Marvel‘s Ant-Man opens today and, as the end of Phase 2, the film has a lot of expectations. That in addition to the drama surrounding the departure of Edgar Wright, who I interviewed about this film for UGO back on 2008! I admit that I was worried about what that meant, and there were definitely moments where I wondered what he would have done with the film. I didn’t go in with high expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised.
That is not to say the film didn’t have issues. Especially with its female character (singular, played by Evangeline Lilly) and its villain Yellowjacket, played by Corey Stoll. Let’s start with the story. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a loving dad, but he’s a criminal. A criminal with a heart of gold, of course. He’s robbing the rich to give to the poor and he’s a brilliant engineer. He gets out of jail, only to find that his ex-wife (Judy Greer, who is in everything genre these days) and her fiance Paxton (Bobby Cannavale) don’t want him around their daughter until he straightens up. He tries to get a normal job, but even though his boss loves his criminal past, he can’t keep him on. He finally ends up back in a life of crime with buddies Luis (Michael Peña), Kurt (David Dastmalchian) and Dave (T.I.). When he falls in with Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Lilly) to try to stop Darren Cross (Stoll) from doing something dastardly, he becomes our beloved superhero.
Rudd and Douglas are hysterical and poignant as fathers who want to keep their daughters safe. Rudd’s comic timing is fantastic, which will come as no surprise to anyone. T.I. and Dastmalchian are a riot, but nothing in the entire film can compare to Peña. His smiling enthusiasm and waffle-making absolutely steal the show. Okay, maybe the ants did as well. Not a big bug fan, but somehow Rudd hugging the ‘crazy ants’ made me want an ant farm.
And now the bad news; Hope is a harpy through most of the film. Sure, we get why, but hard women who get melted by the attentions of men are becoming a thing in the Marvel universe. Gamora, Pepper Potts, Black Widow … I love them all but it’s starting to feel like a formula. It’s not that I don’t like Hope. It’s just that I’m sick of a strong, brilliant, capable woman having to be a bitch as well to sell it. Lilly does a fine job with what’s she’s given. I just wish she’d been given more. (Though I get the protective father thing, the conversation Lang and Pym have about keeping her safe while she hides in the background had me rolling my eyes.)
Then there was Corey Stoll. This is a man who’s work I love. I’ve never had any issue with his acting before. Here, he’s a mustache-twirling villain with a laugh to go with it. From interviews with Stoll, it appears that this was due to editing. I don’t buy for a second that Stoll played the entire thing one-dimensional. It feels like the lead up to Yellowjacket was all cut out. I hope that’s the case. Honestly, I expected him to say ‘mwahaha’ at one point.
Those two things aside, the film is largely a success. (And likely will be more so when we see what was cut in the DVD/Blu-ray version.) Part of what I loved about the film was the smaller scale. There were plenty of references to the Marvel universe, but none of them seemed clunky, including one cameo at the beginning that had me jumping out of my seat and one later in the film that connects Ant-Man to the larger Marvel world. It felt like the first Iron Man in its scale and its charm. The effects were fantastic, and the size jokes, which could have been silly, ended up landing every time.
I’m giving Ant-Man a solid 7.5 out of 10. It’s definitely worth a watch. Stay for the entire credits. There are two scenes and you can’t miss them!