Review: Ant-Man

Honey, I Shrunk The Superhero

Poster-Posse-Ant-Man-One-Sheet-by-Thomas-WalkerDistributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Marvel Studios
Director: Peyton Reed
Writers: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, Paul Rudd
Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stall, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Peña, Michael Douglas
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Comedy
Rating: PG-13 (For Sci-Fi Action Violence)
Coming off of the heels of this year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man seems like a bit of an oddball addition to the Marvel movie canon (this is actually a good thing as we’ll see in a bit). After a long and tumultuous production history with director switches and various re-writes, the world’s tiniest hero finally makes his big screen debut. Despite mixed reactions prior to the film’s release, Ant-Man actually turns out to be a surprising and refreshingly fun movie that makes a strong case for an often overlooked comic book hero.

Storyline

Petty burglar Scott Lang is given a second-chance opportunity by world-renowned scientist Hank Pym to participate in a heist involving the very company he founded. Scott must undertake the mantle of the Ant-Man and control an army of ants in order to infiltrate Pym’s company, now managed by Hank’s former protégé, Darren Cross. Cross plans to use Hank Pym’s groundbreaking discovery of the “Pym Particle” which has the ability to shrink full-sized organisms and materials for world-domination. It is up to Ant-Man and his team of misfits to reclaim the formula from the hands of Darren Cross before it is too late.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: Ant-Man turns out to be one of the more “family-friendly” Marvel movies to be released in the canon to date. The blood is very minimal and used only for effect. There are some intense action scenes, especially towards the latter half of the film that involve some pretty good brawls between Ant-Man and his villains.
There is one particular scene (or two) in the film that were a bit shocking in their display that involved the demise of a minor character and what is possibly the most adorable looking little lamb I’ve seen in a movie, ever. I won’t ruin the moments as it will take away from the effect, but it works to build the threat found in the main villain and his cold and emotionless attitude towards those who try to impede his progress.
Language/Crude Humor: For those planning on watching Ant-Man with their kids, language can be a bit of a concern. While surprisingly not very heavy, expect to hear the typical PG-13 insults involving “d***”, “b****”, “a**”, and “s***”. For the most part, the humor is clean and very funny. Think Anchorman and Shaun of the Dead, minus the crassness (we’ll go more into that later on in this review).
Sexual Content: Sexual content is minor to non-existent in the film. The most you’ll see is an off-screen kiss being shared by two characters.
Drug/Alcohol Reference: Once again, minor to almost non-existent. There are some very brief scenes of alcohol drinking, but these scenes are no more than two to five seconds long.
Spiritual Content: The typical superhero themes of self-sacrifice are ever present in Ant-Man. The story is a very personal one for each of the characters on-screen as they all seek forgiveness and redemption from their past mistakes. Obviously one can parallel this to the themes found in biblical narrative and in the good news of the gospel of Christ.
Positive Content: “Don’t ever let anyone look down upon you because of your size” is the message that the film has no problem sharing with its audience. It does a great job embodying this through Scott Lang and his journey in taking up the mantle of Ant-Man. This is a refreshing message to experience in a world that often pushes image or a certain moral criteria in order to meet a standard set by our modern culture. I walked out of the film feeling highly encouraged and inspired–the same way I feel whenever I finish reading a good comic book story.
Negative Content: One can argue that Ant-Man makes being a burglar as if it is a cool thing, but it obviously doesn’t as it shows the repercussions of the crime on several occasions.

