After a shocking directorial exodus and a series of rewrites, Marvel’s Ant-Man has finally made it to the screen—and it’s a reasonably enjoyable piece of summer fare, thanks to the total charmer playing the title character.
Paul Rudd is Scott Lang, the professional, wisecracking thief who’s given a new lease on life when Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) shows him the wonders of his incredible shrinking suit.
Rudd was given the job by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), who left Ant-Man as its director after working on the project for years. While Wright still gets an executive producer credit and a writing credit, Peyton Reed (Yes Man), a virtual stranger to big-budget blockbusters, wound up at the helm with a script rewrite from Adam McKay and Rudd himself.
Reed does a good job—but not an outstanding job—in Wright’s place. The movie plays it mighty safe, with an emphasis on family viewing and few of the offbeat touches that are the hallmark of a Wright affair. A wonderful moment involving The Cure is as strange as this movie gets.
After a setup that involves Lang’s release from prison, some business with his ex-wife (Judy Greer) and daughter (Abby Rider Fortson), and a short-lived job at Baskin-Robbins, he winds up in the company of Pym, who is concerned that his technology has fallen into the wrong hands. Pym’s concern is justified, as sinister business partner Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) has uncovered Pym’s shrinking technology, and has created his own suit (becoming a character known to comic fans as Yellowjacket) for nefarious purposes.
Lang is handpicked by Pym to break into his own company headquarters and steal the new suit. Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lily), who wants her own suit, reluctantly trains Lang in the ways of punching, shrinking and conversing with insect friends.
Rudd is so good as Lang that I’m convinced the film would’ve been a dud without his presence. He’s a naturally funny guy who can play schmaltzy drama and make it look cool. The soap-opera stuff with his daughter winds up having a silly edge and actually becomes almost heartwarming.
Michael Peña is consistently hilarious as the perpetually smiling sidekick Luis; in fact, he keeps grinning even when he’s revealing family deaths and marital strife. Peña is often cast in dramatic roles (Fury, End of Watch), but he’s proven in the past that he has major comedic chops, in films like Observe and Report. Douglas brings a nice dose of class and wisdom to the proceedings.
The special effects, mostly CGI, are well-done. The first shrinking sequence, which involves a bathtub and eventual placement on a crowded dance floor, is a true stunner. Lang’s interactions with insects reminded me of another shrinking movie, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, in which an ant was treated like a pet horse. It’s a little cutesy, and the kids will dig it.
Ant-Man acknowledges the Avengers universe in many ways, including a prominent appearance by Anthony Mackie as Falcon, and John Slattery as Howard Stark. The film, wisely, takes a tongue-in-cheek approach with the Avengers, playing things mostly for laughs. It will be interesting to see how Lang fits into future Marvel movies, like the next Captain America film. As always with Marvel movies, stay through the entire credits, folks.
Ant-Man is fun, if not remarkable, on par with the likes of Iron Man 2 and the first Captain America. It plays it safe; I imagine that’s why Wright left the scene. Knowing his work, I’m thinking he may have been shooting for something that was funny and outrageous—and that just won’t do in the firmly established, tightly knit Marvel world. Still, those who have followed the project from its beginnings will find some relief in the fact that it’s not a tonally messed-up disaster.
Ant-Man is not going to leave you breathless with delight, but for my money, it’s still a better all-around movie than Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Ant-Man is playing in various formats at theaters across the valley.