In what could be the biggest review series in the history of Obsessive Viewer, I’m committing myself to reviewing all the movies and shows in Marvel Studios’ Cinematic Universe. You can find an index of my MCU reviews here and check out The Obsessive Viewer Podcast here. Now, here’s my review of Ant-Man.
Ant-Man has the distinction of being the Marvel Studios movie in which I had the least amount of faith going into the theater. As Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was ending, I was nervous about the lack of Edgar Wright in the director’s chair for this decidedly unique superhero movie. Wright had been working on the movie since 2006 before abruptly quitting the project last year before filming began.
Despite enjoying the majority of the MCU movies and spin-off TV shows (all well-documented here on ObsessiveViewer.com) and being a big fan of Paul Rudd, I had my doubts. Fortunately, director Peyton Reed managed to pull off a satisfying entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a solid introduction to the Marvel Studios’ most bizarre super hero yet.
Upon his release from prison, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) struggles to find work. When he’s fired from his job, Scott’s friends convince him to break into a house. That’s how he meets Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) a retired scientist who hires Scott to break into Pym Technologies to get his hands on a suit his protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) has developed. With the help of Hank’s daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank’s Ant-Man suit (which shrinks the person wearing it), Scott sets to pull off a heist of ant-like proportions.
Ant-Man stumbles a bit in its first half hour as it struggles to find its footing and its voice. From what I understand about the troubled production, the majority of Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish‘s original script remains, however Adam McKay, Paul Rudd and others reworked it prior to filming. Add to that the reports that Wright’s departure was due to Disney’s interference with the story, and it’s no surprise that the movie struggles in places. But by all accounts, Ant-Man is actually a better movie than it has a right to be.
The action sequences featuring Rudd in the suit alternating between ant and human size lead to some impressive set pieces. It’s encouraging to know that after 11 movies and 3 TV shows, Marvel Studios can deliver some unique action without making audiences feel action fatigue. It’s a blast seeing Ant-Man in action as the movie transforms confining spaces into massive fields of battle.
In my franchise review series, I’ve made my frustrations with origin stories known. Fortunately, Ant-Man is a “pass the torch” movie with the hero’s origin tied into the plot of the movie. It isn’t as noteworthy and economic as Iron Man or The Incredible Hulk, but the movie does a good job selling why we should be on Scott Lang’s side.
What Ant-Man fails to do well unfortunately, is in communicating the stakes of the heist and what exactly motivates Hank Pym to want to steal the Yellowjacket suit. It’s touched on in the form of a flashback but it feels like the personal pain in Pym’s history isn’t distinct enough a reason for Hank to hide his research and steal Cross’s prototype. When asked why Hank needs Scott to don the Ant-Man suit he simply says he can’t wear it himself because wearing the suit “takes its toll.” It was unclear to me whether he’s referring to the personal tragedy in his back-story or referring to the act of shrinking himself so many times over the years. Things like that cast doubt in me about the motivations of characters.
When it comes to villain Darren Cross, he’s one of the stronger drawn villains of the MCU’s Phase Two. His ruthlessness to the point of being psychotic is demonstrated early in the movie. The shock of an action easier carries well into a tense confrontation scene between him and Hank later.
When Cross finally transitions into the movie’s super villain Yellowjacket late in the film, he’s formidable and a very credible threat to Lang. Perhaps my favorite thing about Cross/Yellowjacket is simply how frightening the suit is when he’s onscreen. And while the action in Ant-Man‘s climax is a little formulaic and expected, the cleverness inherent to the plot device of shrinking people breathes a lot of life into the final battle.
Though there isn’t an Ant-Man 2 on the slate for Marvel’s Phase Three, Ant-Man leaves itself wide open for franchising. Paul Rudd will appear in next year’s Captain America: Civil War and Ant-Man naturally connects itself into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I wouldn’t mind seeing what this character and this world could do in a sequel not marred by trouble behind the scenes.
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