What do you get when you put a comedy A-lister in the middle of swarms of CG ants and a goatee-toting Michael Douglas? Marvel Studios’ most recent addition to their already overblown universe.
Ant-Man was at one time a project that appeared like it would never get off the ground. The film was originally headed by the talented Edgar Wright. He left the project after completing a draft of the script. Adam McKay and star Paul Rudd made revisions to the film, but Marvel head Kevin Feige claims that much of Wright’s original vision remained intact in the final version.
In the film, Hank Pym (Douglas) is a scientist and the originator of a suit that harnesses a particle that shortens the distance between atoms. The result is the shrinking of the wearer to the size of an insect. Pym hid the suit away for decades under the knowledge that being exposed to the particle can cause dangerous chemical alterations in the brain. Unfortunately, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), Pym’s successor, is close to harnessing the particle for his own means. To stop him, Pym hires thief and ex-con Scott Lang (Rudd) to steal Cross’s suit.
What follows is what feels like 10 minutes of a training montage in which Scott performs a variety of tasks involving shrinking, fighting, and running around with ants. It is a much longer montage than is necessary, but it has its moments.
That is what the first half of this film feels like. Most scenes have their moments, but they aren’t particularly engaging. Only at the end do we get action sequences that dazzle or otherwise draw you in. However, a certain scene early in the film with a notable Marvel cameo also provides good banter and action.
The film is a visual spectacle, but that’s not always a good thing. The miniature world that Scott shrinks himself into is a CG overload. At times, this green screen world is aesthetically appealing, as in the aforementioned action sequences. Other times, it is a gaudy mess of spiraling environments and crawling ants. There are some clever uses of the shrinking effect, but overall the CG is more distracting than enthralling.
For one of the more humorous heroes in Marvel’s arsenal, a number of the jokes in the film fall flat. Even with the patented Paul Rudd charm that we are used to seeing, some of the jokes just can’t be salvaged. Perhaps the change of hand that the script went through is partially to blame for this, because the acting from the leads is solid. One aspect of the film that does provide consistent comedic relief is Scott’s crew, played by Michael Pena, Tip “T.I.” Harris, and David Dastmalchian. The three actors play off of each other really well.
Rudd plays the unlikely superhero exactly how you would expect. It is a likable, lighthearted character that he owns well despite some of his jokes lacking punch.
Stoll’s villain is a similarly good casting choice. His character initially seems to have no motivation for his evil intentions, but the reveal of the true reason for his evildoing is novel and interesting. The further he slips into his evil persona Yellowjacket, the better his performance gets.
The brilliant Michael Douglas gets unfortunately pinned to a character with little to do besides provide exposition and move Scott through the narrative. The small snippets we get of Pym’s past with his wife and Howard Stark seem movie-worthy on their own, but they are only fleeting moments peppered in to provide backstory of the first Ant-Man.
Overall, Ant-Man feels like an inconsequential piece in Marvel’s puzzle. Yes, the film has implications on Captain America: Civil War, which is exciting in its own right. However, the movie doesn’t quite stack up to some of Marvel’s earlier origin story films. It is nice to see Paul Rudd added into the mix of Marvel characters, but I think that he could be better utilized once Scott Lang is thrust into the larger MCU picture.
As always, thanks for reading!
Ant-Man is currently available to rent/buy on Amazon Video here.
Have you seen Ant-Man? If so, what did you think? Am I being too critical (I mean, I did like the movie, just not as much as other Marvel’s)? Let me know in the comments!
–Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)