Written by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay and Paul Rudd / Directed by Peyton Reed / Starring Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly
Luis: Baskin Robbins always finds out.
For the past seven years Marvel has continually spat out superhero films that have followed the same formula, and it has started to take a toll. Now when any sort of Avenger film comes about, everyone already knows what to expect, which is honestly a bit disappointing. Last year the studio shook things up with their adaptation of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, a fun film that played more like STAR WARS than THE AVENGERS. With ANT-MAN, Marvel is once again trying things out in a different way, and while the result is refreshing, it just isn’t as exciting.
The endlessly charming Paul Rudd stars as Scott Lang, a well-intentioned thief who is just getting released from a stint in jail. After numerous attempts to find honest work, Lang finally lands a job scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins. Lang is fired after his boss finds out about his criminal past, and turns to his old friend Luis (Michael Peña) to help him get back in the game. After a misstep in their big heist, Lang becomes connected with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) who has serious intentions for our hero. Pym and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) train Scott to use a special suit invented by Pym that is able to shrink him down to the size of an ant, thus creating Ant-Man.
What ultimately makes ANT-MAN work is that for the most part, it does not feel like a Marvel superhero movie. The first half hour plays like a dark comedy with some great back-and-forth dialogue between Scott and Peña’s Luis. This is perhaps due to the screenwriting talent of Rudd and Adam McKay (ANCHORMAN, STEP BROTHERS). Eventually the always menacing Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross takes on the villain role, seeking to destroy both Pym’s legacy and Ant-Man. While the hero/villain battle ultimately takes over the film, it is kept on a small scale. Most superhero movies have fights in which cars, people and skyscrapers are smashed and destroyed. Ant-Man keeps these battles in two small settings, keeping the conflict internal and preventing it from losing grasp.
The film is directed by Peyton Reed (BRING IT ON, YES MAN), who took over when Edgar Wright abandoned the project due to creative differences. Wright still shares a writing credit, but his directorial vision would have probably given the film that extra push that it needed so that it would not feel like every other Marvel film in a stylistic sense. Reed does a decent enough job, but he follows the formula closely enough that he truly could have been replaced by dozens of others.
After eleven “Marvel Cinematic Universe” films, maybe Rudd was the hero we needed all along. With the charm of a great comedy, and the formula that Marvel fans have come to love, ANT-MAN is surely one of the better films to come out of the studio. That being said, the film strives for creative independence, but ultimately comes up short.