This summer we get not one, but two Marvel films. After the billion dollar success of Avengers: Age of Ultron to open up the summer (which seems so long ago at this point), Marvel has released Ant-Man, the long-delayed and slightly controversial adaptation of the titular tiny superhero. The controversy being that while this is a Peyton Reed film, that’s not how it was originally supposed to be. Edgar Wright, the brilliant mind behind films such as Hot Fuzz, Shawn of the Dead, Scott Pilgram vs. the World, and The World’s End, had been developing Ant-Man as a film for nearly a decade, but parted ways with the project last summer over creative differences. Many wondered if Marvel just couldn’t mesh with his style, or something like that. But I’ll get into all that later, but for now, we’re focusing on that Peyton Reed Ant-Man. Here’s the review.
Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, a former cat burglary whose just been released from prison, trying to leave his criminal past behind him. Scott has a daughter, but due to his in-abilities of being a father, is not allowed to see her unless he can clean up his act. Next to Lang trying to go straight, there’s another story involving the corporation formerly known as Pym Tech (or that’s what I think it was called) is being taken over by Darren Cross, the films main antagonist played by Cory Stroll. Cross is using technology that the company’s founder Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas, that was formerly known as the Ant-Man technology, to make an army of Ant-Man suits to help make the world a better place. The problem is that Cross is mad, so Hank enlists the help of Scott, and Hank’s daughter Hope, played by Evangeline Lilly, to put together a heist using Pym’s original Ant-Man suit, which allows anyone wearing it to shrink to the size of an ant, to steal the technology before it falls into the wrong hands.
Reed directs a script that was written by Wright and Joe Cornish, but Adam McKay and Paul Rudd himself did a pretty lengthy re-write of the original Edgar Wright script. It’s a shame that we’ll never be able to see the version of Ant-Man that Edgar Wright was going to put together, because if Marvel let him have his way, it would’ve been not only one of the more unique and different films that Marvel had ever made, but in the superhero genre as a whole. But as we all know, Marvel has never been very kind to its directors in the past (Wright, Patty Jenkins, Alan Taylor, Joss Whedon, etc). But for what the film was as a whole, Ant-Man wasn’t half bad. It wasn’t great, as there were quite a few problems with some key aspects, but there’s quite a bit to like in the film, and I enjoyed myself.
I thought it was a genius idea to have Paul Rudd be Scott Lang. I’ve never read any of these comics, but I’ve always loved Rudd as an actor, and thought it was such a genius idea by Wright to cast him when he was still signed on to direct. Rudd brings a Tony Stark-esque tone to his character in terms of throwing out witty lines and quips. I hadn’t seen Michael Douglas in anything since his brilliant portrayal of Liberace in Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra a few years back, so it was great to see him on the big screen again. What was even better is that he didn’t appear to be phoning in the performance, and seemed like he was having fun with his performance. Lilly was fine as Hope van Dyne, who you comic book nerds may recognize that last name (I won’t spoil anything here because I’M A NICE GUY!!!!). Michael Pena comes into the film as Luis, Rudd’s old buddy whose a member of his crew, whose easily the scene stealer of the film. He was a genuinely funny whenever he appeared on-screen, and didn’t know that Pena, whose one of the finest young character actors in Hollywood today, had the comedic chops.
I also really loved how they incorporated how Ant-Man shrinks and then goes back to full size. Visually, they was some of the most impressive aspects of the film, especially the heist sequence toward the end of the film, as well as when Lang has to train to get used to the suit. All of that was pretty good, but there was a lot wrong with the film. First being that the villain was horribly written and just a horrible villain in general. I like Cory Stroll, he’s a qualified actor who can do some great work (as seen in House of Cards), and he does everything he can with the material, but the villain is such a mustache-twirler and painfully unmemorable. Marvel has had trouble in the past with their villains, and hopefully the vocalness of the audience who saw this film will let the company know that they must make better villains. A few things bugged me was that the film had Judy Greer play Lang’s ex-wife and the mother of their child. Greer, whose one of the best comedic actors working today, as well as one of the best actors working period, is wasted her in this role, which is more of an extended cameo rather than a role. And Bobby Cannavale, an actor whom I love and adore, is sort of wasted as Greer’s cop husband in the film. I wished that there was more for these actors to do in the film instead of just stand on the sidelines.
That being said, Ant-Man is a flawed film, but it isn’t necessarily a bad one. It was entertaining, and I enjoyed myself throughout its length (which is right under two hours if you count the two post-credits sequences). I just feel that if Marvel had decided to go forward with taking their risk with having Edgar Wright be the director, then we would’ve had a Marvel film that would probably be the breakout hit of the summer, but instead, we must settle with an above average Marvel film that’s a sizable financial hit for them this summer. Here’s to Civil War being a much better film.