“Ant-Man” represents something both new and exciting for Marvel, but also something old and familiar. Certainly it was a question mark on many people’s minds going into Marvel’s latest production. Considering some of the behind the scenes drama with former director Edger Wright departing the project he had been attached too since the days of the original “Iron Man”. And the seemingly rushed rewrites from Paul Rudd and Adam Mckay just weeks before shooting, and the hiring of an untested comedic director Peyton Reed; this project had many reasons to fail. Still, this is Marvel, the brand has certainly earned the trust of the general audience. Yet the hit and miss marketing of this property also gave me reason to doubt.
Marvel and crew were able to put together a fun and entertaining but very flawed superhero film. The script isn’t perfect with many underwritten plot elements and characters but this movie excels with bringing fun and exciting action sequences and solid performances out of the actors. Then, while also mixing in Heist elements with standard superhero fare, Marvel has sold another bizarre character to the world (even if the movie sometimes feels a little too standard).
After retiring years ago as the Ant-Man, Hank Pyhm has lost control of his own company. His apprentice, Darren Cross, has taken over his work and is attempting to recreate the “Pyhm Particle” which would give him the abilities of the Ant-Man. Knowing this technology would be a threat to the whole world if fallen into the wrong hands, Pyhm recruits ex-con Scott Lang to take up the mantle of the Ant-Man and stop him before Cross is able to unleash his plans.
What’s sort of refreshing about “Ant-Man” is this sort of a step backward for Marvel but at the same time isn’t really. I mean that in the best way possible too. Ever since building this massive universe each film feels bigger than the last. With an endless collection of sequels flooding the superhero market (with the exception of “Guardians of the Galaxy”), this film takes things back to basics. A superhero origin story that has more in line with “Iron Man” and “Captain America: The First Avenger” then it does “Avengers: Age of Ultron” or “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. It is refreshing to see a simple story superhero story being told on screen again.
I think the issues though is this film follows superhero tropes sometimes too well and becomes to feel fairly standard by the end of the third act. While director Peyton Reed does a great job throughout the majority of this film of creating the feeling of a heist movie, like “Ocean’s Eleven” or “Fast Five”, the third act feels pretty standard. It becomes apparent towards the final confrontations that certain characters and relationship were underwritten to focus solely on our main character and his training.
The relationship between Corey Stall’s character Darren Cross, and Michael Douglass’s character Hank Pyhm, wasn’t fully developed. We get hints towards broken feelings and mentor relationship gone sour. The final confrontations could have really been more dramatic and have a heavier feel on the overall narrative. I also didn’t completely buy into the broken relationship of Hank Pyhm and Evangeline Lilly’s character Hope van Dyne, Pyhm’s daughter. The daddy issues between the two don’t always feel natural to the rest of the entire film’s story. Plus the development of those issues always seems to intersect at strange and inappropriate spots in the story.
However, the focus on Scott Lang makes for a likeable and compelling character. He feels well rounded and has a nice charm and wit to him that only Paul Rudd would be able to accomplish. In the same way Robert Downey Jr. took the character of Tony Stark and made it his own, Paul Rudd takes Scott Lang and makes it his own as well. With just the right amount of infusion of his own personality while never letting his comedic persona over shadow the titular character, it makes me wonder why Rudd hasn’t played a superhero before.
Besides Paul Rudd, we have his own “crime crew” (if you will). The group is made up of Michael Peña, David Dastmalchian, and T.I. and are prime examples of how to make funny, off beat comedic side characters but not taking it too far and making them annoying. They are in for the correct amount of screen time and make you laugh throughout the feature. Some of the most memorable moments are not of Paul Rudd or the thrilling action it’s Michael Pena and the rest of the crew. At first you may find them irritating, but within 5 minutes that first impression is out the window and we are treated to a great group of side characters.
You might be skeptical going in with Peyton Reed at the helm, questioning whether the action will be any good or not. Reed however takes the basic concepts that Edger Wright set up (and demoed at Comic Con) and adds his own spices and flavors to them making for some memorable sequences. Reed rightly strikes the balance between credible danger in the action scenes and just plain goofy fun. You might make the mistake of believing this to be standard grab bag of superhero fight sequences but Reed adds large amounts of creativity (and grand special effects) in those pivotal scenes. With Ant-Man’s ability to shrink at will it creates a dynamic between the character and the action that isn’t present in other superhero films.
It struck me after the film ended though, there wasn’t enough of that impeccable action. Plus the film is too short and takes too many easy story short cuts to end problems quickly and smoothly. This movie has so much going for it and because “Ant-Man” is such an unknown property there is so much room for surprises and creative muscle flexes. There are flashes of it throughout the movie but the uneven script and character relationship work does hurt what could have been an exceptionally strong film. For what it is I had a lot of fun while I was in theater and is a perfectly enjoyable film on many different levels. You just know watching this it could have been even more than it already was.