What it’s about: We meet Scott Lang just as he’s getting released from prison where he was incarcerated for the “Cool Crime” of hacking into his employers’ system to return millions of dollars it had stolen from unsuspecting citizens. His skills catch the attention of scientist (and former S.H.E.I.L.D. member) Hank Pym who has kept his shrinking technology secret from the world due to the threat it could pose if it fell into the wrong hands, which of course it still does. He must fight fire with fire and recruits the younger, perhaps slightly expendable Lang to don the suit and fight the good fight… oh, he gets super strength and control of the insect kingdom with the suit too.
Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannivale, Judy Greer, Michael Peña, John Slattery, Greg Turkington
Directed by: Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Yes Man)
PRO: Honey, I Shrunk An Avenger!
When Ant-Man goes ant sized, we see things from his perspective, much like the Disney 1989 classic Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. This is always a fun effect and it doesn’t seem like it’s done much these days. It’s almost like once the advances of CGI blew up the world of special effects, shrinking people seemed too pedestrian and the impulse was to make everything bigger. Watching Ant-Man try to survive our enormous world when he first puts on the suit is definitely the most entertaining part of the movie. The suit itself looks pretty cool too.
CON: Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen
It’s no secret that despite having a figurehead in Marvel Studios producer Kevin Feige, the Marvel movies are made by committees predominantly concerned with the bottom line. As the universe and profits have grown, the studio seems to have come increasingly averse to risk, which we can only assume is why Edgar Wright left the project. The Marvel movies have had some great directors, but none have really been able to put their personal stamp on them the way Wright probably wanted to. This led to four screenwriting credits (Wright and his writing partner Joe Cornish along with Rudd and comedy writer Adam McKay also getting credits). The result is a mixed bag of fan service, silly plot elements, occasional character development, and jokes shoehorned into every possible place.
PRO: Strong Supporting Players
It’s always fun to see actors with indie cred show up in these big blockbusters and this film is no exception. When Rudd goes to visit his ex-wife, played by Judi Greer, and her new cop husband (Bobby Cannavale), it feels like it could be a scene out of a Duplass brothers dramedy. Unfortunately Greer is mostly wasted in this film, relegated to being little more than a concerned mom, basically the exact same part she played in Jurassic World. Michael Peña’s character is reminiscent of his work with Jody Hill (Observe and Report, Eastbound and Down) and is hilarious as Lang’s partially rehabilitated ex-con buddy. Also look for frequent Tim Heidecker collaborator Greg Turkington in what is probably the funniest scene of the movie…. “Baskin Robbins always finds out.”
CON: Miscast Lead
Paul Rudd seemed like a good choice for this slightly sillier Avenger that most people weren’t very familiar with. He’s handsome, sometimes charming, and generally has good comedic timing, but something about him in this movie just took me out of it. I think a lot of it was probably the “Ruddy” lines that were likely written by himself and McKay to get as many laughs in as possible, but they feel misplaced. Anytime Lang makes an offhanded comment about the Avengers it feels like a Rudd character in that aforementioned Duplass indie dramedy making a pop culture reference, except not as funny.
PRO: Expands on the Ever Expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe
I’ve lost almost track of how many films are part of the MCU now (this is the twelfth movie and the final part of “Phase 2”). It really has become a franchise unlike any other, and this film (obviously) continues to expand on it while weaving in familiar elements and characters with varying degrees of success. While many of us are suffering from Super Hero fatigue, you have to hand it to Marvel for the mere scope of this undertaking and making mainstream what used to be the nerdiest of nerd culture. Before Ant-Man was released it was announced that he would be joining the Avengers for Captain America: Civil War, which is where I think he’ll really shine. As we learned in the first Avengers film, many of them work better as supporting characters.
Conclusion: A good time, but not a must-see, particularly if you’re tired of Marvel.
In the end the pros outweigh the cons in this smorgasbord of a film, but it’s a close call. Many of the pros are double edged swords, like some wasted cast members and the proclivity to relate everything back to the MCU. It’s not as fun or funny as last summer’s balls-out Guardians of the Galaxy, but there’s a lot to enjoy here, despite the often ridiculous story elements and uneven humour.
Age of Ultron and Ant-Man may feel like weak finales to “Phase 2” of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (which overall wasn’t as good as “Phase 1”), but A LOT has been set up for Civil War, and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again next summer.