly about the Bay Area's underbelly rather than it's Silicon Valley. Where the jokes about Fire Ants and “Why didn’t you just call the Avengers,” fall flat, it is the more urban and realistic comedy that keeps Ant-Man from becoming a Honey I Shrunk the Kids, PG movie.
Where It Fails:
Yellow Jacket: Once again the Marvel villain is about as complex as a 3rd grade science project. Darren Cross is better suited for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D than a big budget action movie. Yellow Jacket in costume is as even worse as he becomes a clichéd movie villain that spews tired ass “I’ll get you” lines over and over again.
Scott Lang Really isn’t that good of an Ant-Man: Remember Gizmo Duck from Ducktails. That’s what Scott Lang is. We see him living up to his reputation during the initial heist of the Ant-Man suit, but when he actually becomes Ant-Man, you get the feeling that he’s just a dork that keeps getting lucky. Even when Spider-Man was learning, it was always important to show that he was figuring it out rather than just catching a break. Lang’s Ant-Man is bailed out more times than he actually figures things out.
Why You Should See It:
Ant-Man Vs The Avengers: By far the best action scene of the film. Ant-Man breaks into the new Avengers headquarters to steal a device stolen by the Starks. What follows is Falcon and Ant-Man one on one.
The History: Wasp plays a big part in a small role (Pun bitches!), and the entire backstory of Hank Pym’s Ant-Man sheds light on maybe a “Secret Avengers” during the 80’s that may be revisited down the line in future films.
AN-Thony: Ant-Man’s best friend deserves his own prequel movie.
Cousin Ernesto: Probably the funniest scenes since Iron Man 1.
Civil War: Winter Soldier & The Accords—Nuff said.
After groaning at the corny trailer with Ant-Man jumping over guns and running with an army of Ants, the actual fight scenes from inside a brief case to on a toy train track, actually work in context. It’s easy to judge it as silly at first glance, but the science behind Ant-Man and the stellar cast make it one of the better Marvel films. While I doubt kids will want to be Ant-Man for Halloween like they want to be Iron Man, and few women will swoon over Scott Lang like they do Thor, the character does more than just fill a slot in the new Avengers, he’s actually earns his spot as one of the Greats.
Four out of Five Stars.