Going into Ant Man, I had almost no expectations. I couldn't really picture Paul Rudd as a superhero, I was very upset that the production lost Edgar Wright, one of my favorite directors, along the way, and the hero wasn't one that I found particularly interesting. Alas, Marvel and Disney once again created a wonderful, if not formulaic and flawed movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. Ant Man will not go down as one of the greatest achievements in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the fact that the movie didn't flat out suck, is perhaps the greatest accomplishment by Marvel to date.
Ant Man follows the basic premise of every superhero introduction movie that we've seen in the past 10 years. Scott Lang is a genius with a Masters in Electrical Engineering who is down on his luck, has a broken relationship with his family, particularly his young daughter who idolizes him, and just wants to make things right (not particularly original). He has just been released from prison after essentially being Robin Hood by stealing from a massively corrupt corporation and returning the money that they swindled out of their customers back to the people. Even though his crime seems to be looked at as particularly heroic, everyone treats him as if he is a dark and dangerous person. It's an odd tone that the movie sets as it seems to try and give Lang an edge, but even his crimes are done with the best intentions.
Lang is eventually given a second chance to turn his life around in the form of the original Ant Man, Dr. Hank Pym. Played wonderfully by Michael Douglas, Pym was essentially a rival to Tony Stark's father. A brilliant scientist who, back in 1989, created a technology so dangerous, that he chose to hide it from the world. Fast forward to present day, and that technology is now being harnessed by his former protege, Darren Cross, who sees an opportunity to sell the world's most dangerous weapon to the highest bidder. There aren't really any twists or turns in Ant Man, as the motivations of each and every character are essentially worn on their sleeves; so don't go in expecting any major revelations or "ah ha" moments.
Soon, Lang and Pym set out to steal Pym's technology back from Cross and save the world from being exposed to a new super weapon. Assisted by Pym's daughter, Hope, and three of Lang's criminal friends, Ant Man gets rolling along nicely during its second half. The action in Ant Man is some of the most enjoyable that we have seen in any Marvel movie and I really wish there had been more of it in this film (although I am sure we will see him again soon). Constantly shrinking and expanding, Ant Man's fighting style is completely unique as he gains super strength and speed while miniature. The combat is brisk and wonderfully shot as he seamlessly transitions from ant to man in battle to confuse and beat the piss out of anyone who gets in his way.
In addition to the spectacular action, there are new emotional tones in Ant Man as well, focusing on a relationship that we haven't seen much of in recent years, the bond between father and daughter. Both Pym and Lang have fractured relationships with their baby girls and it was nice to see a new family element instead of the prototypical romantic tension that accompanies most of the superhero movies. It was a welcome change of pace in a movie that stuck to every other superhero trope like glue.
The rest of Ant Man is consistently good, sometimes great, and never bad. It moves along somewhat slowly as there is just sporadic action to be found, but Rudd, Douglas, and Evangeline Lilly as Hope, are all wonderful and make sitting through the slow stuff more than bearable. I also loved Corey Stoll's turn as Darren Cross, having admired his work in House of Cards. There are several things wrong with Ant Man, including one particular shot at a deeper involvement in the overarching Marvel story line that I wish they would have taken, but Ant Man is nothing if not an enjoyable popcorn flick. With such a bizarre concept for a super hero, Ant Man could have truly been Marvel's first flop in their recent streak, and although it is the first movie that I felt truly showed the tired nature of origin films at this point, it is a great new character thrown into this ever expanding universe of heroes that someday will culminate into either the grandest, or most disappointing spectacle ever to be put on screen. All we can do is enjoy the ride.
My Rating: B-