[Movie Review] ‘Ant-Man’ Is Huge Fun
Ant-Man is easily Marvel’s funniest, and I dare I say most original, movie yet, and its titular hero may just be its most likable of all.
While the majority of the comic book giant’s 11 previous films have told effective, yet similar, origin stories of their respective superheros, or perhaps a universe-ending threat that forces a super team-up to save the day, Ant-Man is a much smaller story (no pun intended), focusing on the personal redemption of one dad in the eyes of his young daughter, and another dad in the face of his adult daughter.
Scott Lange is an immediately lovable criminal from the moment we first meet him in a ritualistic brawl just before being released from prison. It doesn’t hurt that Lange is played by the always enjoyable Paul Rudd, who is great in everything he does, never quite winking at the camera but effortlessly bringing the audience in on his journey.
Lange is an ace cat burglar with some serious wall climbing skills, but he is determined to go straight after his prison stay, for the sake of his daughter, Cassie, whom he doesn’t see enough because she lives with his ex-wife and her new husband. This is common and fertile ground for many Americans, and when Lange’s ex urges him to “be the hero your daughter already thinks you are”, we are already cheering for him.
As I said, this isn’t your typical superhero origin tale, mainly because of Hank Pym, a scientist played by Michael Douglas, who years ago developed a suit that can physically shrink him, allowing the first Ant-Man to accomplish all kinds of secret missions for the nefarious S.H.I.E.L.D. organization in the name of America. He even made a suit for his wife, Janet, but she soon met a disastrous fate that caused Pym to lock away the suit and its groundbreaking technology forever.
The film has tons of nods and references to the expanded Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but the biggest is right of the bat in the very first scene, set in the ’80s, when Pym has a brief meeting with some familiar S.H.I.E.L.D. faces we recognize from prior Captain America and Iron Man movies. While Ant-Man certainly ties in very nicely to the established MCU, I believe it is also more accessible as a stand alone movie than most of its predecessors.
When Pym recruits Lange to help him steal a new version of the shrinking suit – a nasty upgrade called the Yellow Jacket – from the corporate mastermind who obsessed about and then managed to figure out Pym’s technology even without his help, it’s time for Lange to rise to new heights and become a good guy for once.
Evangeline Lilly plays Pym’s daughter, Hope Van Dyne, who spends much of the film pissed off that her dad won’t let her wear the Ant-Man suit. She thinks it is her father’s lack of faith in her that keeps her out of the action, but it is actually his desire to protect her from her mom’s mysterious fate. She also resents her dad for never telling her the truth about how her mom really died.
Lilly is fine in the somewhat thankless role, but I have a feeling she will be even better when she’s given more to do in a future film, clearly hinted at during one of two closing credit bonus scenes that you will definitely want to stick around for.
Of course no one made me smile more during Ant-Man than Michael Pena’s talkative criminal Luis, one of Lange’s three buddies (along with David Dastmalchian and singer T.I.) who help him out throughout the movie, all of which are utterly hilarious in every scene they are in. The thing is, these “regular” guys aren’t just funny for the sake of comic relief, but instead they are actually reacting to the often unbelievable circumstances of the movie much like most of us in the audience would probably react.
Overall, it’s Rudd’s film, and he carries it as effortlessly as an ant carrying ten times their weight, like a parent doing the impossible in the eyes of their adoring child. I smiled while watching this movie from beginning to end.
He may be Marvel’s smallest superhero, but Ant-Man has the biggest heart.
Official Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Reviewed by: Matt Artz
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Ant-Man (rated PG13) is now playing at R/C KDH Movies 10 in Kill Devil Hills.