Despite Marvel Studios’ impressive record of releasing blockbuster films based on superheroes, there were still many skeptics when it came to their latest project: Ant-Man. Though the company was able to turn Guardians of the Galaxy, a cult favorite team at best, into a worldwide phenomenon, it was still hard to imagine how they would make a movie about a guy who shrinks and talks to ants successful.
We may need to just give Marvel Studios our complete and undying faith and trust from now on as Ant-Man is yet another solid and exciting entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Much like Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man is (mostly) a stand alone film. Since this is our introduction to Hank Pym, Hope van Dyne, and of course Scott Lang, it needed to be focused on these characters and not the larger MCU. There are still references and cameos, but this is decidedly a movie about Ant-Man and his journey to becoming a superhero.
The movie’s plot centers around Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, trying to stop his creation, the Pym Particle, from being used by his former protégé, Darren Frost for military purposes. To steal back the formula and to also take away the YellowJacket suit (which is an upgraded version of the Ant-Man suit), Pym hires fresh-out-of-jail former “burglar” Scott Lang to become the new Ant-Man in order get the job done. The two men can’t do it alone however, and have Pym’s daughter Hope, as well as Lang’s crew of oddball sidekicks to help.
Marvel’s films usually fall into a specific genre and Ant-Man is firmly rooted as a heist film. Much of it is spent with figuring out how to infiltrate Cross’ facility and with coming up with new plans on the fly when things inevitably go wrong. As far as heist movies go, this one was pretty basic and doesn’t offer the sort of complexity you would see in something like Ocean’s 11. Still, if seen as a film in this genre, it works well enough.
The other aspect of course are the superheroic elements. This is where things could have went south considering the aforementioned shrinking and talking to ants. However, in true Marvel fashion, this is all expertly handled and is a highlight of the film. Most of the scenes where Lang is the size of an ant are computer generated but are shot in a way that make you not notice that. This is thanks to the movie always making sure that you can see real-world objects like phones and even candy as points of reference. Granted that the iPhone may be the size of a ten story building compared to tiny Lang, but it still feels real.
The film makes clever use of the shrinking power when it comes to the action sequences. You’d figure that having an insect-sized hero going up against full grown men would leave him at a severe disadvantage but that isn’t the case. When small, Lang has heightened strength and agility. This is due in part to being small and also having his atoms condensed, which makes him pack a serious punch. Things get really impressive when Lang shrinks and grows within the span of seconds to land some cool looking attacks on his enemies. Even at such a small size, Lang is nearly unstoppable.
Since this is still a movie about a hero who can turn teeny tiny, there is a fair bit of humor to be found. It’s not a comedy per se, but the movie can be outright hilarious at times. A lot of the humor comes from Lang’s heist crew who are all wacky (and racially diverse!) characters. Lang himself is cynical and jaded and a lot of his comedy comes from those personality traits. There is also a training sequence which is just full of laugh out loud moments as Scott tries to get a grip on his ability and of course, trying to work well with the ants.
Despite some of the humor, the movie does take itself serious and there are many moments in the film which are heartfelt and provide pathos for the characters. Scott is doing all of this for a chance to turn his life around so that he can be the hero his daughter sees him as. Scott’s love for his daughter comes through as genuine and gives him something to keep focused on even when things look their bleakest. There is also a subplot involving Pym and his daughter trying to figure out the truth behind a mutual loved one’s disappearance which provided some emotional moments as well.
The only downside with the film is with the main villain and the cliched “evil plot” of his. Not to give anything away, but I personally never felt that Cross was a villain worthy of being feared or in awe of. His overall scheme is something we’ve seen in many other films before, including some of the Marvel films, so that aspect didn’t excite me either. It’s a small thing considering that the movie is actually about the characters than the story, but I would have liked a more menacing main baddie who had a truly horrifying evil plan.
Marvel Studios has done it once again with Ant-Man. While this film may not be as well regarded, or receive the attention of some of the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, I believe that audiences will react favorably to it. While it does very little to move things significantly forward in the MCU, that is not what this film is about. This is a heist film with a superhero lean. If you go into this film with that mindset, then you’re going to be very pleased with what you see.
Ant-Man will be released in theaters on July 17.