Presentation

Ant-Man is not your typical Marvel movie, and that is a great thing.
For months during production, many Marvel fans and those in the press voiced their skepticism about the concept of a superhero whose only superpower seemed to be shrinking and commanding an army of ants. Thankfully the talent involved behind Ant-Man took on the source material and brought it out beyond its full potential. What we end up with is not only another surprisingly entertaining comic book flick from Marvel, but what is probably one of the most original and fun superhero movies to be seen in quite a while. To call this movie “a blast” is undermining how much fun Ant-Man really is.
A big part of this is all thanks to the writing efforts of cult movie geniuses Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Attack the Block). As the two British filmmakers have proven in the past, not only can they make some really funny movies but they can also weave some extremely capable, and even emotional, tales to house their gut-busting gags in.
I need to make special mention to them due to the fact that Edgar Wright was supposed to be the original director of the film before creative differences forced him out in favor of Peyton Reed. While admittedly it still would have been fun to see Edgar Wright’s original vision come to fruition, Reed holds his own very well, all the while seemingly showing respect to Wright’s and Cornish’s original script and vision of the story and hero (Adam McKay and Paul Rudd were brought on for re-writes later on in production) .
It’s hard to imagine that Peyton Reed has never directed a superhero film before because of how great the action scenes can often be. It’s hard realizing that this is the same guy who directed Yes Man (yeah, that Jim Carrey movie). And how awesome are some the set-pieces in this movie. From the first time Scott puts on the suit, to the climatic fight scene (which has been seen in the trailers but I will still keep from spoiling in this review), even the surprise guest cameo (hint: it’s not Stan Lee), Ant-Man almost has a sarcastic self-confidence in the sense that it knows its concept is ridiculous–outlandish even–but awesome at the same time.
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The visual effects are pretty top-notch as well. Many of the scenes where Ant-Man transforms himself into his pin-size form bring back flashbacks of Honey, I Shrunk The Kids (I would not be in the least bit surprised if a lot of references were taken from this movie to be applied into Ant-Man’s effect work as they are both Disney-owned properties). Seeing Ant-Man switch between shrink size and full size while taking down a room full of baddies is the coolest thing I’ve seen in a superhero movie this summer (sorry, Age of Ultron).
As far as performances go, Ant-Man is pretty well-acted. Paul Rudd who’s usually side-lined as a star in many movies (albeit as a very lovable character) has some big shoes to fill in as the film’s lead and he doesn’t disappoint. Rudd plays the role of Ant-Man/Scott Lang with a fantastic blend of leading man heroism and average-Joe charm. While we know that Paul Rudd can certainly make us laugh as seen in his previous efforts in his more notable role from the Anchorman films, here he mixes his comedic sensibilities with a dramatic flair that really sells you into his struggle undertaking the impossible task of redeeming his own life for the sake of his daughter.
The rest of the cast works great with Evangeline Lilly playing Hope Van Dyne and the legendary Michael Douglas playing the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym. Michael Peña also plays his role of Luis, Scott’s right-hand thieving buddy who is responsible for most of the film’s best laughs, and Corey Stoll as the cold and senseless villain, Darren Cross/Yellowjacket.
While I ultimately loved Corey Stoll in his role, I also thought this was, ultimately, where Ant-Man fumbles the ball a bit. Yes, you may have already heard how Darren Cross is essentially another cookie-cutter “white-man-in-a-suit” Marvel villain. I’d hate to use the term, but I would have to agree with the sentiment.
There simply isn’t much to Darren Cross other than his “control the world” plot that has been seen in countless other hero films. It’s kind of disappointing when Stoll eventually dons the Yellowjacket suit late in the third act. The character really commands the screen through his use of his cold robotic voice and menacing appearance. And, yes, Yellowjacket is scary and you feel a sense of dread when he does show up, but there simply isn’t enough exposition for his transformation. It was the one downfall that I thought this movie had and it is possible that this element of the film may have suffered through the re-writing process.
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This leads me to what I thought was the best part of the film: the story. While it does echo the origin stories so often seen in the Phase 1 era of the MCU, Ant-Man feels surprisingly fresh due to its concept. While it can be classified as a superhero movie, Ant-Man at its core is a heist movie.
This may seem strange at first, but they really make the idea of a superhero breaking into a high security facility to save the world really work in the context of the hero’s powers. The ants that assist Ant-Man on his journey are presented in the same light as a trusty sidekick (with the flying ant aptly named “Antony” being a favorite). The ants are friendly, reliable, and will make you go wanna go buy your own ant farm after the movie ends.
Then there’s the character chemistry between the leads which is central to the story. These are all characters that have lost someone or something in their lives and are in the process of restoration, and ultimately, redemption. This is what made me care about the characters in the film and made me want to see them succeed in their individual goals. Early on in the film, Hank Pym utters a very important line that sets the tone for each of our character’s personal journeys: “It’s not about saving our world, it’s about saving theirs.” The film also features several other surprises, but I will leave those for your viewing pleasure.

Conclusion

Marvel did the impossible and took Ant-Man, who is often looked at as one their most comically conceptualized heroes, and turned it into what is arguably one of the best solo Marvel films to date. After being a bit disappointed by the unfortunately underwhelming Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel really needed to regain my trust in the MCU. Ironically enough, a film like Ant-Man was enough to once again get me excited for the future of the Marvel films. Stick around for not just one, but two end credit scenes, and do be wary of a certain reference made of another bug-related Marvel hero. Yes, we are living in a world where an Ant-Man movie is a real thing. Expect nothing short of awesome.

Positives

+ Simple, straight-forward storytelling with some big surprises thrown in + Great visual effects and highly inventive action set-pieces + Good performances from the entire cast + Weird, off-beat humor works

Negatives

– Main villian doesn't get much character development

The Bottom Line

Like last year's hit "Guardians of the Galaxy", "Ant-Man" isn't afraid to break the mold and have fun with its concept. While straight-forward in its initial approach, the film manages to feel refreshing thanks to good performances, clever action set-pieces, off-beat humor, and some surprising story elements that elevate it to something better than the film could have settled for. As a stand-alone origin movie, it makes a strong case for Ant-Man as a worthy asset in the ever-evolving Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not bad for the world's tiniest superhero.

 

8.8

Nestor Arce

Nestor Arce is the editor for the Christian Living section of Geeks Under Grace and periodically contributes to the Movies section. He is currently busy trying to watch "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" 37 more times.

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