Director: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Pena, Judy Greer, T.I., Michael Douglas, Hayley Atwell, John Slattery
Rated: PG-13 (sci-fi action violence)
Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.
By Matt Greene
The best Marvel movies work by effectively bringing their larger-than-life characters down-to-earth with quippy, self-zinging humor (The Avengers, Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy). Ant-Man’s creators clearly have noticed this and are running with it. By casting the slyly funny and effortlessly charming Rudd as their size-shifting lead, they’ve anchored their tone in comedy all the while pushing the larger plot forward (notably, towards Marvel’s Civil War). So even though it’s somewhat unremarkable and full of the superhero clichés we’ve come to expect, Ant-Man passes as a middle-of-the-road MCU outing with refreshingly lightness and an immense sense of fun.
You know the story: a troubled guy becomes a superhero to fight a bad-guy version of himself. One thing that makes it stand apart is its genre eclecticism. While it’s certainly a comic-book movie, its cat-burglaring protagonist gives it more of a Mission: Impossible feel. Throughout its silly scifi contrivances and connections to the larger Avengers-protected world, we get small-scale heist set-pieces to counter the great Honey, I Shrunk the Kids style effects and changing perspectives. This narrower focus enhances the personal stakes between the colorful characters. The performances are great, with some solid dramatic turns by Lilly and Douglas, with Rudd and Pena being wonderfully hilarious.
Unfortunately, these two sides to the thespian-coin (comedy / tragedy) don’t always blend perfectly, with the tone bordering on goofy when the film tries too hard. Some lame been-there, done-that hero posturing slows the otherwise breezy levity that carries most of the movie. Luckily, that levity combined with unique action and funny people propels this fun little adventure tale past its faults.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
By Cole Schneider
Marvel Cinematic Studios’ newest offering “Ant-Man” is among their better films precisely because it runs so orthogonal to the rest of their cannon in important ways. It shares much of the same ambivalent-at-best narrative tendencies they’ve relied on: heavy origin story reliance, forced parent-child drama, lots of CGI. Mostly these things are fine even as studio-ballooned tropes, though the father-daughter through-line does get tedious before it’s finally brushed aside for more fun.
Yet much of the movie feels fresh even as it carries the same Marvel veneer. Maybe it’s the remnants of original screenwriter Edgar Wright, but like last year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” it is both clearly Marvel and yet clearly something new. Maybe this new formula will tire too but not yet. Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, like Chris Pratt’s Star Lord in GotG doesn’t feel like a superhero normally does. They lack either confidence or a reason for confidence, respectively, a stark change from the tone set by Iron-Man and followed by Thor and Captain America.
Where those films’ (and even GotG’s) focus is on extraordinary heroism, “Ant-Man” becomes interesting as its focus eschews the extraordinary in favor of the mundane. It still has big action sets, but it’s upended by an insistence on inventive wit and small moments. Small isn’t a word typically invoked when talking about Marvel, but a change in that direction would be welcomed. From a studio that has fired fastball after fastball with mixed results, “Ant-Man” is a calculated 3-2 count change-up for the studio.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars