Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a man who cannot seem to catch a break. He is a wizard with technology and became a folk hero when he struck back at a company that was defrauding its employees, but in doing so earned a stretch at San Quentin.
Scott is a going guy trying to do right by his daughter but his ex is not making it easy as she has halted all visitations until Scott gets his own place and a job. Something that is not so easy with his record and something that the new man in his ex’s life, a cop named Paxton, (Bobby Cannavale), is more than happy to goad him over.
Scott’s best friend is his ex-cell mate Luis (Michael Pena) is more than happy to give Scott a place to stay and a sympathetic ear, but is constantly trying to get Scott to use his skills to cash in on some various criminal undertakings.
At the same time, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is about to launch his devious new business venture that will endanger the fate of the free world, and the unstable Cross is just the right mix of brilliant and crazy to make his latest creation one of the greatest dangers the world has ever known.
Cross is about to unveil a new combat soldier who is loaded in a laser spewing suit of armor who can shrink to microscopic size while retaining supreme strength and agility. Cross sees armies of his Yellow Jacket soldiers as the future, and his creation is something the folks at Hydra are very interested in.
For Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglass), and his daughter Hope (Evangaline Lilly), this is not something that can be allowed to happen, as Cross was once the protégé for Pym and he knows all too well what he is capable of, as such his daughter is willing to work with her father despite some serious tension between them due to the loss of her mother years earlier.
When Scott in an act of desperation breaks into a safe at an upscale home, he is shocked to find little of value save for what he thinks is a motorcycle suit. Once he puts on the suit, Scott learns that he has been watched by Hank for years and that he is being recruited to be the new Ant-man. A hero from days past that Hank created but now is no longer capable of portraying.
Naturally Hope is less than thrilled with the idea of Scott being selected by her father as she had hoped to earn the suit herself. Undaunted, they set out to train Scott in the power behind the suit which also includes the ability to control ants, as they concoct the ultimate heist, stealing the Yellow Jacket suit and all the related research before it is too late.
What follows is a funny and action laden adventure which launches a new hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although the character is not as well-known as his cinematic brethren in the Marvel lineup, he is a very welcome addition. The cast is solid and Rudd captures the mix of wonder and conflict that Scott faces with what has been offered to him and he mixes comedy with a very physical performance.
The film does take some time getting up to speed as it is after all an introduction story but with the pleasant comedy and great FX mixing with a satisfying final act, “Ant-Man”, is yet another winner for Marvel and another character I cannot wait to see more of in the future. Make sure you stay for the two bonus scenes in the credits as you will not be disappointed.
4 stars out of 5
Second Review By Chris Sage
If you’re like me you’ve really gone all-in for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Its mere existence is mind-blowing – something no studio would have dared attempt a decade ago and now everyone is scrambling to replicate. We’re twelve movies in and with the elation and excitement that each installment brings also comes a sense of trepidation. The films are getting progressively better on the whole, but how much longer can that hold true? With everything so tightly intertwined it seems like only a matter of time until we see a tragic misstep – a flop that brings down the house that Marvel built. If any film were to do that, my money was on Ant-Man.
The Ant-Man character has been around longer than most of the Avengers, but in more than 50 years no writer has truly realized his potential. He’s mainly been regulated to a background character that helps Iron Man fix really tiny things, or on one occasion, cure the Hulk of Lou Gehrig’s disease (it was a weird time). Guardians of the Galaxy may have come as a surprise hit for most, but it was based on a highly acclaimed series – a level of success Ant-Man never had. Combine that with the scandal surrounding director Edgar Wright’s departure just prior to filming and things do not bode well for Earth’s tiniest hero.
If you still manage to be optimistic about this film going into it, you’ll be happy to know your faith is rewarded.Ant-Man delivers arguably the best superhero origin movie to date. It deftly sidesteps the pacing issues that plague most first installments and isn’t weighed down by a character so iconic they can’t be changed to fit the filmmaker’s vision. The scope of the film allows for character development to happen naturally which makes the stakes seem more real, even if they aren’t as grandiose as an entire [city/country/race/species/planet]. In essence, it takes all the things that make a film like Ant-Man a liability and turns them into strengths.
Ant-Man, like most Marvel movies is chock-full of applied phlebotinum. This time around however, it’s not in the form of magic gems but Pym Particles, a substance that can decrease the distance between atoms, functionally shrinking whatever they’re applied to. It’s no small wonder then that they cast a Hollywood icon like Michael Douglas as creator Henry “Hank” Pym to help sell the pseudo-science.
Douglas’ portrayal of the super scientist is nuanced, though it often comes off a bit dull. However, when bringing to life a character best remembered for beating his wife, it may have been for the best to avoid making him seem too excitable. In fact, they seem to go to great lengths to distance him from his comic book counterpart, making Pym a widower of some twenty-five years.
It is Pym’s desire to keep his life’s work out of the wrong hands that drives the plot. The film centers around Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), who having just been released from prison, is intent on doing right by his daughter and going straight – despite the protests of his former cellmate, Luis (Michael Peña). Fate however, with a little help from Dr. Henry Pym, conspires against him. The doctor’s continued efforts to safeguard Pym Particles requires someone with Lang’s skill set whether either of them like it or not
The rest of the film plays out like that of a heist movie, continuing Marvel’s formula of combining superhero tropes with the framework of another genre. The combination coming off even more seamlessly than its predecessors. Further proof that Marvel certainly has hit their stride with their films – having discovered the secret formula to great superhero movies, much like Die Hard did for action flicks back in the 80’s.
Unfortunately not every habit Marvel has is a good one. Ant-Man gives us two more adult characters with daddy issues in the form of Pym’s estranged daughter, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and resentful protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who doubles as yet another one-dimensional villain. Stoll gives a solid performance given what he’s got to work with. Yet it seems like the character of Cross / Yellowjacket has no motivation outside of a chip on his shoulder and homicidal insanity.
I would have happily accepted the Scott Lang character as simply a burglar trying to turn over a new leaf. Instead, the he’s handled as a hybrid Robin Hood / Edward Snowden figure, leaving no doubt that he’s a good guy that just happens to do illegal things. It’s unclear whether this was intended to modernize the character or executive meddling to build sympathy for our hero (a lá Greedo shooting first – or at all – in the Special Edition releases of Star Wars).
That being said, Rudd adds a great deal of much needed heart to the film. Initially it’s hard to distance Lang / Ant-Man from most of Rudd’s sardonic performances, but as the film progresses we see as close to an everyman as I believe the MCU is capable of producing. Rudd pulls double duty as the mook in scenes opposite Douglas and the straight man in scenes opposite Peña. By the end of the film it’s clear why Rudd was the best choice for the role as he navigates every interaction with a great deal of charm.
Overall, the film stays pretty tight in its direction. The gags stop just short of being over-played and the heavy dialogue only gets enough use to move the story forward. On top of all that, the visual effects are some of the best to date, with some really creative uses of the titular character’s ability to change size. A solid entry into the ever growing MCU, Ant-Man is a fun and heartfelt ride that’s worth multiple viewings.
Oh, and remember to stay seated for both a mid-credits and post-credits scene!
4.5 stars out of 5