‘Ant-Man’ is going to be huge. Yes, the pun is intended. Going into this movie, I tried to dial back my fanboy glee and view it with a skeptical eye and be critical. This task was both easy and hard. Easy because the film satisfied my love for this comic character and hard because there wasn’t too much about which I could be critical. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
The movie starts off in San Francisco in 1988 where a defiant Hank Pym (played by Michael Douglas) gives Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Howard Stark (John Slattery) and Mitchell Carson (Martin Donovan) his resignation from S.H.I.E.L.D. due to their attempt to recreate his Pym Particles. Carson makes an offhand remark about Hank’s inability to protect Janet Van Dyne (who comic fans know as the Wasp) which causes Pym to assault Carson before storming out of the building. This scene perfectly sets the stage for the rest of the film while also giving us another little bridge between ‘Agent Carter‘ and ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘ (And it’s always a delight to see Hayley Atwell on-screen but one wonders why Dominic Cooper wasn’t available to play Howard Stark for this brief flashback.)
From there, we move on to a newly paroled Scott Lang who vows to go straight and start a new life so he can be a real father to his daughter Cassie (adorably played by Abby Ryder Fortson). But when he gets fired from his job, Scott takes his roommate up on the chance to get in on a heist that could get him the money he needs. Unfortunately, the only thing inside the vault he blows open, is a suit and helmet belonging to the original Ant-Man, Dr. Hank Pym. Soon it becomes clear that Pym manipulated Lang into stealing the suit so that Dr. Pym and his estranged daughter, Hope Van Dyne, (Evangeline Lilly) can use him to break into Pym Laboratories and keep Pym’s protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from selling plans for a miniaturized battle suit (known as Yellowjacket) along with recreated Pym Particles to Hydra.
Overall I absolutely loved the movie. It felt like the ‘Ocean’s Eleven‘ of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Paul Rudd is charming, roguish and commanding in his portrayal of Scott Lang. I also enjoyed Michael Douglas’s Hank Pym much more than I expected that I would. One thing Marvel has consistently done is cast the perfect actor for each role in their ever expanding Cinematic Universe. There have been occasions when I perhaps raised an eyebrow when a casting choice has been announced and I will also admit that giving the role of such an established and beloved character as Hank Pym to Douglas certainly was one of those that caused an uptick of said eyebrow. However, I was very happily surprised by Douglas’s treatment of Pym. Evangeline Lilly certainly gave a solid performance as Hope Van Dyne, but the character suffered from “Black Widow Syndrome” which I would describe as having a strong, capable female character without much to do. (Hopefully that will change in upcoming movies. Especially after the events of mid-credits scene!!) The scene-stealer award certainly belongs to Michael Pena for this film playing Scott Lang’s roommate, Luis, who delights in telling his stories of a friend who knows a girl who dates a guy who heard that a job is in the works, etc, etc. Pena made sure the scenery was well-chewed and his character continuously added to the consistently fun atmosphere of the movie.
The only real negative that I had about ‘Ant-Man’ was that the treatment of the family drama between Hank and Hope. It felt rushed and a bit contrived in order to help parallel the angst that Scott felt in relation to his daughter Cassie. I think that the placement of the tension over the death of Hope’s mother Janet felt forced and the resolution of that tension between Hope and Hank happened almost too quickly for us to even register. Perhaps the back-story of what happened with Janet Van Dyne and it’s subsequent resolution would have been better used in a sequel or prequel depending on which way Marvel decides to take it.
Be that as it may, the battle between Ant-Man and Falcon (yes, Anthony Mackie is in this movie!!) at the new Avengers compound as well as the final battle between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket more than made up for this one minor problem I had with the film. And also, make sure you stay all the way through to the very end of the credits because the mid-credits teaser is only the first of two that we get from this film that puts the coda on Marvel’s Phase 2.
While I had hoped that ‘Ant-Man’ would be this year’s ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy‘, it just didn’t quite pack that kind of punch. However, for what it is, it was certainly on-par with the first Captain America movie and either of the Thor films. In fact, I may have even enjoyed it a little more than ‘Avengers 2‘ due to it being on a (dare I say it?) smaller scale. With the exception of the issue I had relating to the rushed family drama between Hank & Hope, I’d say the movie fired on all other cylinders. It was fun, humorous, action-packed, quick-paced and well-written all while fitting in perfectly with the other Marvel movies that have come before it. If you’re a fan of the ever-growing super-hero genre, you will definitely need to add ‘Ant-Man’ to your must-see movie list this summer!