Ant-Man, along with last year’s wildly successful Guardians of the Galaxy, definitely shows that Marvel is digging deep for new heroes to introduce. Audiences don’t seem to mind the B- and C-listers getting their own films because the movies wisely take a more comedic route. (By the way, I know Ant-Man is not consider
ed a B- or C-lister in the comic book world, but he definitely is in the movie world.) Guardians was easily the goofiest film Marvel has ever made, and Ant-Man often plays more like a comedy than a superhero action film, which is precisely the tone this movie needed to have to succeed.
This film has been a huge question mark for Marvel not only because of the lesser known main character, but also for some behind the scenes trouble. Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) was well into the process of making this film when he dropped out. He realized he wasn’t going to be able to make the movie he wanted to make because Marvel has such a strict plan for the next few years. So Peyton Reed (Yes Man) was brought in. Nothing against Reed (especially since the movie turned out all right), but it doesn’t instill a lot of confidence to go from the director of Shaun of the Dead to the director of Yes Man. It would definitely be interesting to see what Wright would have ultimately done with the film, but it appears he left his stamp on enough of it so that what we see on the screen is a Wright-like film.
Most likely, the visual style of the film was sacrificed when Wright left (more on that in a bit), but the comedic tone of the film remained. Much like Shaun of the Dead, Ant-Man is about a very unlikely hero in Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a convict who can’t seem to catch a break. Returning to a life of crime leads him to Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and the shrinking suit Pym has made. Then more comic book stuff happens, and Scott has to try to save the world, and you’ll probably see him again in other Marvel movies, and you get the idea.
Ant-Man sets itself apart from other Marvel movies by having a stronger emotional core than other comic book films. The emotional theme focuses on parents, specifically fathers, and how complicated it can be to protect their children, or in this case, daughters. Scott’s main goal is to get his life back on track so he can see his daughter, who sees him as a hero already. For Scott, it’s all about living up to an image his daughter has for him. Hank Pym, on the other hand, has kept his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) so far away that she now resents him. Each man needs to prove himself to his daughter to have peace. These subplots were a welcome distraction from the save the world plotline, which is getting a bit tiresome in the Marvel world.
The emotional scenes never get too heavy, though, and the film in general is quite funny. Paul Rudd has a lot to do with that. He’s a natural for the reluctant hero part. But the comedy comes more from the gang of idiots he pals around with. The standout is Michael Peña, whose rambling stories are the comedic highlight of the film. They are also the scenes that felt the most like an Edgar Wright film.
Comedy aside, this is still a Marvel superhero movie, so the action and visuals have a lot to live up to. In this case, the visuals actually lead to comedy at times. When we’re zoomed in on the action, for instance, a child’s trainset turns into a real train bearing down on someone. Pull back and it becomes a pretty goofy sequence. When the action is taken seriously, it’s par for the course for Marvel. There’s nothing that stands out, aside from the goofiness of pulling back during action scenes. Edgar Wright could have possibly created some action scenes that would have stood out from the rest of the Marvel pack, but we’ll never know. The miniature stuff looks great, though. Overall, Ant-Man boasts some great visuals with decent action.
Ant-Man could have been Marvel’s first big misstep since it started this takeover of Hollywood. But like Guardians, the risk paid off. Sure, the save the world plotline is flat out boring at this point, but that comes with the territory in a comic book movie. Ant-Man simply had to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack with comedy, and it completely succeeded.
Ant-Man receives a: