Ever since Edgar Wright left the production of Ant-Man back last year, many people kept saying things like "Oh, Edgar Wright isn't directing this anymore? What, they got the guy who did that Jim Carrey movie to replace him? This is gonna SUCK!". Now that the movie's finally out, I think it's officially time for those people to shut the hell up.
Ant-Man is the newest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the final film in Marvel's Phase 2, and is one that has been through quite a few production issues. Unless you're living under a rock you'd know that this was originally supposed to be directed by Edgar Wright, who then left production due to creative differences (in an AMICABLE split, mind you). Ever since that and Marvel bringing on Yes-Man director Peyton Reed as his replacement, many people have become very worried about the film. And I'll admit, I became a little worried myself, but that was really more because I felt the trailers and TV spots weren't too hot. Nonetheless, I've been DYING to see an Ant-Man movie for years, and I've been loving what Marvel Studios have done so far with their cinematic universe (for the most part), so I went into this with an open mind, and you know what? I think it paid off, because Ant-Man is a very entertaining and enjoyable movie.
Ant-Man follows ex-convict Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) who's trying to get his life back on track after being released from prison. After failing to hold down a job (which made me really want some ice cream) and trying to reconnect with his young daughter, he is given a shot at redemption when Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) train him to become the Ant-Man, a superhero who dons a special suit that can make the wearer shrink in size but increase in strength. With Scott's help, they attempt to stop Pym's former apprentice Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from releasing a suit that can do the same thing.
One of the things that Marvel always nails is its casting, and boy does that show here. Paul Rudd is impeccably cast as Scott Lang. Much like Chris Pratt did with Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy, or like Robert Downey Jr. did with Iron Man, Rudd is able to infuse so much of his personality into this character without it seeming like he's just playing himself. While you can definitely see Rudd in the character, he still does a great job at convincing us that he IS this character, and he definitely holds his own when he actually has to don the Ant-Man persona in these action set-pieces.
And along with him, Michael Douglas is terrific in the role of Hank Pym. Douglas brings a much welcomed sense of gravitas to the role and adds a surprising amount of depth to the character as well. He has wonderful chemistry with Paul Rudd, he's got a few good one liners here and there, and at times you even feel for him, which I didn't really expect going in.
As for the rest of the cast, Corey Stoll is very good in the role of Darren Cross/Yellowjacket and makes for a formidable villain, but Evangeline Lilly, although certainly not terrible, doesn't really bring much to the role of Hope van Dyne, which is disappointing as I normally really like her as an actress.
Aside from the acting: first off, this is perhaps one of the most unique films that Marvel has put out thus far. Ever since the first Avengers film, they've been doing this thing where each standalone movie has its own unique tone and feel. For example, Captain America: The Winter Soldier at its core was a political thriller, and Guardians of the Galaxy was a space opera. At its core, Ant-Man is a heist film, and you can definitely feel the sensibilities of a heist film within it. This is something I really appreciated, as some of my favorite movies are heist movies, ranging from classics like Heat more recent films like The Town, and I feel the heist element in Ant-Man was very well realized and very entertaining to see unfold.
I also have to give credit to the screenwriters for crafting what I feel is a pretty sharp script, for the most part. Though it is definitely a little inconsistent at times, the screenplay offers up some very witty dialogue as well as a great dynamic between all these characters. They take the time to give each central character enough development and cool stuff to do to the point where few if any feel underutilized (Bobby Cannavale and Judy Greer not withstanding). It's also worth noting that despite Edgar Wright walking off the project, you can definitely feel his spirit lurking throughout the script, particularly in the dialogue.
Lastly, these action scenes are some of the most creative and innovative that I've seen in quite some time. They really do use Ant-Man's shrinking abilities to their greatest effect, and they use it to build some refreshingly small yet uniquely huge, exhilarating and often hilarious action set-pieces (that Thomas the Tank Engine scene, man). Any time Ant-Man shrinks, the movie's able to make his usually very mundane surroundings into something completely unbelievable, and they definitely compliment the action sequences very well.
Now even with all that said, this film does have some issues that prevent it from being the great movie it could've been. Firstly, I found that the film took a little while to grasp my full attention and gain my complete interest. For the first half-hour or so of the film, I didn't really find myself too invested in the story, and I felt there was definitely a little too much exposition to be found here. It didn't bother me quite as much as it did other people, but it was definitely noticeable.
Also, I mentioned this earlier, but I do feel that the script was definitely a little inconsistent. Exposition aside, I felt that the film became a tad disjointed at times with its tone, trying to balance comedy with action and some more emotional moments, and while they are well balanced for the most part, at times it gets a little unfocused. And while the film's comedic moments do mostly hit, the ones that fail really fucking fail, particularly one moment towards the end of an emotional scene with Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly. Yikes.
Lastly, and I know I'm in the minority on this one, I didn't like a lot of the side characters in this movie. I'm specifically talking about Scott Lang's gang, consisting of Luis (Michael Peña), Dave (T.I.), and Kurt (David Dastmalchian). While they do each have a couple funny moments (though they are few and far between) and some moments of heroism, I personally found these three really annoying and kinda hard to stomach. Michael Peña, who I usually love as an actor, just comes off as incredibly obnoxious here, T.I. is bland and forgettable, and David Dastmalchian's horrid attempt at a Russian accent made me want to puncture my eardrums with a paperclip.
Despite all its faults, however, I still found myself having a good time with Ant-Man. While it definitely doesn't rank among Marvel Studios' greatest cinematic efforts, and it certainly won't achieve the same insane popularity that films like Guardians of the Galaxy have, it's still a very enjoyable summer movie that actually presents some pretty neat ideas that I'd really like to see explored more in a sequel. If I were you, I'd go and give this a watch, even if you're not familiar with the comics or if you were just as iffy about the trailers and TV spots as I was. Chances are, you won't regret it.