by Jordan Canahai
The mantra “bigger is better” is one most Hollywood blockbusters tend to follow. Little surprise then that it has taken so long for Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man to finally make it to the big screen. After years of production problems involving multiple script re-writes and a change in director (originally slated to helm was Edgar Wright who retains a screenplay credit), fans of the cult comic book superhero will be pleased to know Ant-Man indeed delivers the goods.
Ant-Man follows the exploits of loveable smart-ass Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a Robin Hood-esque thief fresh off serving a three-year prison sentence for stealing billions from the corrupt corporation he was formerly employed by and redirecting it to those they ripped off. His early attempts to go straight and reunite with his estranged daughter prove difficult due to his financial woes and checkered past. When his best friend and former cellmate Luis (Michael Pena) tips him off about a potential heist, Lang agrees to the score—only to find not money in the safe but a strange suit that gives the wearer the ability to shrink in size while increasing in strength. The suit was invented by brilliant scientist and former special agent Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who once harnessed his technology for good until he decided to bury his research rather than allow it to fall into the wrong hands. Pym had been conspiring to recruit Lang for the purpose of stopping his former protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll)—the egomaniacal, power-mad scientist who took over Pym’s company following his mentor’s resignation. Cross has worked to create a more advanced version of the suit for military purposes, which, if sold to the highest bidders, would plunge the world into chaos. Under the training of Pym and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), Lang becomes master of the suit and sets out to save the world from Cross’s evil scheme.
The greatest strength of Ant-Man lies in the lead performance from Rudd, whose charisma and comic timing is perfectly suited to the whimsy playfulness of the screenplay (ultimately credited to Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, and Rudd.) He embodies Lang as a down-on-his-luck burglar with a heart of gold who just wants to be the father his daughter deserves with equal parts sarcasm and sentiment, while director Peyton Reid gets a lot of mileage from the impressive supporting cast. His direction carries a breakneck pace while never losing focus on character or leaving one feeling bogged down by exposition. The action sequences, although pitched at a fittingly smaller scale than similar superhero films, are inventive and well-shot—the best being the climactic battle between the insect-sized Ant-Man and his nemesis taking place on a toy train set. In the movie’s greatest scene, Lang must shrink to a molecular level in order to save the person he holds most dear. Slipping through the cracks of space and time which comprise the fabric of the universe, he drops out of reality into an infinite void he’s likely never to return from. It’s an awesome special effect sequence bringing to mind the wonder and terror of the Stargate journey from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
If Ant-Man has one major flaw it’s in the character of Luis. The stereotypical token Latino sidekick offers clichéd comic relief that gets tiresome quickly. Pena is a very talented actor but he’s stuck reminding one of Chris Tucker at his most grating here. Small quibble aside, and especially after how bloated and over-stuffed Avengers: Age of Ultron turned out to be, Ant-Man is likely to please audiences looking for the fun, light-hearted superhero movie of the summer season.
Watch the trailer for Ant-Man
Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v14n28 (Vacation Staycation, week of Thursday July 16) > Ant-Man
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