By: Bryan Montgomery
Rating: 8 out of 10
The next step in the ever-evolving Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man is the first MCU film to deal with the repercussions from Avengers: Age of Ultron, doing so with a marginalized story mixing a crime caper with superhero powers. Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas shine in this surprisingly successful installment in the MCU, mixing enough humor and action to allow viewers to forgive its missteps and welcome yet another superhero to the long list of MCU tent poles.
Eager to stop the power-hungry Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), Hank Pym (Douglas) enlists the help of good-hearted thief Scott Lang (Rudd) to steal a suit designed by Cross using Pym’s technology. To assist with this task, Lang is given access to a suit, which allows him to shrink to the size of an ant and possess superhuman strength.
Despite the trailers alluding to a serious, dark Marvel film, Ant-Man is surprisingly hilarious, much of which is due to the lead actor and a strong supporting cast. Anyone concerned that Rudd wouldn’t be able to make the transition from comedic actor to action star will be pleasantly surprised, as Rudd slips convincingly into the role and succeeds to a strong degree. The star of the film, however, is Michael Pena, who plays Luis, Lang’s former cellmate and fellow thief. Pena is hilarious and actually plays a key piece throughout the film, spectacularly doing so through his flashback sequences where Lang learns of his next thieving adventure.
Rudd is more than capable in the lead role, but excels due to the amount of heart put forth into Lang. One key piece of Lang’s character is his daughter, who is played by Abby Ryder Fortson, who is his key motivator throughout the film. Lang is an outstanding thief, but has a huge heart as well, a majority of which can be attributed to his daughter.
As the film moves on, we see more of Lang’s good-guy nature, leading to a great opening movie for this new character in the MCU. By the end of Ant-Man, Lang has earned his spot amongst the rest of the stacked roster as a regular guy who has been gifted purpose and is able to shoulder the load that responsibility requires.
Evangeline Lilly joins Douglas as Pym’s daughter Hope van Dyne, taking her father’s role as a key executive at Pym Industries. Both Lilly and Douglas are able to hold their own amidst a great cast, with Douglas mimicking Lang’s soft-hearted soul while Lilly serves as the hard-hitting (physically and figuratively) and hard-nosed daughter of Pym.
The heart and soul of Ant-Man rests in the connection between parents and their children, where Lang’s connection with his daughter is the focal point of his character, the reconstruction of the relationship between Pym and Hope is the secondary driving force of the film. It’s great to see Lilly placed so prominently in the film, never more so than in the obligatory mid-credits scene, which essentially guarantees that we will be seeing more of Hope in the immediate future.
Ant-Man finds its place in the larger MCU about midway through the movie, when a mission Lang must undertake puts him face-to-face with one of the new slew of Avengers. However, despite the obvious need to put these characters together, the moment doesn’t feel forced. In fact, Ant-Man is a great addition to the larger universe, as the MCU needs someone to take over where Hawkeye is leaving off from; providing a regular man, even one that has been awarded a super ability, who can bring perspective to a universe where Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk exist is a welcome diversion that makes the MCU seem just a little more grounded.
The key focal point of Ant-Man is a superhero-fueled caper film, but the action-packed third act also delivers immensely. The final bout between Lang and Cross, who utilizes a similar super-powered suit and calls himself Yellow jacket, is hilarious and exciting. A majority of the battle takes place on a child’s train track, and with the two fighting in their minimized state, the battle is absolutely epic, which makes it only more humorous when the perspective changes scales in the middle of an explosive moment.
Ant-Man’s greatest failure is its inability to create a memorable villain. Stoll’s turn as Cross is strong, but as has become customary in most installments of the MCU, he isn’t around long enough to make a major splash. It would have been a nice change of pace to have Cross’ character move forward in the MCU, perhaps forging an alliance with Crossbones from The Winter Soldier or something of the sort, but Ant-Man suffers due to the brief time that this central villain stays on screen.
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The final chapter of MCU phase two, Ant-Man adds a welcome everyday man to the MCU, doing so in the most heartfelt chapter of the universe. Rudd, Douglas, Lilly and Pena all bring fresh ingredients to the oversaturated table, resulting in a debut film that doesn’t rank at the top of the MCU, but is strong enough to be one of the best debut films. Fans should be excited where the MCU will be able to take Lang after this opening salvo and even more excited for phase three after Ant-Man closes the stellar phase two.