In the past several years, Hollywood has introduced a horde of films featuring well-known characters from the Marvel Comics Universe in treatments that, more often than not, feature over-the-top storylines and sometimes somber renditions of these super heroic individuals. Ant-Man, though, is none of that. Or at least it’s such a far cry from these other serious-minded films that it makes the franchise fun again.
Coming on the heels of Avengers: Age of Ultron’s release, which wasn’t always well-received by critics or Marvel fans, Ant-Man is a grand departure from the sobering perplexity and harrowing gloominess of Avengers films. It’s essentially the anti-hero of superhero movies. And everything you’ve come to expect from Paul Rudd.
In Avengers: Age of Ultron, what humor was injected into the plot-line was quickly extinguished by the sheer seriousness of the task at hand – putting an end to the imminent purge of mankind. Ant-Man, however, does just the opposite, leaving its audience with all the warmness of a comedy rather than the drawn out euphoria of yet another narrow escape for the human race. It’s just serious enough to be Marvel, but lighthearted enough to play as the next logical phase in the comic book superhero evolution.
Like Rudd himself, Ant-Man delivers a self-deprecating path towards superherodom. It begins with Rudd starring as Scott Lang, who departs San Quentin after serving a 3-year stint for burglary and fully ready to get his life back on track. This involves reconnecting with his estranged daughter Cassandra, who is played by relative newcomer Abby Ryder Fortson.
But after getting canned from his job at Baskin-Robbins, the largely reformed Lang decides to go on one last criminal outing with former cellmate Luis, whose scene-stealing character is deftly executed by Michael Pena from Fury and End of Watch notoriety. Naturally, Lang ends up pilfering the highly secret Ant-Man suit from Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who earlier in the film left his post at Pym Technologies, and like Rudd’s character, is experiencing his own strained relationship with Evangeline Lilly, who plays Hank’s daughter.
And without giving too much of the story away, what takes place throughout the rest of the film is one part awkward training regimen and one part Scott Lang’s seizing of the superhero spotlight – all this in spite of his initial reluctance (and relatively clumsy introduction) to joining the crusading game. It is your classic good guy versus bad guy film; yet, it takes on the formula without the muscled and gritty posturing of previous Marvel films (though Rudd does take an opportunity to strut his new abs), and makes the genre less buttoned up than ever before. It’s a lot like being behind the wheel of a souped-up bumper car – the collisions are alarming and shake you out of your comfort zone, but you always find yourself laughing and asking for more.
In some ways Ant-Man is the oddly satisfying pairing of two seemingly unrelated films: Iron Man and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Whether Lang is inserting his miniaturized self into dangerous exchanges against Yellowjacket, or communicating with some truly treacherous ant species via his Ant-Man helmet, the coupling of the impossibly ridiculous with the seemingly plausible turns this emotional teeter-totter of a movie into a playful, yet jarring film. And really, it’s the embodiment of what is potentially the best about Marvel comics in general – equal doses of action and amusement.
Welcome to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man.