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Review: Ant-Man (2015)

Ant-Man (2015)

Directed by: Peyton Reed

Premise: A part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A burglar (Paul Rudd) is recruited to become a superhero by donning a suit that shrinks him to the size of an insect and allows him to control ants. He must stop a corrupt businessman from selling this technology to a terrorist group.

What Works: All superhero movies have an inherent ridiculousness to them. Ant-Man is a bit more ridiculous than most but the filmmakers overcome that and pass off the premise in a way that mostly makes sense within the context of their story. The special effects make the illusion convincing and the action sequences are creative, with Ant-Man deploying the technology in unexpected ways. One of the keys strengths in the Marvel films has been the casting and Ant-Man features some very good pairings of actors and roles. The film is led by Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, a burglar with a sense of justice who is recruited to become Ant-Man. Rudd’s greatest strengths have been his likability and everyman qualities. That makes him quite different from the other heroes in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. He isn’t a billionaire genius, a Norse god, or an enhanced super soldier and that makes him much more accessible and ultimately more heroic. Michael Douglas is cast as Hank Pym, the inventor of the Ant-Man technology, and Douglas brings wisdom and weariness to the part. The villain of Ant-Man is played by Corey Stoll and although the part is small Stoll is quite good. For most of the movie his villainy is ambiguous and Stoll plays it effectively that way. The story of Ant-Man is primarily a superhero origin story, which has been seen many times before, but the filmmakers move through the requisite recruitment and training sequences at a brisk pace and merge the origin story with a heist plot. That combination works out well and the heist puts something concrete at stake that gives the climax some additional dramatic weight. Ant-Man includes a writing credit by Edgar Wright and although the film isn’t as stylized as Wright’s movies it does feature his sense of humor, which makes Ant-Man much more enjoyable than a lot of self-important superhero movies. Ant-Man also manages to be a little subversive. Marvel’s better superhero films question the use of violence and the weaponization of technology and Ant-Man goes a step further with a corporate villain and a hero who prevents the proliferation of technology.

What Doesn’t: Even for a superhero movie, Ant-Man has some credibility problems. The story hinges on some extraordinary coincidences. The way that Hank Pym lures Scott Lang into the Ant-Man job is overly complicated; it hinges on an unlikely series of events and why Pym needs to entrap Lang in this overelaborate way does not make much sense. The film also plays fast and loose with its physics. The technology of Ant-Man shrinks the distance between atoms, so it changes the density of the hero, but Ant-Man still has the weight and force of a full size human being. Sometimes the filmmakers acknowledge that and use it to their advantage but other times they ignore it for the sake of neat looking visuals like Ant-Man running across the barrel of a gun. The filmmakers’ inconsistency comes to a head in the helicopter fight of the movie’s climax in which the villain is able to suit up in the Yellowjacket armor without shrinking himself first. Of the main cast of characters, the weakest link is Hope, played by Evangeline Lilly. The actress does fine in the part but she’s underwritten and Hope and Lang are forced into an unlikely romance. It’s also worth noting that there is a lot of the original Iron Man in Ant-Man, almost as though the screenwriters transposed the script of the 2008 movie onto this one, changing the names but keeping virtually every relevant plot beat.

Bottom Line: Ant-Man is a fun superhero movie. Although it works through a lot of the familiar storytelling beats of comic book origin stories it does so with a lot of humor and it is a very entertaining addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Episode: #552 (July 26, 2015)