For the first half hour of Marvel’s latest comic to hit the big-screen, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that if this movie weren’t a MARVEL film — would I even care about it. I mean it’s about a man whose superhero powers are that of an ant. Not exactly what at first or even second blush get you riled up for a film the way a war between Superman and Batman can. Of course referring to DC’s blockbuster entry Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that arrives early next year. And sure perhaps it’s best to compare the draw of that heavyweight with Marvel’s own competing colossus Captain America: Civil War. If it avoids collapsing under its own weight the way Avengers: Age of Ultron did at times, it could stand to be Marvel’s biggest film if not its best yet. But with the promise of titans in the future we are left with Marvel’s Ant-Man, which is a change of pace certainly but sometimes that’s just what we need.
Before Ant-Man gets good it is a bit ugly.
Before Ant-Man gets good it is a bit ugly. Character introductions are difficult scenes to direct but some movies pull it off with a flair for greatness like Guardians of the Galaxy expertly did. In that film, from the moment it begins we are pulled into its story and each new character comes on stage with a purpose and it makes us feel like we’ve been the best of pals since grade-school. In Ant-Man these early sequences of the film just don’t grab attention in the same way. They carry a load of exposition and if it weren’t for the brilliance of Michael Douglas who plays the role of Hank Pym my mind may have totally wandered off. But soon this film gets going in earnest and when it does it is filled with the light-hearted feel-good-action that is often at the core of the Marvel cinematic formula when it gets it right.
When Falcon enters the big screen, the movie is propelled into an entirely different orbit.
Of course it doesn’t hurt to drop an Avenger into the mix when your trying to make a movie about a hero that the audience may have an initial difficulty connecting with. When Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie, enters the big screen his commanding presence and familiarity along with the tie-in with the Avengers storyline helps propel the movie into an entirely different orbit. We get the first true taste of Ant-Man in action and it is done with wit, humor and Marvel fun. It’s the first time in Ant-Man I wasn’t just watching another Marvel movie but instead was enthralled by it. That scene is excellent and it’s the sort of scene that you just want to go on forever. It’s the turning point for the film and suddenly there’s no turning back. Ant-Man is ready to carry more than its own weight.
The plot which in the early sequences of the film felt like Honey I Shrunk the Kids jumps genres into heist scenes reminiscent of Ocean’s Eleven with a rag-tag group of ex-convicts that together add a punch of humor in the various scenes they are involved in as they attempt to help Ant Man portrayed by Paul Rudd stop the evil plans of Yellowjacket that is brought to life by Corey Stool. Michael Peña who plays Luis the leader of the group of ex-convicts and friend of Scott Lang/Ant-Man loads the film with humorous lines and comedic acting that received some of biggest laughs from the audience. Ant-Man is a mainstream comedy adventure and though that doesn’t feel as lofty as some of Marvel’s previous films, it’s the right fit for this one. There are over-the-top visual gags that are intended to and succeed in getting a laugh. This movie isn’t afraid to poke a little fun at its comic book larger-than-life nature and because of that it mostly wins.
Paul Rudd is a major reason for the success of Ant-Man.
A major part of the success of the film comes from Paul Rudd who gets writing credits for the film alongside his work as the lead protagonist. Helping director Peyton Reed steer this movie back into good graces after its rough and tumble start that saw director Edgar Wright removed from the project. Rudd’s comedic influences carry throughout the film but it’s the way he lends well to Scott Lang’s more gripping emotional moments that surprise. Moments like when he interacts with his daughter that serves as Scott’s driving motivation in this movie. His time on-screen with his love interest Hope played by Evangeline Lilly is also nuanced and charming. Evangeline Lilly’s performance is rather captivating as well by giving the audience a female character that is strong but outside the stereotypical movie norms. Hope van Dyne is filled with ranging emotions and the audience experiences them with her as she grows throughout the film turning into one of its most endearing characters.
Ant-Man isn’t a landmark movie for Marvel but it didn’t have to be. What it turned out to be is a surprising, simple delight especially when considering the projects tenuous beginnings. It filled a comedy adventure with emotion and heart, bringing some of the elements of what makes a good Marvel movie whilst not being afraid to be a little different. This is Ant-Man after all, so shying away from that would have been a mistake. Instead the film embraced it and many moviegoers are likely to do the same. I certainly did and because this is a Marvel film make sure you hold that embrace to the very end of the credits but you knew that already — right?