Big things come in small packages! After a summer of larger than life summer blockbusters, it’s refreshing that one of the best summer movies has such a smaller scale and knocks it out the park! After the high stakes battle from Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel manages to simplify the narrative, and once again (for the 12th time) Marvel captures lightning in a bottle with Ant-Man.
For those uninitiated: Ant-Man is an one of the original Avengers in the comic book who manages to harness the “Pym Particles” allowing the user to decrease (and increase) his size and strength, and for years fought alongside Captain America and the bunch. Throughout most of the comics Hank Pym donned the suit, but through the times many have harnessed the Pym Particles, including the films hero Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd).
The film first introduces Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) the creator of the Ant-Man technology (i.e the Pym Particles). During the cold war era, he was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who used the suit for secretive missions. He is very protective of the technology because in the wrong hands it could be devastating. After leaving S.H.I.E.L.D, he is eventually forced out of his company (Pym Technologies) and lives in recluse. Pym’s protégé Darren Cross who initially forced Pym out (played cunningly by Corey Stoll) is very close to recreating the Pym particles and created his own suit to be used for military purposes, something Pym is vehemently against.
Scott Lang is introduced to the audience as an ex-con finally home after serving his time who simply wants to go straight, so he can do right by his daughter. Of course that’s more difficult than he expected. After all he’s an ex-con with a Master’s Degree, so the only place he can get a job at is Baskin Robbins. Needless to say he has to go back to the world of robbery… I mean burglary (the movie will explain the difference). After reuniting with his old cellmate and gaining a crew, he sets out to score. His first task: break into a house and steal an item of value from a safe that happens to be in Hank Pym’s house. Once he successfully gets into the house and through sheer ingenuity is able to open the safe, there’s no treasure, just a suit.
Scott takes the suit home where he discovers exactly what it can do after pressing a button. Then, the audience is given their first look (though some very impressive CGI) of how the world is seen when Ant-Man shrinks. Scott truly has a “fish out of water” experience where he falls on a DJ turntable (almost pierced by the needle), almost being sucked up by a vacuum cleaner, to almost being eaten by a rat: it’s a very surreal experience. Through the headset on the Ant-Man suit, Scott is introduced to Hank Pym.
There begins Scott Lang’s Ant-Man Origin Story, and for a great amount of the movie Hank Pym is doing a great Obi-Wan/Yoda/Morpheus: teaching Scott how to use the Ant-Man technology. Scott learns about another of Pym’s inventions that allows the user of the Ant-Man technology to control ants though radio waves, and teaches Scott how to control the ants. Scott’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) is training him in skilled fighting so that he can use these skills to pull the ultimate heist: the Yellowjacket suit from Cross.
In order to pull of the heist, Lang invites his crew Luis (played by Michael Pena, who stole the show), Dave (Tip “TI Harris), and Kurt (David Dastmalchian), where they plan to perfection the steps needed to go through and steal the Yellowjacket suit. Needless to say, it doesn’t go as planned, and Lang has to step up and become the hero he knows he can be and save the day.
A whole lot!
First off, the story is smaller. There is even point where Scott Lang asks Hank Pym to have The Avengers solve this and he simply scoffs saying they are “too busy dropping cities out of the sky” referencing Avengers: Age of Ultron. In this film, in order to save the world, we don’t need large explosions, we need a smart thief. As a result the film has such a smaller scale. Even though Scott is saving the world, he’s doing it by fighting Cross instead of an alien invasion or thousands of robot drones. Even the climax of the film is on a child’s Thomas the Train toy set.
The humor is right on point in this movie and a lot of credit goes to Michael Pena as Luis. Pretty much every scene he is in he knocks it out of the park as Scott’s sidekick. There are 2 humorous sequences in the film where his character is “re-telling” a specific story and it works very well in the film.
The film is also about fathers and daughters. Everything that Scott is doing is so that he can take care of his daughter who he’s already missed out from because of jail, but also so that he can be respected in her eyes. The same goes for Hank Pym and his daughter Hope. For most of the movie Hope is angry at her father because of the death of her mother and the mystery surrounding it. Hope also feels that it is she who should be using the Ant-Man suit, but Hank does not want her wearing it. He is trying to protect his daughter, and also earn her love and respect, which is lost due to the circumstances of her mother's death/disappearance. Throughout the film both fathers make up for their deficiencies and earn their daughters love.
There’s a great Avengers cameo where Scott Lang goes head to head with an Avenger!
Hank’s technology is very interesting as well. In addition to using the Pym Particles to shrink, he has technology to make things larger. This is mostly done for comedic effect, but ultimately will play a role in future Marvel movies since eventually Ant-Man will use the particles to increase his size and become Giant-Man/Goliath where he can grow to massive sizes.
The “Ant-Man” CGI was flawless. When he would shrink to fight and then seamlessly grow back to a normal size was perfect. The final battle with him and Yellowjacket was done exceptionally well. Throughout the film there is talk of the microverse, but when the audience sees it, it’s breathtaking. The scene in the microverse is worth the cost of a 3D ticket alone. If you can see it in 3D Imax, it’s worth the effort.
Although there are no Infinity Stones in this Marvel film, there is a continuity. The mentioning of quantum realities means Dr. Strange is not far off. There is a reference to “web crawling” as well, which means we’ll get our Spider Man soon enough. It’s very clear that this film is setting up the stakes for Captain America: Civil War because Hank Pym’s tone towards the Avengers signals that maybe the public is getting pissed off with superheroes and the Superhuman Registration Act will be coming soon.
What didn’t work:
Although Scott Lang owned the Ant-Man role, it felt weird Ant-Man not being Hank Pym. The audience understands that Hank Pym used to be ant-man, but it would have been cool to see some of Hank in action. The audience is given about 20 seconds of him in action and barely viewable photos of him fighting Nazis. It’s understandable why they went with Lang instead of Pym. In the comic Hank Pym was at times a wife-beater and bi-polar, and I’m sure the Disney Executives did not want to have that storyline visited at all.
Although the Yellowjacket suit was awesome ad the end fight with Ant-Man was great, Marvel once again suffers for “One Dimensional Villain” syndrome. There were times where Cross seemed to be working at a pretty competent villain, but towards the end gives a massive dump of exposition and all that was missing was him twirling his mustache while revealing his sinister plot.
Because Michael Pena was so great, it didn’t give much for David Dastmalchian and Tip "T.I." Harris to do. They both had a few funny moments (there’s a scene where Harris is doing only something he could do to distract the cops during the caper that was genuinely funny), but they seemed to be the sidekick’s sidekick.
Overall, this was a great way to close out Phase 2 for Marvel. This was a “fun” movie that had a lot of heart and great comedic moments.
Stay past all the credits!!
Images Copyright © Marvel Studios