Ant-Man Review: No Hero Too Small

Ant-Man Review
out of 5

Of all the Marvel heroes that have graced the screen — or are planned to hit screens soon — the hardest to pull off was always going to be Ant-Man. The character — at least the Hank Pym version — was born in a time in comic book publishing where “-Man” was added to everything, and in a universe full of Spider-Mans and Iron Mans, would an Ant-Man connect with audiences? And would those audiences care?

The answer is a resounding yes. Ant-Man actually feels more ingrained in the Marvel Cinematic Universe than even Iron Man. The film version of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) has been a part of the machinations of SHIELD for far longer than Tony Stark, and Pym choose to step away from it all, reluctantly letting the new Marvel Age of Heroes to be born. This is all explained in the opening scenes, and instantly puts and end to the questions of why Dr. Hank Pym has not been there from the beginning, as he should have been.

Ant-Man Review

Marvel’s Ant-Man..Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)..Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal

At its heart, Ant-Man is a heist movie. Sure, there are Avengers cameos and some pretty big Marvel name drops, and two post-credit stingers (be sure to stay for both) to help move the Marvel Cinematic Universe forward, but when you get down to it, Ant-Man is all about one big burglary, pulled off by a master thief named Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). Lang has an estranged daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson) that he loves dearly, and an ex-wife (Judy Greer) and new husband (Bobby Cannavale) who hate him. Life for an ex-criminal isn’t easy, and when an opportunity for a small job presents itself, Scott and his crew (Michael Pena, David Dastmalchian, and rapper, T.I.) reluctantly take the gig so he can try and turn his life around.

Unfortunately for Scott, the job happens to be breaking into the Pym house, and his skills set off a chain of events that will change his life, and the lives of those around him forever.

Ant-Man Review

Hank Pym’s technology is a secret, and Pym’s old protege, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is close to finally replicating it. Pym was able to find a way to change the distance between atoms, and in so doing, he could shrink himself down to the size of an ant. Like an insect, even though he was tiny, he still had the power of a full grown man, now heightened, so he was stronger and more powerful when smaller. SHIELD has always seen this an opportunity to help their fight with HYDRA, and Pym saw it different.

This conflict forces Darren Cross to try and better his mentor. Cross’s right hand — er — woman is Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), Pym’s daughter, who has severe daddy issues over the loss of her mother (and his wife), Janet. As Cross gets close to perfecting the Pym Particle and selling it to the military/SHIELD, or worse, Hope turns to her father for help in trying and stop him. Enter Scott Lang and his gift for breaking into places. Pym and Hope begin to train Lang on how to work the Ant-Man suit so Scott can break into Pym Technologies and steal Cross’s work.

Ant-Man Review

The heist portion of Ant-Man works very well, as director Peyton Reed calls on classic heist film tropes, like montages and voice-over plan sharing. And with Paul Rudd in the suit, there is humor, even where humor shouldn’t be. In fact, I expected Rudd’s Lang to be funnier, and as the credits rolled, I was glad that it wasn’t a one-liner fest and that Reed was able to tone him down. And I say this as a huge Paul Rudd fan.

The soul of Ant-Man comes in the conflict between the fathers and their daughters, and in a way, even Stoll’s Darren Cross factors in here, as he desperately wants Pym to acknowledge him like a father. Sure, this is a super hero movie that sits firmly in the world building that Marvel has been doing now for seven-plus years, but there are layers of subtext here, and may require multiple viewing to full see how many different ideas are at work. The script, based off a story by original director Edgar Wright, does a wonderful job of painting these conflicts against the backdrop of both a heist and a super hero movie.

Ant-Man Review

All good superheroes need a villain, and Yellowjacket (Stoll) makes Ant-Man’s life difficult.

As for the small parts (pun fully intended), when Lang shrinks, the movie changes course. Watching him learn to adapt to a now-huge world and even to control the ants to help him was fun, and in 3D, every scene of the smaller Ant-Man looked fantastic, especially later in the film when things go south (I mean, it is a heist movie. They never go according to plan). This is one Marvel movie that almost deserves to be watched in 3D for these scenes alone.

As for the performances, Michael Douglas takes one of Marvel’s most important, yet inexplicably forgotten characters and gives him gravitas and purpose. Someone at Marvel Studios opted to give all of Pym’s contributions to the Marvel Universe to Tony Stark, yet Douglas’ portrayal of Pym shows that Hank Pym is still very important, and if Scott Lang’s Ant-Man becomes an Avenger, at least some of the re-written history can be salvaged. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope sports her mother’s classic comics hairstyle, and she is a stronger female character than most recent Marvel films. In fact, for most of the film, she is jealous that her father chose Lang over her to wear the suit to pull off the heist. This is just another of the many conflicts between fathers and daughters that I previously mentioned. Corey Stoll plays the villain well. With his slimy voice and shaved head, I couldn’t help but think how Stoll would have made an excellent Lex Luthor had he signed with the other guys.

Ant-Man Review

Ant-Man was always going to be a tough sell for Marvel, and only time will tell if audiences take to it as they have for Marvel Cinematic films in the past. Those that do will find one of the better Marvel films in the canon, and that was no small task for all involved.

Ant-Man is rated PG-13 and hits theaters nationwide on July 17.

TheHDRoom may be paid a small commission for any services or products ordered through select links on this page.