I went into this movie with my lowest expectations for a Marvel Cinema film. This is the smallest budget ($134M, 600k less than “the Incredible Hulk”) for a Marvel Cinema movie yet. I’ve never been a fan of Ant-man either. Then, when Edgar Wright left production, my concerns mounted. Would his replacement, Peyton Reed, the guy who directed “Bring It On”, be able to do a Marvel movie?
Similar to Guardians of the Galaxy, pundits kept asking if this would be Marvel’s first flop. Why isn’t there the same pessimism with Pixar? Marvel is averaging $773M per film. Marvel continues to invigorate and diversify the genre. Winter Soldier had nearly as much in common with Bourne Trilogy as it did with Avengers. Guardians was a sarcastic mash-up of Con-Air, Magnificent Seven and Star Wars.
Ant-man combines Iron Man themes with Ocean’s Eleven and adds its own personality to the mix. We now have a new sub-genre. Just as Guardians is “Super-Hero, Space Opera” and Winter Soldier is “Super-Hero, Spy Thriller”, now we have “Super-Hero, Buddy Heist”.
Marvel continues to get top-notch performances for their films. Paul Rudd impresses as Scott Lang, the apprentice to the long-retired Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglass. After watching the trailers, I was concerned that Douglass and Rudd would make the hero too tongue-in-cheek, but the film took the Ant-man uniform much more seriously. Michael Pena even comments on how cool the suit looks when he first sees it. Pena nearly steals the show playing Luis, Scott Lang’s cellmate in San Quentin. Luis has his own buddies, Dave (Tip “T.I.” Harris) and Kurt (Dave Dastmalchian). They each have skills but seem to have bad luck in their burglaries.
Evangeline Lilly is superb as Hope Van Dyne. She thought about dropping out of the film after Wright left, until she read the script revisions. I’m looking forward to seeing her in future films. She has power on the screen, delivering great action scenes as always.
Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) was a bit stereotypical as the aggrieved protege of Hank Pym. What has made Marvel successful all these years are great villains. Yellowjacket was probably one of the worst villains yet, right up there with Justin Hammer, but this movie didn’t suffer for it.
The movie had great timing for its light-hearted moments and didn’t create a comedy out of the material. The punchlines serve to break dramatic tension and are used to great effect to keep the movie from dragging in its own wake.
One of the big highlights is when Ant-man takes on an Avenger. Again, this could’ve easily descended into camp, but the actors and director keep the action and dialog up at blockbuster levels.
As with Iron Man, Marvel has this innate ability to make the unreal seem believable. They make a C-list hero seem as cool as possible with abilities done in a way that actually don’t seem like a curse. The grit in the bathtub or the debris in the air when Ant-man shrinks are little flourishes that make the world come alive. The ants were very cool guest-stars. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I can’t wait for Ant-man 2!
Comparisons to the other movies are inevitable, but this movie is unique in the Marvel Cinema catalog. I would rank it in the middle of the pack or higher. Ant-man is a fun movie that I could see again and again.