Ever since Iron Man (#neverforget) redefined the modern superhero movie and raised the bar for every costumed hero flick that has come after, fans have gone into every Marvel Studios release comparing the newest one to the last.
With the studio’s latest, Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man, that notion has finally become a near impossible task.
Not only did this film have to overcome being billed as Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man instead of Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man, but it also had the quandary of being released a little over two months after Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. As for how it stacks up, that is a very complex thing to answer.
For those who are unaware, the plot of the film centers around Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man, trying to prevent his former protege Darren Cross (The Strain‘s Corey Stoll) from unleashing his Pym particle technology on the world, which is capable of shrinking a human being to the size of, oh I don’t know, let’s say an ant. To do so, he enlists the help of criminal Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (The Desolation of Smaug‘s Evangeline Lilly) to plan an elaborate heist in order to prevent the power from falling into the wrong hands.
Wright had been attached to this film ever since Marvel Studios made their debut at San Diego Comic Con back in 2006, and it had been rumored for years that it would be a heist film as well as something unlike anything else we had seen to date in a superhero film. Even without Wright at the helm, that still holds true, though his DNA is still all over the place.
Reed does an admirable job, a very difficult job at that, stepping in at the last second to take on a project that was already full speed ahead and nearly ready to shoot. Not to mention that at the time, Wright was arguably the only reason anyone wanted to see Ant-Man of all characters get their own film. That being said, it is hard to imagine anyone who knew the history of this film’s production going in didn’t leave at least wondering what could have been to a degree.
There is absolutely nothing bad about this film. In fact, as someone who honestly could have cared less about the character of Ant-Man going in, I can say it was a very enjoyable film. As great as it is seeing Hulk, Thor and the gang destroying cities over and over again, it is refreshing to see something totally different. The MCU will need different to stay fresh. Ant-Man is exactly that.
For a certain breed of comic book fan, seeing this character brought to life is exhilarating, I’m sure. It is the type of thing that makes long time nerds look around and say “We did it guys! We Won!” Ant-Man would have never passed for a blockbuster superhero even three or four years ago. It is a testament to the good faith that Marvel Studios has built. That being said, your average movie goer may have a hard time with certain aspects of the film, as it is reaching a bit more than some of the previous entries in the MCU. There is really no way around it, a shrinking man who can talk to ants is weird.
However, this is not Guardians of the Galaxy. Though Ant-Man is a welcome addition to the MCU it doesn’t quite feel like the left field home run that some of us thought it could be. There is that intangible quality that makes something truly outstanding that never quite fleshes itself out. Could Wright have been that intangible quality? We will never know, but there will always be the “what if?” when this film is talked about.
Since this is a film about a shrinking man and a robbery that is aided by ants, the action sequences are pretty unique and the creative force behind this movie allowed themselves to have some fun with it, which was the right way to go. This simply wouldn’t work if it were taking itself too seriously.
In any case, it should be noted that the entire cast of the film from top to bottom is pitch perfect. Stoll is very good as the bad guy, even though he did suffer from the slightly underdeveloped villain syndrome that is often the case with movies that have a lot going on.
Rudd earns his place among the Avengers and it will be great to see him team up with everyone (or at least mostly everyone) next year in Captain America: Civil War. Lilly could be the female heroine we’ve been waiting for and her performance was great. Though, Douglas was the real standout in this movie and Marvel fans should be absolutely thrilled to have an actor of his caliber playing Pym. Some fans were upset that the MCU’s Ant-Man wasn’t going to be Pym, but when you see the performance Douglas turns in, you’ll understand that decision.
The film offers some great nods to fans of the greater Marvel Universe without detracting from what is going on with the plot too much. There are hints of what’s to come, fun inside jokes and more things of the sort, but it never feels out of place.
To try and rank Ant-Man against the other 11 films in the MCU would be a pointless endeavor. At this point it is like trying to compare pizza to whisky. They are far too different to compare to one another, but can absolutely be enjoyed together. Overall, this film was a gamble that paid off. Some people will love it, and others will just like it.
Also, there are two post-credit scenes. It is better not to say anything about them other than you should definitely stay for both.