By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
With what could be considered Marvel’s silliest sounding title, this particular adaptation struck me as an even bigger risk than the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. However, when I first heard that Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish were spearheading this Marvel property, I knew, or at least I thought I knew at the time, that the execs at Marvel Studios had something awesome planned. Well, several years later after a creative falling-out between Wright/Cornish and Marvel, the new Ant-Man film is in theaters. We may never know exactly how the Wright/Cornish version would have differed from the cut playing at the cineplex, but for now what we see is what we get, and it’s actually quite fun.
A short time following the events of Age of Ultron, convicted thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) gets released on parole. Having limited options, it doesn’t take much for Lang to fall back into old habits. One particular job, though, will change his life forever. The brilliant scientist Dr. Henry Pym (Michael Douglas), discovers that his once well-guarded, groundbreaking work is being explored for military purposes and seeks the help of Lang to stop former protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from finishing the weaponization. Lang agrees to help Pym and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) carry out their plans in hopes of redeeming himself for his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson).
Director Peyton Reed takes over for Edgar Wright and with the groundwork laid by Wright and Cornish, and further alterations by Rudd and writer Adam McKay, Ant-Man has turned out to be a lively and quite amusing movie. This particular hero really is the smallest character (in more than one way) of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the studio still has managed to deliver an exciting and satisfying summer movie. Following a somewhat familiar formula for an origin story, the film does start off a little slowly, but then really takes off once Lang starts training for his mission.
That’s when the movie becomes a good old fashioned science fiction flick in the vein of Fantastic Voyage, but with some of the comedic elements of Honey I Shrunk the Kids and the usual wit for which Marvel movies are known. The sci fi action and the fight scenes juggle charming goofy fun and edge-of- the-seat thrills competently. The action, though, takes a back seat to the film’s humor which had me laughing often and smiling more.
I suppose it helps to have a charismatic and witty actor like Paul Rudd in the lead role. Though playing it mostly straight through the film, his restraint pays off when he exercises his superb comic timing in just the right moments. I am also rather impressed with Michael Douglas who delivers a sincere and sometimes intense performance as the brilliant, but troubled Dr. Hank Pym. The dramatic gravity that he brings to the character serves as a lovely counter to Rudd’s easy-going, sometimes cocky take on Lang. The lovely Evangeline Lily also delivers a solid turn as Hope Van Dyne, who comes across with a similar intensity to her film father. Corey Stoll delivers a solid performance as Darren Cross, but I feel that the development of this not-so-dimensional villain is definitely a weakness of the script and film.
The real stand out performance comes from Michael Pena, though. Pena, who stars as Lang’s buddy and colleague Luis, steals the show with some hilarious lines, and awesome comic timing. Ever since his riotous, scene-stealing performance in 30 Minutes or Less, I have been a big fan of his comedic work. Pena has already proven himself as a great dramatic actor with several films, but is definitely under-cast for comic relief. It made me tremendously happy to see him eliciting hearty laughs from the audience.
The fact that this movie had me smiling, laughing, and having a fun time overall makes this a solid Marvel entry. It does lack the scope of some of the other MCU installments, but that shouldn’t deter audiences from giving this movie a chance. As for the Wright/Cornish fans in an uproar regarding the personnel changes, I suggest trying to keep an open mind going into this film. Nobody knows for sure that their version would have been a masterpiece. It is possible that their movie could have been better, but they obviously didn’t share quite the same vision as Marvel Studios. Either way, the end result is an entertaining movie that fits in well with the rest of the MCU.