Much like Guardians of the Galaxy during the previous summer, nobody knew what to expect when it came down to Ant-Man. Even non-comic book fans weren’t that familiar with the character based on the creation of Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, & Jack Kirby. But at this point of Marvel cranking a variety of adaptations left to right, this probably wasn’t the strongest superhero to explore. With a concept that seems impossible to make for good entertainment back then and now, a movie like Ant-Man, like its incredibly shrinking protagonist, is full of surprises.
What’s the Story: After serving three years in San Quentin State Prison, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) was officially released when he was a skilled thief who was extremely good at breaking into people’s homes. However, he wants to try his best to leave the past behind and focus on being there for his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), which isn’t helpful when an ex-con can’t hold on to a job for a short time. Scott soon caves in to take on a quick job involving breaking into a safe, only to discover a high-tech suit that belonged to scientist Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Pym has been watching him closely and lets him take the suit, which can shrink to the increasing size of an insect. Hank has recruited Scott to take on and train for a top-secret mission as the new Ant-Man since his former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is finding a way to replicate the Pym Particles to create and militarize a similar technological suit of his own, the Yellowjacket.
Some thought this would be the MCU’s first failure around the time this was coming out. So was there skepticism from what I was expecting? A tiny bit (pun intended), despite getting a kick out of the marketing, especially after the clever teaser poster. It was exciting hearing Edgar Wright was going to direct the project initially. The test footage screened from Comic-Con made me believe he could make an incredible superhero movie to his name. The bad news: Wright didn’t want it connected with the expanding universe, causing him to leave due to creative differences, with Peyton Reed of Bring It On and The Break-Up fame being his replacement. Those changes still didn’t derail my anticipation of the overall film. Was this going to be a lame time about an ant-size hero? Not in the slightest from my perspective back in 2015 and now, because Ant-Man is a pretty awesome standalone film destined to be fun, closing out Phase 2 on a high note.
As it turned out, this wasn’t made out to be some campy comic book movie to end up as a guilty pleasure, just as we’ve seen from the mid-90s. What it ended up being that everyone didn’t know it had to do was be a traditional superhero movie with an exciting heist vibe to feel distinct from what had come before. With that, it was more of a refreshing experience that’s a lesson Reed brought to the table: not everything has to be bigger, leaving him to be a directing choice nobody saw coming, yet he made it his goal to make it a blast throughout.
Paul Rudd, who had a hand in co-writing the screenplay (with Adam McKay, Wright, and Joe Cornish), was the best choice to play Scott Lang/Ant-Man. He wasn’t the type of actor that had me concerned about playing a superhero as I always thought he was a capable actor who could pull this off and he indeed did to root for this guy in hopes of redemption not only to become a hero to himself but to the person he loves the most: his daughter. His portrayal as Ant-Man was very likable and a perfect character to play to where you always saw him good. And watching him and Chris Pratt, I definitely wanted to learn about their workout routine because they were ripped, let me tell you. And it’s always incredible how they got Oscar-winner Michael Douglas to be a part of this, and you know he was fantastic as Dr. Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man from the comics. There was a good amount of depth to his character and a very subtle backstory in how he lost his wife and Hope’s mother saved lives by disappearing through the quantum realm, becoming this unexpected mentor to Scott. What a great addition to the MCU because I love him. Alongside Douglas, Evangeline Lily as Hank’s daughter, Hope, pulls a surprisingly good supporting role and works great together. She started cold when she believed she’s smart enough to complete this dangerous task since Hope knows how to fight and has knowledge of the ins and outs of the Pym Technologies headquarters, but she warmed up to me in the second half.
The most extraordinary element of the entire film was the action set pieces. The way it’s filmed, especially when Ant-Man is shrunk down and learning how to use his powers, is spectacular and clever when we imagine watching them from our point of view, never becoming repetitive. It was even better catching it in IMAX 3D (to which I had to see it because the other showings that night were sold out). And this is coming from someone who didn’t care much for 3D back then, but this movie utilized craftsmanship and creativity to capture its visual effects to grab the audience’s sense of adventure through almost all of them, including the finale. Looking at them now, it’s clearly CGI, but this uses its environments, big or small, to its advantage. Plus, this was one of the earliest MCU films to use de-aging and it was actually convincing seeing Douglas in 1989. I even liked how this film nicely tied into the MCU movies and acknowledged the Avengers, understanding you don’t need top-tier heroes to get the job done.
This is also the funniest Marvel has come to its humor. I was surprised about how funny this was even just from watching the trailers. Some unexpected laughs had me laughing, which is a credit to the script. Most of the humor came from Michael Peña’s Luis (one of his funnier performances). Usually, certain mainstream comedies waste him when given the most unfunny dialogue to work off of. But this film didn’t make him annoying, as he provided some great comic relief with perhaps a unique spin on a movie using exposition. For me, it didn’t have trouble with the tone as it’s time constantly every time.
Besides having the kind of predictable storyline you’d expect, the main issue I had was Corey Stoll was a weak villain as Darren Cross/ Yellowjacket. Stoll isn’t to blame; he plays the stereotypical villain who wants to succeed and rule everything, but for some reason, especially when we see him in the costume in the final 20 minutes, it didn’t work for me. I would’ve hated this guy simply because he wanted to shrink the adorable lambs to test his I’ve always thought his character was a lesser Obadiah Stane from Iron Man.
This story feels like a weird hybrid combination of Iron Man and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids shows the elements of superhero and shrinking. Does it follow the basic Marvel formula? Sometimes it does, but it doesn’t matter here in actually lowering the stakes that don’t involve saving the city from destruction, as we’ve already seen in the first two Avengers films. Peyton Reed did an excellent job capturing the spirit of what needs to be told with Ant-Man and fitting into the director’s chair.
This was easily one of the best superhero movies of 2015, and so many of us didn’t predict this would be better than Avengers: Age of Ultron. While it didn’t do big numbers and currently sits as the fourth lowest-grossing entry in the shared universe, it still ranked at $180 million domestically and $519 million worldwide. So in a world where this made more money than Fantastic Four in its entire run, it was certainly not a failure.
Ant-Man is one of the best comic book origin stories to come out. Hilarious and action-packed to the max and a perfect addition to the MCU, making it a surprise so unexpected. It is one of the most underrated superhero movies we’ve gotten and deserves more love. Would I love to see Edgar Wright’s version, if possible? A part of me says yes, but I’m perfectly fine with the final product. I just can’t wait to see what this man can do in future property projects lined up for him. For a “small” character, this comic book movie scaled it up considerably.
Ant-Man was released on July 15, 2015| Runtime: 117 Minutes| Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence| Studio: Marvel Studios
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