I’m welcoming Kyle back, this time with his review of Ant-Man, the latest from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Delightful Life received one free pass for a press screening of the movie a few days before its release. We were not required to write a review; all opinions are our own.
I’ve long held a belief that one can achieve happiness in life by lowering expectations. (Well, maybe not complete happiness… but certainly it helps minimize disappointment.) I’m admittedly a Marvel Cinematic Universe fanboy. I have thoroughly enjoyed most if not all of their productions since its inception, but even I was a bit skeptical when I heard the announcement of Ant-Man as the next Marvel superhero to get his own movie. A guy whose “power” is that he can shrink to the size of an ant? They’re gonna fill a feature length film with that, while living up to the standard of entertainment that Marvel has set thus far? Doubtful.
Then I heard Edgar Wright (of Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim) is involved and I got more hopeful. Next I heard Paul Rudd was cast as Ant-Man, and I got still more hopeful. Then Edgar Wright is out over “creative differences” and the doubt crept back in. The film’s release drew nearer and nearer, and despite my doubtfulness, I couldn’t help but get excited. I mean, it is the next Marvel movie, right? It at least should be reasonably entertaining even if it’s not quite as “cool” as the others.
Despite my average expectations, this movie was massively entertaining and just as skillful a production as any other movie in the MCU franchise. It has just the right balance of humor, heart, action and easter eggs that tie it in nicely to the rest of the films. In fact, I would say that it’s better than some of the others in the heart department.
Much of that heart lies in the writing and in the acting by Rudd. He is an immensely likable actor who suits this version of Ant-Man so well. A ex-con for a Robin Hood-like crime, yearning for the love of his daughter Cassie, Scott Lang (Rudd) gets an opportunity to be the hero she believes that he is.
This movie is loaded in its supporting cast. Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, discoverer of the Pym particle which gives Ant-Man his power, does not just play a “Uncle Ben” role here. He drives the movie, providing a solid acting presence that the rest of the cast play off. Michael Peña as Scott’s ex-con friend provides immense comic relief. T.I. (of rap fame) is no slouch here providing some great one-liners. Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale have great, subdued performances as Scott’s ex and her husband. Evangeline Lilly was new to me (but not to fans of Lost) and did a great job as Hope van Dyne – despite an at-times distracting hairdo. Rounding out the cast is Corey Stoll playing the villainous Darren Cross, and let’s not forget an appearance by none other than Falcon (Anthony Mackie) – and not just in a post-credits sequence. (Speaking of the credits – there are two bonus scenes, so stick around!) You of course get your routine Stan Lee cameo, plus an appearance by John Slattery as Howard Stark and Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter.
Most impressive to me, though, is that the film doesn’t shy away from being a Marvel movie. It doesn’t resort to recurrent jokes about the size of its main character due to lack of action or plot. There are a few references to him being small and there’s the great “pick on someone your own size” line which I knew was coming months ago, but this is no “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” with superheroes. The “small” scenes are gripping, usually action-filled, and have a real “Ocean’s Eleven” or “Mission: Impossible” vibe. The fight scenes mix the human and ant scales in an exciting and humorous way. In the end, and this seems a bit silly, I found myself having more respect for insects and their capabilities than before. There are a couple jokes that fall flat, but overall this movie is on par with either Thor movie or the Iron Man sequels, far exceeding my expectations.
I think that some people will not go see this movie because he’s a lesser known superhero but I think that’s a mistake. If the plan is for Ant-Man to be in the next Avengers movie, it will be even more challenging to fit in Ant-Man’s fight sequences with all the other superheroes, but if they can do it successfully it will be outstanding.