July 17, 2015
I was not really aware of a Marvel character named Ant-Man until recently when articles and trailers about this film began coming out. I was not really that excited until I learned that he was actually one of the original Avengers, then that really got my interest piqued to go watch this one and learn about this previously unfamiliar superhero.
Hank Pym was a noted scientist who discovered how to reduce the distance between atoms, enabling objects to be shrunk. Pym suppressed his discovery because of its dangers, which led to the death of his wife. Obsessed, his protege Darren Cross eventually develops his own shrinking technology but with less than noble purposes in mind.
In order to prevent potential disaster, Pym decided to recruit Scott Lang, an electronics engineer turned petty burglar, to steal Cross' Yellowjacket project. To be able to achieve this mission, Pym, along with his daughter Hope van Dyne, trained Lang to become a micro-superhero who can communicate and command ants to do his bidding -- the Ant-Man.
I did not know anything about the Ant-Man, his origin and abilities going in, but this film made me a new fan of this cool superhero. Director Peyton Reed only had mostly comedies like "Bring It On" (2000), "Down with Love" (2003) and "The Break-Up" (2006) in his resume. But with his first foray into the superhero genre, he totally made "Ant-Man" an exciting and riveting film that holds your attention from beginning to end with its excellent action and crackling humor. Reed took over from original director/scriptwriter Edward Wright, who dropped out of the project citing creative differences with Disney.
For me, the casting of 46 year old Paul Rudd in the lead role came totally from left field. Since his breakthrough role as Josh in "Clueless" (1995), Rudd was only relegated playing mainly supporting roles in small unmemorable comedies. However, like his "Parks and Recreation" co-star Chris Pratt's success as Peter Quill/Star Lord before him, Rudd actually fit right into character as Scott Lang. Rudd had that good-boy charm which was able to make us sympathetic to this small-time crook desperately wanting to do good for the sake of his daughter Cassie (played by Abby Ryder Fortson).
Evangeline Lilly proved that the action skills she showed as the elf Tauriel in the last two Hobbit films were no fluke. Her Hope van Dyne is fierce with attitude, with toned arms and shoulders to boot. I do take exception to her annoying hairstyle that was reminiscent of that worn by Dallas Bryce Howard on "Jurassic World". What's up with that "Dora"-do with the bangs and Hollywood nowadays?
The role of Hank Pym could have been dry and didactic in the hands of another actor, but Michael Douglas really made this character vital and interesting. His sense of humor was on point. His was the character that was connected with everyone else being the original Ant-Man, and he had excellent working chemistry with everyone: Scott, Hope and villain Darren Cross (played by Corey Stoll).
Michael Peña, David Dastmalchian and rapper T.I. played a comical trio of petty crooks with whom Scott hung around. They provide additional humor to the proceedings, especially when things get serious towards the climax. Bobby Cannavale played a clueless cop Paxton who is now the new husband of Scott's ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer), and step father to Cassie. His character made Scott's life considerably more complicated.
The technical aspects of this film were top rate, particularly the amazing visual effects. I really liked the scenes of Ant-Man interacting with the different types of ants. The fight scene of Ant-Man vs. a special guest Avenger was also very well-executed. Those scenes in little Cassie's room where there was a carpeted play area with a toy Thomas train running on its tracks was way better than how it looked in the trailer. The expert film editing was seamless even as scenes (and the sizes of the characters) were shifting so quickly.
Aside from mentions of Stark, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers, there were also two scenes in the end credits (one mid-credit, and another one at the very end) which reveal how Ant-Man will fit into the current Marvel Cinematic Universe situation. Unlike the rather disappointing, heavy-handed "Avengers: Age of Ultron" right before it, "Ant-Man" was entertaining beyond my expectations. Marvel does it again! 9/10.