I must confess, I am not a big comic book reader. Richie Rich was as far as I went with comic books. So to say I knew nothing about Ant-Man as a comic book, is an understatement. But now Marvel is making just about every one of their comics into a big screen feature and has even dabbled in television, as well. Avengers has been my favorite, but now, Ant-Man is giving it a solid run for its money.
Paul Rudd is Scott Lang, a petty thief who has just been released from prison. His buddies, Luis (Michael Pena), Kurt (David Dastmalchian) and Dave (T.I.) have welcomed him to their apartment, despite they are all petty criminals themselves, Scott has vowed to go legit. But being a convicted felon presents problems for employment, even from Baskin Robbins. It is not long before Scott takes up his old habits and breaks into a house that has a safe. In the safe is a weird leather suit. Harold Pym (Michael Douglas) is the inventor of the Ant-Man suit and has plans for Scott Lang.
There are a number of cliches in Ant-Man, for sure. Lang is divorced and is trying to patch things up with his daughter who adores him, no matter what he does. His ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) is married to a cop (Bobby Cannavale) and neither are impressed with Scott’s desire to insert himself back into his daughter’s life. This is all material that we have seen done before. But what makes Ant-Man work are the performances from EVERYBODY. No matter how small the part is, the acting in this film is excellent. Everyone seems to be having a blast and it shows.
Paul Rudd (who co-wrote the script after Edgar Wright and Adam McKay exited the project. Wright was even scheduled to direct, as well) is as perfect as Ant-Man as Robert Downey Jr. is as Ironman. He is every bit as charming, suave and witty and can hold his own in the fight sequences. Rudd has his franchise in Ant-Man and the studios need look no further for their star. Rudd is Ant-Man. Micheal Douglas as Harold ‘Hank’ Pym is great as well. He is able to project intelligence, dry humor and strength to his role as the creator of the Ant-Man suit and the technology behind it. Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne (Pym’s daughter) is simply radiant and Corey Stall as the evil Darren Cross (Yellowjacket) is deliciously evil. He has a sneering smirk that made me squirm. Yet, he can be articulate and almost endearing if he wasn’t such a scumbag.
Lang’s friends, most notably Michael Pena (whose comic timing is hilarious) are excellent. They all have smaller roles but do so much with the material. There are a lot of belly laughs in Ant-Man and almost all of them work. The supporting cast is solid, as well with Greer, Cannavale, Martin Donovan as Mitchell Carson another one of Pym’s adversaries from the beginning of the film. John Slattery reprises his role as Howard Stark and is fine form, as well, even though his screen time is short. There is an extended sequence featuring Anthony Mackie’s return as Falcon, another member of the Avenger’s team. It is a clever and well thought out action sequence that has as much humor in it as action. To my absolute joy, there is not a single character that is put to waste in Ant-Man.
The script written by Wright, McKay, Joe Cornish and Rudd is smartly written and very funny. They have included some tender and sweet moments, as well, dealing with Hope’s mother. Ant-Man is shot on a smaller scale (no pun intended) and does not want to be as big as Avenger’s. That was a wise choice. In keeping it small, that gave the filmmakers an opportunity to work on the story, the characters and the visuals, all of which are top notch. They have blended all of these elements together exceedingly well and where they could have been unintentionally cartoonish and cheesy, they are perfect to scale and with loads of energetic fury. Big and small are combined in the action, to perfection and Director Peyton Reed (whose only other film I have seen is Bring It On, a film about a cheerleader squad led by Kirstin Dunst and Eliza Dushku) keeps the story on a smaller scale but still has made a terrifically entertaining and wildly inventive film. I connected to the characters and cared what happened to them. Also, If you are a collector of fine film score music then you will want to pick up the Ant-Man score by Christophe Beck. He has hit another one out of the park.
Ant-Man is a fun film and in a summer that has seen such disappointments in Minions, The Terminator: Genisys and Tomorrowland, this is a much needed jolt in the arm. Ant-Man comes out of left field where not a lot is known about him and is the big hit of the summer for the whole family.
Ant-Man – ****1/2 out of 5
Ant-Man – Rated PG-13 for language and comic book violence
Ant-Man – Run Time is 117 minutes