It’s always refreshing to enjoy a summer film by Marvel. Last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy remains one of my favorite films by the studios. This year’s summer hit tries to recapture the somewhat tongue-in-cheek mood we saw last year. They more or less acknowledge this within the poster itself. Granted, this film knows what it is and how absurd it sounds. But hey, the New 52 reboot of Aquaman did that self-aware metahumor to excellent effect. All in all, it’s finely balanced with some pretty intense drama and some genuinely fascinating sequences. While I genuinely enjoyed the movie, does it stand up to previous films?
Note: Spoilers Ahead.
The film begins with the stories behind two of our protagonists, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Scott) and Scott Lang (Paul Rudd); both of their lives are falling apart from either corporate corruption or crime and later divorce. Both characters try desperately to rebuild their lives before crossing over in a heist set up. The stories intersect further when Pym’s understudy Cross (Corey Stoll) reveals he’s making his own answer to Ant Man, Pym breaks Lang out of jail and trains him to be the next Ant Man. Pym’s daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), is caught between Cross’ threats as well as power within her company and her father’s mission to stop history from repeating. Despite Lang’s superior stealth and heist skills, enhanced as Ant Man, Cross figures the plan out for the most part. Meanwhile, Lang’s ex-criminal network bust in and secure the area with the help of Hope’s connections and power. At least, not before securing his own suit and using it against Ant Man. And so, the epic fight we’ve been waiting for begins. Cross lures Ant Man to his daughter’s house as the fight is now to protect his daughter. Following the fight, Lang’s life is starting to be back on track as he’s given permission to visit his daughter’s house.
While this is an origin story and I’ve never been super interested in those, this was a fantastic one at that. On top of that, it’s an expansion on the universe. It showcases how S.H.I.E.L.D. as faulty, rather than heroic, especially following a soviet missile crisis and theft of Pym’s work in the ’80s. Also, consider we have a hero that’s a lot less high profile than other Marvel greats. To be fair, the film even acknowledges this by saying “why not the Avengers instead?” All in all, the sly commentary fits in with the clever sense of humor the film has throughout.
I really enjoyed the characters throughout the movie, including minor characters. Michael Scott was excellent as Dr. Pym, really showcasing a shell shocked ex-superhero whose afraid of seeing his work hurt others or separate his family again. His wisdom, knowledge, and desires for secrecy were excellently portrayed. The Baskin Robbins customer and boss brings to mind the horrible frustrations of dead-end retail work. But hey, they apparently know everything. Also, that boss kind of looked like a strange fusion of Egoraptor and TheSpoonyOne, just saying. While I felt that Cross could have been more developed, I felt a sense of conflict with Hope. That said, I wish they expanded on the conflict a little more before Cross went truly crazy. Also, Lang was a pretty cool character, conflicted over moral choices with the best of intentions in mind. The reason for his criminal act was to aid others who were suffering at the hands of a corrupt million are; deep down, he just wants to help others. However, his means of helping himself or others tend to be unlawful, hence much internal and external conflict that affects him.
The cinematography and visuals were truly well done, capturing the multiple moods shown throughout the film itself. The dingy cell space jumps to a mysterious questioning space with Dr. Pym as the camera looks like it’s watching from afar, like a security cam. Also, I enjoyed how they played up Pym’s mansion as a mysterious entity while the heist sequence was going down. I loved the jump between fighting in normal size and the jump to the toy sized table; a weird juxtaposition of kid’s toys and super powered combat made for a surprisingly awesome scene. While I’m one of the biggest critics of overuse of CGI, it was pretty tastefully done. Not to mention, the action wasn’t made to be too flashy or in your face. I really loved the end fight where Ant Man and Cross (in the yellowjacket suit) battled in out in super small size. Granted, the cutaways to the regular sized perspective brought in a humorous but realistic perception of what’s going on. Not to mention the ants themselves don’t look too cheesy, save for a giant ant used mostly as a gag. Although, I’m betting it was done that way on purpose.
As an adaptation, it’s pretty solid. While Cross Enterprise was its own entity, it feels all the more fitting to have Cross take Pym’s company as a metaphor for stealing and recreating his work. And rather than losing both of her parents, Hope only lost her mother (in a twist pertaining to one of the things previously mentioned by Hank Pym.) Kinda different from the early ’00s “Next Avengers” arc that introduced her. All in all, it sampled a broad Marvel canon and compiled something together that worked as both a story and interconnected cinematic universe, with this only adding to it.
All in all, I feel like I’ve seen too many Marvel films to truly make my commentary differentiate too much from what I’ve said in previous reviews. I enjoy the films for similar reasons and will continue to do so until there is an objectively bad one. That said, this was a great movie in general. The characters were all fantastic, as the actors did a great job alone. The visuals were both appealing and cool, without being too over the top. The script itself was clever, tongue-in-cheek and packed with interesting suspense; all of this while creating an engaging origin story. In short, it’s an enjoyable watch worthy of talk, at least until the next great Marvel movie is released.
Ant Man gets 8.5 Pym Particle Jars out of 10! It ant over yet, stay tuned for the next movie! (I’m sorry about that pun too.)