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Review: Ant-Man

Review: Ant-Man


There was a note of apprehension in the air when it was made clear Marvel would be ending their phase two of the MCU with Ant-Man instead of The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ending with a solo movie for one of their lesser known and, frankly, less cool superheroes as opposed to the big team-up extravaganza was an odd move in terms of both storytelling and rhythm. What chance does an Ant-Man movie have following on from the mighty Avengers?
Throw in production issues that led to original writer and director Edgar Wright leaving the feature while in development and confidence wasn’t high. This worry was completely misplaced, however, as Marvel put Peyton Reed into the director’s chair who knew exactly what he was doing Ant-Man_filmbecause Ant-Man is a refreshing monster-of-the-week style wind down post-Age of Ultron, reminding both audiences and, I imagine, Marvel themselves just how much fun superhero movies can be.
Opening on what is the movie’s direct link to the MCU, Ant-Man gets the formalities over with quick. Hank Pym and Scott Lang’s story, and Ant-Man‘s, is a touch removed from the MCU as we’ve come to know it, and the film reflects that quickly. Once we meet Scott, as he’s being released from jail, the actual story, his story, takes center-stage. Lang, played by Paul Rudd, is a down-and-out criminal trying to get on the straight and narrow so he can be a father to his daughter again. Living with former cellmate Luis (Michael Peña), who is the continuous comedic anchor of the piece, and crew-mates Dave (Tip ‘T.I.’ Harrris) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian), Scott is coerced into one last job that is set to put his life back on track. This job leads him directly to Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) through accidentally stealing the Ant-Man suit and being arrested.
Being the cheapest Marvel-owned movie to date, Ant-Man‘s greatness lies not in how they portray the man in the suit, but in how the narrative manifests itself. Much like how last year’s one-two of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy that were very much their own films first with strands of MCU DNA sprinkled through-out to tie them into the overlying plot, Ant-Man is a movie that seems almost completely non-plussed with advertising other characters or even engaging with the great worries of the MCU. Outside of one character’s ties to HYDRA, the villainous organization that The Winter Solider saw rise to, Ant-Man is almost completely self-contained, which is why it works.
Scott Lang isn’t concerned with saving the world or being an Avenger or anything of the sort, he’s only taking the job so that he can be the father his daughter deserves. In that same vein, Hank Pym is giving Scott the job so that his daughter, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily), doesn’t have to risk her life in the line of duty the way her mother Janet Van Dyne did. This character play is so prominent that most of the first and second acts contain basically no action, just these characters interacting with each other, building actual emotional suspense. And it works – by the time Hope is finished training Lang and the ants have been mastered, the action is a consistent pay off for the last forty Ant-Man_(film)_11minutes, delivering well thought-out thrills and laughs after well thought-out thrills and laughs. Especially the shrinking effect and sections, which are masterfully created with obvious state-of-the-art precision.
However, Ant-Man does struggle a bit with by now cliché problems for comic book films. Though, yes, the ending is very open minded and deeply emotionally satisfying and the character arcs and references are, for the most part, tied up and consistent with the plot of the movie, there is the niggling sensation that more could’ve been done with Hope’s character. She’s a martial arts expert with corporate power and close proximity to the main bad guy (a particularly unhinged turn by Corey Stoll), and though it makes sense to send in someone more expendable like Scott in Hank’s eyes, her place in the screenplay feels a touch reductive given her skillset and her being Lang’s trainer for hand-to-hand combat. We’re all glad Marvel are finally doing a female-led superhero movie with Captain Marvel, but Marvel’s use of their very strong female characters to date doesn’t invoke confidence.
But that still doesn’t stop Ant-Man being a fun heist film and better MCU chapter. The Avengers: Age of Ultron it ain’t, and for the better. After three huge movies that have been super heavy on the overall endgame of the MCU, Ant-Man is a welcome one-shot reprieve that works to relax everyone and slow Marvel down just a second to tell a simple story about a dad doing what’s needed to make himself an important father for his daughter. Thrilling and filled with laughs, Ant-Man is a good time in the cinema.