dir. Peyton Reed
written by: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, Paul Rudd
starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Michael Pena
3 out of 4 stars
I have had a mixed history with Marvel’s Avengers solo(ish) movies. Starting with Iron Man in 2008, I found it to be a humorous summer action movie but wound up walking out of it when friends convinced me to go a second time; it was too loud and Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark became grating. I never bothered with the sequels. Thor’s two movies were uninteresting to me despite enjoying Chris Hemsworth in both Avenger’s movies. I have loved both Captain America movies. I was familiar with these characters before the movies were released.
Then there’s this summer’s not particularly surprise hit Ant-Man, a character I was generally clueless about until Paul Rudd’s Avengers introduction. My much more knowledgeable roommate regaled the troubled history of the tiny superhero: Hank Pym was the original Ant-Man and one of the original Avengers. He was an abusive SOB and had a troubled history with Janet van Dyne (aka the Wasp, another original Avenger). Eventually, Scott Lang becomes Ant-Man, and this is the focus of the movie.
After being released from prison for a high profile non-violent crime, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) needs to be able to see his daughter. But his mother and her live-in cop fiance don’t want him around unless he is contributing to their daughter. Falling back into criminal activity, Lang gets arrested. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) comes to his rescue in order to take over Ant-Man duties and stop a plot by Pym’s former protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Pym’s daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) helps to train Lang for the mission, always begrudging her father stopping her wearing to suit.
Bringing Ant-Man to the screen seemed a bit ridiculous. Was this character going to be able to hold an entire film? There answer is yes. Ignoring the action scenes clearly designed for the 3D obsessed industry, this was a solid action comedy and easily my favorite non-Captain Avengers movie. The action scenes maintained a fast pace without devolving into an unrecognizable look at Ant-Man’s tiny world, and they maintained the humor of pint-sized action sequences, evoking memories of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. The climactic action sequence involving toppled Thomas the Tank Engine and rapid size changes was deliciously choreographed and timed impeccably.
Paul Rudd fills the superhero tights well. Capably portraying Lang as a loving father and smartass hero-in-training, he carries the film both in voice over and when out of the suit. Michael Douglas makes you dislike Pym without going overboard, reeling in the temper of a troubled man. Evangeline Lilly is strong and confident as Hope. I kept wanting Pym to just let her get in that suit.
The true hero is the screenplay written by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, and Paul Rudd. Wright, who left the director’s chair over creative differences (he didn’t want to follow the Avengers universe model), has a steady hand with comic book adaptations; his Scott Pilgrim is a shining example of the form. The script from a story by Wright and Cornish presents the history of the character without getting buried in minutiae. Fun scenes with Lang’s crew are peppered with breakfast foods and fast talking recollections that breathe the best of Adam McKay and Paul Rudd’s humors. Bring It On director Peyton Reed deserves credit for wrangling the project after Wright’s exit. But after making cheerleaders and spirit fingers memorable, the superhero business was probably a breeze.
Ant-Man is a surprising superhero movie. The movie about a superhero who gets tiny and talks to ants becomes a genuinely funny, well paced action comedy that eclipses efforts from more established Avengers. With superhero movies and television continuing to grow, it’s refreshing to have a new character sliding into this world smoothly.