Marvel. They seem to have done what was once thought impossible: a series of epic superhero stories with interweaving plotlines and occasional crossovers, just like in the comic book universe. In an era where sequels, prequels, spin-offs and reboots are running rampant, it was only a matter of time before someone REALLY cashed in. And after eleven movies and three on-going TV shows, we come to the newest member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Ant-Man.
The movie opens in 1989 where scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is trying to stop his partners at S.H.I.E.L.D. from replicating shrinking technology he developed, believing it to be dangerous. Getting nowhere, he resigns and takes his technology with him. I’ll admit I had to look online to remember what that scene was about because I was blown away by how well they de-aged Michael Douglas with CGI. We’ve seen this kind of de-aging before; Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy, Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator: Genisys, but in those movies as soon as the actors’ faces moved, the effects just looked awful. Not here. Even when he’s ranting and raving, Michael Douglas looks EXACTLY the way he looked back then (think Wall Street). The effect isn’t good. It’s not even great. It’s near-perfect.
Flash-forward to 2015 and we have master thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) being released from prison. He’s trying to go straight and build a relationship with his daughter, but her mom, who’s now married to a cop, won’t let him see her until he puts some money together and gets on his feet. Not an easy task for an ex con. Meanwhile, Hank Pym’s former partner Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) has finally developed his own shrinking technology, in the form of a suit called the Yellowjacket, which forces Hank Pym to act. An anonymous tip leads a desperate Scott Lang to a rich man’s safe, which he breaks into in no time. But all that’s in there is a weird red suit and helmet, which he takes home and tries on. After messing with some of the buttons, he shrinks down to the size of a (you guessed it) and nearly gets himself killed navigating all the stomping feet in his apartment. So he breaks back into the rich guy’s safe and returns the cursed suit, only to find out it was all a test set up by Hank Pym (the rich guy), who wants Scott to be the new Ant-Man.
Ant-Man is very much an origin story. Something we should all be used to by now, maybe even sick of. It starts off by setting up the characters, then the hero struggling to learn his new abilities, then a first real mission, and then things get really serious and the hero has to finally face off with the villain. It’s the same old formula. Does it work? Yeah. You will be entertained, but don’t expect any surprises.
The most difficult aspect is accepting Paul Rudd as an action hero. After seeing him in countless comedies, it’s strange to see him beating up bad guys left and right. Or maybe it’s just difficult to watch him get hurt without laughing at him. His natural charisma fits well with a character trying to do right, and his character’s naturally bad choices are consistent, like how he never even THINKS to hide his identity from his enemies, always revealing his face and saying, “Hi, I’m Scott!”
It seems a bit late in the Marvel cinematic game to be introducing a brand new character in the same way as at the start of a universe, but Paul Rudd and co. keep us entertained throughout, mostly with a strong sense of humor that doesn’t let up even in its climactic moments. This movie is supposed to be the end of Marvel’s “Phase 2”, whatever that is. It feels more like a beginning. I’m sure Ant-Man will join the Avengers in “Phase 3”, but I’ll be on the lookout for the true follow-up to this movie. While this one was good, a sequel could easily be better, and now that their universe is set up, I’ll be looking forward to it.
3 out of 5