Comparatively, “Ant-Man” feels like an indie dramedy in the Marvel Universe.
Stay with me.
The Marvel brand as produced several big, entertaining films that have focused collectively and individually on the Avengers. Most of them have worked well – to varying degrees – as summer entertainment. “Ant-Man” is a diverting entry to the Marvel canon, not unlike last summer’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”. It’s a quieter and more intimate character study.
Yes, I am massively downplaying the spectacle of it all. “Ant-Man” delivers as an effect-laden summer picture. When Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) shrinks into Ant-Man and has to navigate the big world around him, it is often beautiful and breathtaking. But director Peyton Reed succeeds in not hammering home the effects and large set pieces. He uses them when necessary, weaving them effectively into the narrative.
“Ant-Man” even dares to do the unthinkable and stay under two hours long. After the fine-but-bloated “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, “Ant-Man” feels like a breath of fresh air, running at a puny (in the Marvel Universe, anyways) 117 minutes. It gives the movie a refreshingly brisk pace and Reed and company use just about every minute well.
Rudd is a seasoned burglar, who is finally being released from jail. He is desperate to go straight so his ex-wife (Judy Greer, always welcomed but always underused) will let him see their daughter. His buddies, led by a scene-stealing Michael Peña, want Scott to participate in a slam-bang heist. Scott hesitantly agrees to go along with it. The heist doesn’t go as planned but Scott acquires a weird suit that out of curiosity he tries on. Before he knows it, he is the size of an ant but has the strength of, well, the Hulk.
Confused by all of this, Scott is led to Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Dr. Pym has been working on perfecting this suit for years, even donning it himself back in the day. He is looking for someone else to wear the suit and infiltrate his company that has been taken over by his protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who has his own nefarious agenda. Thrown into the mix is Dr. Pym’s daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), whose loyalties are often questionable.
The comic book narrative of “Ant-Man” offers familiar tried-and-true themes we have seen before but the screenplay (written in various stages by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay and Rudd) blends in some family drama on Scott’s side and Dr. Pym’s. “Ant-Man” never tries to reinvent the wheel from a storytelling aspect but offers an entertaining and sometimes moving wheel that will sustain audiences’ attention.
Rudd’s comic persona is put to great use, delivering snappy one-liners. He puts his everyday man image aside, while still being quite funny, but carrying an action film with no problem. Though Rudd has established himself in Hollywood, “Ant-Man” could open a lot of studios’ eyes, as “Guardians of the Galaxy” did for Chris Pratt. I had reservations on Rudd taking on a Marvel film – because you can’t ever just take on one – but he felt more than comfortable in the role.
Weird and wacky, “Ant-Man” is a mid-summer surprise. And it’s under two hours! Did I mention that already?
‘Ant-Man’ rates 7 out of 10