With all of the wild, dramatic, intense and sometimes plain over-the-top action that audiences have come to expect from superhero films (especially those with the Marvel logo attached) sometimes it is nice to just sit back and enjoy some good clean humor and watch the heroes just be super. Ant-Man is just such a movie- not too deep, but enjoyable on a smaller scale.
Ex-criminal Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is trying to turn his life around for the sake of his daughter, but is finding it hard to make an honest living as an ex-con. He is approached by renowned scientist Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), whose former protégée Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is close to unlocking a secret he buried years ago- technology to shrink to the size of an ant. Teaming up with Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) and a group of his thief buddies, Lang goes on a mission to steal back the technology to prevent chaos from breaking loose.
Sounds simple, right? And it is- after The Avengers (2012), Marvel has evolved its storyline by getting deeper and darker. Tony Stark developed PTSD, Captain America became entangled in the politics of spies and traitors, then the entire gang has to face their inner demons and figure out whether or not they are the monsters they appear to be. This continual deep storyline and character work is impressive, but it also creates a need for films like Ant-Man because the audience gets tired of all the drama. Don’t get me wrong, I love each and every Marvel film (all for different reasons) but sometimes it gets exhausting trying to keep track of all the dark and frankly sad workings of the Avengers. At some point, you just want these poor guys to be HAPPY for a change (which was why the scene where they all try to pick up Thor’s hammer was such a fun one). Ant-Man is almost pure, unadulterated happy.
Rudd enchants as Scott Lang, a well-meaning and lovable ex-con who was trying to Robin Hood his company- he clarifies that he never robbed, which implies violence was involved- and is willing to do anything to see his daughter, who lives with his ex and her new fiancee. Though this character isn’t exactly new to anyone, Rudd manages to make it his own with some adorable facial expression and a snappy sense of humor, which takes me right back to his days on Friends as Phoebe’s piano-playing husband Mike. While this movie doesn’t exactly give him a lot of chances to show his serious side, it certainly highlights his ability to worm his way into our hearts. And seriously, he looks amazing in pink.
Douglas and Lilly both do well in their roles- I’d only seen Lilly previously in The Hobbit trilogy (though I’m told she’s played other kick-ass roles quite well) and it was nice to see her not mooning over a dwarf and proving her capabilities, both mentally and physically. Douglas also provides an excellent distant father figure, both loving and a bit of an asshole at the same time.
Sadly many of the other characters are a bit cliche- Stoll’s villain has “daddy issues” written all over him, for someone who isn’t even his actual dad (seriously, what is it with Marvel and daddy issues? I’ve counted at least six characters with them, almost evenly distributed between protagonists and antagonists, and I could probably keep going), and most of the supporting cast are a little stereotypical to really be taken seriously. Marvel also attempted to touch our hearts with ants based off of puppies and giving Rudd a relationship with his flying steed “Ant-ony” (adorable), though it felt half-hearted and didn’t really connect the way I think they wanted it to.
Sometimes the movie also went a little overboard with the big-to-little switches- the fight scene on the train set, while entertaining, cut back to how normal-sized people were seeing it once too often. It was jarring and after the first couple of times was just distracting.
At the end of the day, Ant-Man is another stepping stone for Marvel to get to its next big film- if you look really closely, you’ll see the hint for Spiderman, and you don’t need to look closely at all for the hints towards Captain America: Civil War and Ant-Man’s connection to the Avengers. But like its predecessor Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Ant-Man just wants us to enjoy ourselves and only requires a little bit of connection to the rest of the series. So for those of you who don’t feel like following this crazy cinematic universe we’ve found ourselves in, Ant-Man is your ideal superhero film.
It is very important to me that the Cap knows NOTHING about this. Until the next movie.