Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Movie Review: Ant-Man

Directed by: Peyton Reed.
Written by: Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish & Adam McKay & Paul Rudd based on the comic book by Stan Lee & Larry Lieber & Jack Kirby.
Starring: Paul Rudd (Scott Lang / Ant-Man), Michael Douglas (Dr. Hank Pym), Evangeline Lilly (Hope van Dyne), Corey Stoll (Darren Cross / Yellowjacket), Bobby Cannavale (Paxton), Judy Greer (Maggie Lang), Abby Ryder Fortson (Cassie Lang), Michael Peña (Luis), David Dastmalchian (Kurt), T.I. (Dave), Wood Harris (Gale), Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), John Slattery (Howard Stark), Martin Donovan (Mitchell Carson).

Perhaps the best thing about Marvel’s Ant-Man is how low the stakes really are. For the first time in a long while in the Marvel Universe, the fate of the entire world doesn’t seem to rest of the heroes shoulders at every single minute, and there isn’t some sort of mysterious stone that we all have to care about for the entire movie. Instead, Ant-Man keeps the stakes low – basically a heist movie, where the hero has to break-in somewhere that has been designed not to be broken into. That the hero can shrink himself into the size of an ant will certainly help him break in – and is also, admittedly, completely ridiculous. But the filmmakers seem to know just how silly the premise is, and run with it anyway – allowing the audience to have fun with the goofiness. Undoubtedly, Ant-Man will get sucked into the Marvel Universe soon enough – with its huge plots, and constant threat of utter annihilation. But for now, Ant-Man is just plain goofy fun.

Paul Rudd stars as Scott Lang – an ex-con just released from prison after a few years inside for burglary. He isn’t really a crook though – but rather a little bit of a genius. His old bosses did something bad, and he broke the law to expose it – which landed him in jail. Now out, all he wants is to get an honest job so he can she his beloved daughter – Cassie. Things aren’t that easy though – and through a series of events too complicated to explain here, he ends up the protégé of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) – a genius who decades ago created the “Pym Particle”, which allows you to shrink to the size of an ant, and also have super strength when you are that small. Pym needs Scott to break into his old company, because his former protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), is close to figuring out how Pym created his particle all those decades ago, which could, say it with me now, put the fate of the world in danger. So Lang, with the help of Pym, and Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) – bitter that she wasn’t chosen to be the new Ant-Man – sets about training to do steal the technology from Cross.

So yes, the fate of the free world is at stake again after all in Ant-Man – but at least not in the same tedious way it often is in the Marvel movies. The movie – thankfully – doesn’t waste too much time talking about that though, instead it focuses on Rudd – who the film allows to pretty much keep his comic persona intact, which works for the movie. His three buddies – played by Michael Pena, T.I. and David Dastmalchain – are if anything even more fun that Rudd – particularly when Pena goes on about what he heard from his cousin.

Of all the MCU movies, Ant-Man most reminded me of the original Iron Man – which was an origin story, with a lot of setup needed, which almost ran out of time to have an actual storyline. The same could be said of Ant-Man as well – Stoll’s villain isn’t given all that much screentime to be honest – but he makes the most of it when he is there. Basically, the movie is a sequence of training montages – which can grow tedious in the wrong hands, but work quite well here. In part, that’s because the special effects are so go – an “Incredible Shrinking Man” is not a new idea of course, but it’s one that director Peyton Reed pulls off wonderfully well. Yes, people continue to be bitter about Edgar Wright leaving the project – and who knows, perhaps Wright’s film would have been even better than this one is, but what Reed does here is actually quite good, and inventive.

In Short, Ant-Man is one of the better MCU movies. No, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and it doesn’t really add much to the universe we already know. But it’s a lot of goofy fun – and for a movie about a superhero the size of an ant, really, what else could anyone want?

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