Though Avengers: Age of Ultron is likely still fresh in the minds of moviegoers, that hasn’t stopped Marvel from putting out another entry in their shared Cinematic Universe this summer in the form of Ant-Man. Much like last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the source material is definitely one of the less iconic comic book series, but also like that film, that ends up not mattering much in the long run. Though many may scoff at the outlandish premise of a superhero whose ability is simply to shrink to the size of a bug, Ant-Man makes the most of it and gives us some creative scenes and fights that are made unique by the smaller scale, and backs it up with a witty script and good effects to boot.
In an interesting twist straight out of the source material, the movie actually revolves around the second person to don the Ant-Man costume and identity, that being Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), who starts the film fresh out of a stint in prison for hacking a greedy corporation. While Lang wants nothing more than to lead a crime-free life and be able to visit his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), he struggles to hold a job due to his past felonies. When his friends give him info on a potential heist, he eventually relents and infiltrates the home of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), but he only ends up finding what he believes to be a biker suit.
It’s when Lang tries the suit on out of curiosity that things really start rolling. As it turns out, Pym was aware of Lang’s plight and wanted him to steal and use the suit all along. Using a special formula invented by Pym, Lang is able to shrink to miniscule size while wearing the suit, and some special abilities come along with it. Not only is Lang harder to spot and attack as a result, but he still has strength proportionate to a regular sized human, enabling him to knock out most thugs with a single punch. Also, Pym has created a device that allows Lang to command and cooperate with numerous types of ants, helping for sneak attacks and infiltration with their various abilities.
Both Pym and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) start training Lang immediately, as the reason they need a new Ant-Man is due to Pym’s former student Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who is now the head of what was once Pym’s company, and is in the final stages of recreating the Ant-Man suit for nefarious purposes with his prototype, the Yellowjacket. From there, the film essentially becomes a heist story, with Lang and company working out the details on how to take the Yellowjacket suit and destroy Cross’s data for the project.
The movie sticks true to what has become trademarks for films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, those being lots of witty dialog and moments as well as fun and elaborate action scenes. Much like Guardians of the Galaxy, it also mostly works well as a standalone film, with a fun cameo from one of the Avengers and a nod to a certain villainous organization being the exceptions. Character-wise, it really helps that Lang comes off as genuinely sympathetic despite his thieving nature; they even make his reason for being imprisoned more noble than one would expect. Hope also comes off as a strong character despite not donning the suit herself, and Douglas works well as a mentor.
On the weaker side of things, Cross continues an unfortunate trend in Marvel films by never being very memorable, though the final showdown between him and Lang is still fun to watch. Most of the movie’s best jokes actually go to Lang’s three accomplices for crimes (Michael Peña, David Dastmalchian, and Tip Harris), with Peña in particular supplying numerous moments that made me laugh hard.
While those three are absent for the middle portion, the funny moments and pacing still work. This movie gets impressively creative with its shrinking gimmick, especially when Lang accidentally activates the suit for the first time and is flung through numerous areas of his apartment building. The purposes the various kinds of ants are used for are also pretty clever. There’s technically not that much action compared to previous Marvel films, but it’s still a lot of fun, and the climax definitely delivers in that regard.
It’s difficult for me to say whether Ant-Man is a better all-around film than Avengers: Age of Ultron (I’d definitely argue it’s at least funnier), but regardless of all that, I had a lot of fun with it. It’s well-written, well-shot, and while nothing about it screams masterpiece, it’s still very enjoyable. Marvel fans have likely seen the movie already regardless of what reviews they read, but this is one that I’d recommend to newcomers as well. For such a goofy premise, it really feels like the filmmakers made the most of it.