Its seems as though most fans of the Marvel films are just counting the movies until the now mega-powerful studio stumbles or worse crashes and burns with their latest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most will admit that it will not happen as they have so much top talent working on their films. People like Joss Whedon, James Gunn, and Edgar Wright…wait, that’s right he left the “Ant-Man” project due to creative differences. And knowing what I do of Wright’s films so far, I can see why he jumped ship on this one. More on that in a bit.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a ex-con who used his computer engineering skills to steal from a big corrupt corporation and gave their money to the poor. He’s also a highly skilled cat-burglar, how those two go hand in hand, I’m not sure. So he along with his buddy Luis (Michael Peña), they rob the home of a wealthy scientist named Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). What he steals is a suit that allows the wearer to shrink to ant size, but still maintain the strength of a full sized man. When the head of a corporation Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) discovers a way to replicate Pym’s shrinking formula and plans to sell it to (wait for it…) the military, it’s up to the gang along with the help of Pym’s daughter played by Evangeline Lilly to stop the evil plans.
Now while “Ant-Man” is by no means a misstep for Marvel, it is not without it’s problems. The two main ones being it became what I thought would happen with last year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”, that being a origin movie that tries too hard to tie itself to the Marvel Universe. When they try to say “Hey, Iron Man is in this world too!” it feels forced and distracts from the story. The other problem is that most of the film is very paint-by-numbers in its approach. It doesn’t take any chances and just goes through the motions, some of which are fun and entertaining, but in the end, its what we’ve seen before, and what we expect from movies trying to replicate the Marvel method.
As far as the cast, which is something Marvel has excelled at, I still think Rudd is the perfect choice for the titular hero. However he stays in the lines and rarely steps out of them, though when he does, it feels fresh and new. The rest of the cast just really follows the script, Bobby Cannavale does virtually nothing, and Evangeline Lilly plays the same character she does in every other film she’s in. Michael Douglas fits really well here, but again it seems as though he’s sticking to the lines on the page. The shinning spot though is Michael Peña, who appears to be genuinely excited to be in the film, as he steals just about every scene he is in.
When I heard that director Edgar Wright was off the project and Peyton Reed (Bring it On, The Break-Up) was on I was concerned that the studio wanted too much for the film to fit right in the Marvel Universe, and it does, but it distracts from what could have been an amazing entry into this ever expanding world. It settles on being a fun but familiar ride, with great moments peppered in along with a mix of both good and bad CGI, and a new hero I expect big things from in future films. Yeah, I had to get a size comment in there.
–Robert L. Castillo