Director: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll
Please note, this review contains minor spoilers for the movie Ant-Man (including the mid and post-credits scenes, and some of the other films in the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe).
Ant-Man, the 12th film (Wow, seriously 12th film?!) in the Marvel Studios’ “Marvel Cinematic Universe” (MCU) was not without its problems. Originally Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs The World) was on board to direct, but just 14 months before the July 17th release date of Ant-Man, Wright suddenly announced he would not be taking the project further, stating creative “…differences in their visions of the film” between him and Marvel Studios bigwigs.
Wright or Wrong?
Wright left pretty big shoes to fill, but Peyton Reed (Yes Man, Bring it On), stepped in to lace them up. Many people, including myself, wondered whether Reed had the credentials to take on this project at such a late stage. There will inevitably still be much speculation on the film Edgar Wright could’ve made, and indeed how much of his original vision remains in what we see in the finished product. What is certain is that the finished product is fantastic, regardless of which bits were Wright or Reed, what could’ve been or what it is.
As expected, it is an origin story: “cat-burglar”, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) becomes the eponymous hero of the movie’s title – with an interesting back-story into the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), creator of the Pym Particle and founder of Pym Tech included as well.
Pym recruits Lang to pull off an elaborate heist to steal a new suit, the “Yellowjacket”, designed by his protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Cross plans to sell the suit to Hydra for them to use as a weapon. In order to do this, Lang must harness the power of Pym’s Ant-Man suit, an incredible piece of tech which allows the wearer to shrink down to the size of an ant (obviously), yet also gives them super-human speed and strength. Lang is also taught how to communicate with ants and use them as allies. Which comes in pretty handy!
This film is a lot of fun, there are plenty of laughs, great action sequences, and enough Easter Eggs and references to keep the Marvel fans happy! The thing which really struck me, is that despite the potentially silly concept, at no point did I find the film ridiculous. Paul Rudd brings great sincerity and realness to the role of Scott Lang, and whether he is struggling to make ends meet and be a good father, or riding on the back of an ant in miniature form, I was totally on board with this character.
I really liked the parallels which can be drawn between the two father figures in this film. Lang is a divorced father of a young girl, unable to get a job which pays well enough to support his daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), after a term in prison. Money might form part of his motivation, but ultimately his motivation for becoming the Ant-Man is protecting Cassie and the desire to be a good father or as Hank says to Scott “This is your chance to earn that look in your daughter’s eyes, to become the hero that she already thinks you are.” Similarly, Pym is a widowered father to Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), still mourning the loss of his wife Janet van Dyne (THE WASP!!!), whom died on one of their missions together. Hope is the obvious choice for the Ant-Man mission, but Hank refuses as he is desperate to protect his daughter from her mother’s fate, whatever the cost.
Speaking of The Wasp, we do get to see her in a flashback with Pym in the original Ant-Man suit. In the mid-credits scene it is also hinted that the character might be making an appearance in another film, with Hank finally letting Hope spread her proverbial (and literal?) wings, by unveiling the new Wasp suit, which presumably she will step into.
Further tidbits for the fans include various references to The Avengers, and an appearance from one of the new Avengers, Falcon (Anthony Mackie), who fights Lang in a very entertaining scene at the new Avengers facility which we saw at the end of Age of Ultron. There is also a very subtle, possibly or possibly not, reference to Spider-Man, but make of that what you will.
The storyline is a little bit “Superhero plot-by-numbers”, an ordinary guy suddenly gets extraordinary powers, the bad guy wants to use the same powers for ill, and ultimately the hero has to fight the bad guy in order to put an end to his nefarious plans. You’d be forgiven for thinking, “I’ve seen this all before”, as it is not too dissimilar to the plot of the first film in the MCU, Iron Man. It also isn’t obvious enough what Cross’ motivation is for selling the Yellowjacket suit to Hydra. He seems to go from 0 to crazy very quickly, and it isn’t entirely clear why.
THE SPOILER (I did warn you!)
The post-credits scene is also a direct lift from the new Captain America: Civil War film, which hints at Ant-Man’s role. Falcon says “I know a guy” in reference to someone who can help them out. We can safely assume he is referring to Ant-Man, partly because we already know that Ant-Man will feature in Civil War, and it is also a great callback to the same line said by Pym earlier in the film, in reference to Scott Lang.
I saw this movie and you should too because it is very entertaining and a great kicking-off point for Marvel’s phase 3 of films. There’s witty one-liners, amazing visual effects, and a surprising amount of emotion for a film about a man who becomes the size of an ant to fight an equally pint-sized bad guy. In terms of how this fits into the MCU, I would put Ant-Man up there with other solo character films like Iron Man and Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier – it really is that good! I would say it is a difficult film to get into in the unlikely event that you have not seen any of the previous MCU films, but it is funny and action-packed enough to keep the casual viewers entertained as well as pleasing fans. I could just be a biased Marvel fan, but even I will admit when a film is terrible (Iron Man 2, I’m looking at you!!), but Ant-Man really surprised me with how good it is, so go see it!
Agree with everything I’ve said, or am I a terribly misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Please let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to share as well.