Main cast: Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-Man), Evangeline Lilly (Hope van Dyne), Corey Stoll (Darren Cross), Bobby Cannavale (Paxton), Michael Peña (Luis), Tip “TI” Harris (Dave), David Dastmalchian (Kurt), Anthony Mackie (Falcon), and Michael Douglas (Hank Pym)
Director: Peyton Reed
It is pretty clear by this point that the Marvel Studios movies all have the same formula, right down to the token lip service to feminism when in truth, the movie reinforces the cool white boys club while reducing all the women and people of minority statuses to sidekicks. There will be some family angst, a villain bent on world domination, and the good guys who use violence and destructive superheroes to stop these villains in the name of peace and righteousness. Cops and other authority figures are useless, and it is up to organized superhero bodies to do the vigilante thing. Oh, and even the outfits start to blur together after a while.
Anyway, in Ant-Man, we have a guy whose super-powered outfit allows him to shrink into – duh – the size of an ant. Despite what the law of physics say about force being the product of mass and acceleration, diminutive superheroes can apparently pack a big punch and throw things because ants can do it, so can everyone else. Just get tiny! Oh, and the tiny thing is done because the suit apparently moves the atoms in one’s body closer together. As you can probably tell by now, this movie is fueled by magic science rather than actual science. Oh, and the good guys wear pieces behind their eyes that allow them to command ants to do their bidding. This isn’t slavery, of course, as they are the good guys and hence they are exempt from the law. These ants can project enough electricity to fry out serves, form huge bridge-like and rope-like structures using their own bodies for Ant-Man to use, and if they use, whatever, as long as the good guys win.
Hank Pym was once the Ant-Man until his wife – code-named Wasp – died and he decided that things weren’t so fun after all, so he had to hide his outfit and everything before retiring. Along the way, he and his daughter Hope sort of lost any warmth they might had. Still, today they are working together secretly. You see, Hank’s old student Darren Cross has decided to rebuild the Ant-Man thing – called Yellowjacket this time around – to sell to the highest bidder, and Hope plays the role of Darren’s trusted PA while secretly working with Hank to undermine him. Unfortunately, Darren is this close to success and they have to do something quickly to stop Darren.
Meanwhile, Scott Lang, a brilliant thief, is finally out of jail. However, he has problems finding employment due to him being an ex-con, and as a result, he can’t pay child support. His daughter idolizes him still, but his ex-wife and her new husband constantly tell Scott to get his act together and be the hero his daughter thinks he is. No pressure at all, there. Scott’s former cellmate and now BFF tells him that there is a lucrative gig to be had if Scott is willing to unbend and do some thief-like things now and then. When Scott loses his job at the ice-cream store, he reluctantly signs up for the gig.
He ends up stealing the Ant-Man suit, to learn later that the whole thing is a set-up. Hank has his eye on Scott for a while, and the whole gig is a test to see Scott’s ability. Now that Scott has proven that he is a crack heist expert, Hank wants Scott to use the Ant-Man costume and break into Darren’s highly guarded facility, to steal the Yellowjacket before Darren can sell it to the bad guys. First, Hank and Hope has to train Scott, and then, it’s show time.
Ant-Man is a classic zero-to-hero training of a hero movie in its first half or so, and the second half is a standard action hero movie. If you have seen one Marvel Studios movie before, you have seen everything here. What makes this movie work still, though, is the strength of the cast. Paul Rudd is disarmingly charming in his role, and he pulls off his role very well, even making Scott a likable rogue despite the script often forcing Scott to say “funny” one-liners written in a way that is often cringe-inducing and forced. He also obligingly buys himself a pretty nice body, if you must know, in that now to-be-expected “hero takes off his shirt” moment. Evangeline Lilly, despite being stuck with pretty unflattering hair and a script that tries very hard to turn her role into a one-dimensional cold and haughty dingbat whose role in the universe is to be Daddy’s girl and the hero’s girlfriend, makes the best of her role to her best capacity. Michael Douglas has some pretty good lines here, but his role is also on the one-dimensional side and, like Ms Lilly, Mr Douglas does the best he can. He and Ms Lilly have some pretty decent daughter-father chemistry going, while, unfortunately, Ms Lilly and Mr Rudd have little chance to demonstrate any chemistry between them.
Still, the movie delivers some pretty decent emotional drama to balance the action-oriented moments. Just be careful of the special effects. Perhaps because it’s harder than usual to create somewhat realistic shrinking effects, the special effects here often end up looking like some amateur’s fractal assignment gone weird. Also, the weird anticlimax of an ending is disappointing, as the need for sequels reduces a potentially tragic yet heroic ending into one marred by a contrived and ill-explained “twist”.
The cast is easily the best thing about Ant-Man. Perhaps the formula is starting to wear thin, but the Marvel Studios structure and format in the movie is starting to become obvious and even predictable here. This movie has its share of moments, but I can’t help thinking that it could have been better.