Action Ant-Man

'Ant-Man' Film Review: Pint-sized action, big time fun

July 17, 2015Ben Mk



   
Ant-Man may be one of the founding members of the Avengers in the comics, but when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he's the new guy in town. It makes perfect sense, of course, considering his backstory. After all, it's not exactly easy to sell moviegoers on a superhero whose power is the ability to shrink down to a minuscule size to battle bad guys. Yet, as the MCU has grown, so too have their films embraced more and more fantastical notions. And after the huge success of last Summer's Guardians of the Galaxy, the time has come for the tiniest Avenger to take the spotlight.

In Ant-Man, Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, an electrical-engineer-turned-cat-burglar who was imprisoned after blowing the whistle on the misdeeds of his employer, Vista Corp. Oh, and he might have also hacked into the company's servers, leaked their financial records, and returned millions of dollars in fraudulent profits back to customers' pockets. Now, Scott is being released from San Quentin State Prison, and he's looking to make good by redeeming himself in the eyes of his young daughter. But with a criminal record, he finds it difficult to get a job and get his life back on track.

Enter inventor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Thirty years ago, Hank discovered the Pym particle, a chemical that enabled him to shrink down to a mere 3.5 millimeters while retaining his full-size strength, transforming him into the Ant-Man, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s smallest and most secret Cold War weapon. But after the death of his wife, Hank hung up his Ant-Man suit, resigning from S.H.I.E.L.D. and taking his trademark technology with him. Now, however, Hank's former protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), is on the verge of duplicating Hank's revolutionary work. Not only that, he's militarized his version of the Ant-Man suit, called it the Yellowjacket, and plans on selling it to H.Y.D.R.A.

And so director Peyton Reed and screenwriters Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish (with additional credit going to Adam McKay and Rudd himself) establish the stakes for this origin story, which revolves around Hank and his estranged daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lily), recruiting a reluctant Scott to take on the Ant-Man mantle so that he can help them break into Darren's highly-secured research facility, steal the Yellowjacket, and destroy it before it falls into the wrong hands.

Of course, there's always a catch. Before Scott can even begin to contemplate pulling off the heist, he'll have to master the art of communicating with ants (a feat accomplished with the help of a hearing-aid-like device created by Hank), learn how to fight, and "borrow" a piece of tech from the Avengers' new home base in upstate New York, none of which will come easy. Luckily, Scott can also rely on help from his gang of fellow thieves, Luis (a hilariously scene-stealing Michael Peña), Kurt (Dave Dastmalchian) and Dave (Tip "T.I." Harris).

The result is a refreshing change of pace from the usual big screen superhero blockbuster, a movie that forgoes the typical save-the-world-from-certain-destruction formula (and all the twists, turns and complexities that entails). On the contrary, Ant-Man's story is utterly straightforward and simple — so simple, in fact, that it almost feels like something that could have been told in a Marvel One-Shot, the short films that accompanied the home video iterations of movies like Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World.

No, it's not Ant-Man's plot that makes it worth watching. What makes it so enjoyable is how it all comes together — the awe of seeing a miniaturized Scott ride the raging rapids inside a dingy bathtub, get sucked up by a vacuum cleaner, and narrowly avoid getting stomped to death under the heels of gyrating nightclub patrons; and the ease of how the character is integrated into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, thanks to cameos by Hayley Atwell, John Slattery and Anthony Mackie, as well as references to soon-to-be-seen heroes like Spider-Man and the Wasp, the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man's role in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War.

It all adds up to another bona fide win for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yes, Ant-Man is fun, and it's funny, but it's certainly not dumb. Viewed as an origin tale, it's more or less comparable to Iron Man, only filtered through the tongue-in-cheek lens of Guardians of the Galaxy. And while this first big screen outing for the pint-sized hero exercises admirable restraint, keeping the scope of the adventure relatively small and self-contained, given Marvel's current track record you can be sure that even bigger and better things lie ahead.


Ant-Man releases July 17th, 2015 from Walt Disney Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sci-fi action violence. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 57 Mins.






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