Phase Two of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is officially over! Ant-Man was the last film in Marvel’s money-printing strategic plan. Starring funny man Paul Rudd, Ant-Man is meant to be a different kind of superhero film based on one of Marvel’s third-tier heroes. Did Marvel’s risky venture pay off? Read on to find out.
In Ant-Man, Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, a down on his luck deadbeat father/cat burglar who is recently released from prison. (Basically a walking cliche.) Lang, to get quick money and prove himself to his daughter, attempts to loot a vault in wealthy scientist Hank Pym‘s house, played by Michael Douglas. Only Lang does not find money in the vault. Instead, he finds the Ant-Man suit instead and is, for the sake of time, forced into the position of becoming the world’s tiniest hero. Through the mentorship of Pym and his daughter Hope van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lilly, Lang seeks to stop mad scientist Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) who later becomes the villain Yellowjacket, from insert generic super-villain plot here.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ant-Man let me start off by saying this: Yes, Ant-Man is a real superhero. He wasn’t created just so that Marvel could make a movie and turn a profit. He was, in actuality, a founding member of The Avengers in the original comics. Thanks to his special suit, Ant-Man has the ability to shrink to the size of (surprisingly) an ant. He also has superhuman strength when small and can command swarms of ants. This entire paragraph is not one huge typo. I’m fully aware of what I am typing.
For the casual moviegoer or anyone really, the idea of an “ant-man” is a tough pill to swallow. A superhero who can shrink to insect-sized levels and have the “strength” of a speeding bullet is a stretch, even for Marvel. And the comic-goliath knew this going into the film. The premise is silly and they knew they needed to treat the film that way and that is why, I’m imagining, they cast Paul Rudd as the lead and originally hired Edgar Wright to write and direct the film. For anyone unfamiliar with Edgar Wright’s directing style, he’s the king of silly action. Wright’s biggest directorial contributions are Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and The World’s End. All of these films are amazing and funny. The off-kilter comedy, pacing and action of each of these films are truly unique and insanely fun to watch. This is why I, as well as many Marvel/Edgar Wright fans, were so upset when it was announced that Wright had left the project due to “creative differences”.
Hollywood comedy writer Adam McKay, who you probably know as the guy who has written virtually every Will Ferrell movie in the past 10 years, was then brought on board to re-write the script and Peyton Reed was brought on to direct. With all of the development issues the film faced, it’s nothing short of a miracle that the film was released at all.
All things considered, the film was good. It was a fun, summer blockbuster, a superhero movie that seemed to try too hard to tug at the heart strings. Now I’m not saying that a superhero movie can’t be fun and exciting while also being a great drama piece (here’s lookin’ at you The Dark Knight), but with a premise as nonsensical as Ant-Man‘s, there’s only so much the audience can take. There is a surprising amount of emotional dialog here, mainly between Hank Pym and his daughter. I appreciate that they attempted to flesh the characters out and develop them, but it just seemed out of place for me. It felt somewhat “cookie cutter” in the sense that it was generic character dialog. That being said, the performances by the whole cast were very nicely executed, specifically those of Evangeline Lilly and Douglas. It’s unfortunate that the dialog just wasn’t always there.
Fortunately, that is the movie’s biggest problem. Other than that, the film is very enjoyable. While the idea of having a superhero who can shrink in size is strange, it sure makes for some awesome action sequences, and that’s where this film shines. There are some truly unique and creative action pieces every time Lang shrinks, specifically the last fight scene between him and Yellowjacket, which was written by Wright and left in the final cut.
I remember being a kid watching Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, the X-Men movies and the other barrage of superhero films that came out in the early 2000’s. While not ALL of those films were great, they all managed to make me want something. I wanted to BE the superheroes. I haven’t felt that way in a long time. Until now. Ant-Man‘s awesome action made me WANT to be Ant-Man, fighting alongside the ants, uppercutting villains in the jaw and seeing the world in a different perspective. I can only imagine how much more fun the movie would have been had Wright stayed on.
The Bottom Line:
With the huge amount of success of last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, I think Marvel realized that they could get out of their comfort zone and give their relatively obscure heroes a chance. I’m very glad they are doing so. While Ant-Man‘s got heart and spunk, the character development and drama just wasn’t fully realized. That being said, the film has amazing action that captures what it feels to be a kid again watching a superhero on screen, which is a feeling I haven’t had in a while. Paul Rudd’s performance was great and he will make a fine addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I think that Ant-Man did a good job at closing Phase Two and setting up what everyone’s waiting for: Captain America: Civil War.