Ant-Man, directed by Peyton Reed and starring Paul Rudd, is the latest Marvel Studios addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The story follows Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), an ex-con who is recruited by aged scientist and former Ant-Man Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to wear a suit that permits its user to shrink to the size of an insect while increasing proportionate strength. Lang must pull of a heist to steal a replication of Pym’s technology, stopping it from falling into the wrong hands.
It has felt to me like an Ant-Man movie has been in the making since the first slew of Marvel movies prior to Iron Man and Marvel Studios (light research showing that’s its actually been in talks since the 1980s). The film having been in development so long, it started to become questionable whether it would ever come out, or even be any good. When announcements of the film finally released and trailers dropped, a lot of reactions I came across were still very lukewarm. Many seemed to think it wouldn’t be any good.
While I had ambivalent feelings going in, I was still very interested in seeing it. I’m happy to report that I think it is one of the best standalone MCU films made so far. Something that made it so refreshing was that, despite its clear connections to the MCU at large, it was largely disconnected from it narratively, which hasn’t been done in a while on film. Even Guardians of the Galaxy, which takes place almost entirely outside of Earth, is connected with the Thanos plotline and the infinity stones. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was also separate from those plotlines, but the story was at a very large scale and the consequences brought about huge changes to the MCU’s status quo, so I don’t think that counts either.
While it possesses superhero elements, Ant-Man is more of an action-adventure heist movie, which helps to make the set-up more believable. Lang is brought in by Pym because of his desires to make good in order to help his daughter, as well as his past with better-intentioned thievery at the corporate scale rather, than being a less redeemable criminal. He doesn’t suddenly have a hero complex, but feels more driven by circumstance to achieve something bigger than himself — as evidenced my his initial insistence on calling the Avengers.
I really appreciated the progression toward the final showdown with Yellowjacket, the villain of the film . While in many other Marvel Studios films (the Iron Man series in particular) the plot seems to dissolve into a big fight for its own sake, the progression to this point felt natural in Ant-Man. I had no questions about why these two started fighting it out, the villain’s motivations for doing so being understandable and feeling natural. There wasn’t anything deeply compelling about him as a villain, but he was in keeping with lower-scale stakes and worked well in context.
While most Marvel Studios films have a good sense of humour about them, Ant-Man did a good job of utilizing the visual aspects of a shrinking power for comedic effect, while at the same time producing compelling actions sequences. I applaud that they achieved this without anything coming across as too goofy or silly. Everything maintained a consistent tone of humour, action, and family drama that worked nicely together.
While many Marvel fans will likely see the film regardless of their level of interest in the character, I highly recommend watching Ant-Man to pretty much everybody. I went in with minimal expectations, and left feeling extremely satisfied with what I saw. It didn’t do too much different, but broke the mold in a way that was enriching as a fan of the MCU.