Is it even possible to talk about a Marvel movie without using the word fun? Because that’s exactly what Ant-Man is, and it’s what all of these movies since the first Avengers have been: blockbusters that understand their sole purpose is to make us smile and have a good time. Though it doesn’t reach the same heights as Guardians of the Galaxy, my favorite Marvel film, it has moments that get pretty close to that. If Age of Ultron was the more dramatic movie with big stakes and huge implications on the Marvel universe, Ant-Man is like the Guardians of the Galaxy, just chilling on the sidelines and happy to do its own thing.
Speaking of the scale, one of my favorite things about Ant-Man is how small it is. And that’s not an ant pun. Marvel has gotten a lot of flack for every movie being about some generic bad guy who’s trying to destroy the world and shooting a giant blue beam into the sky, but that’s not what Ant-Man is doing. It’s primarily a heist story, just following these characters as they try to steal this one thing from this one guy. The villain isn’t soaring across the city and taking out buildings. He’s just a dude walking down hallways and planning an event.
Yet it’s not as if Ant-Man is a throwaway film, and it manages to make everything in it feel significant despite the stakes not being as high this time. You really feel the importance of this plan and of executing this heist perfectly, and though once again the villain isn’t all that memorable, the mission itself definitely is. The film maybe could have communicated the steps of it better so we felt more in on every move like a Mission Impossible film, but overall it works.
Ant-Man is one of Marvel’s most unique films in a lot of ways, most notably in the visual department. A lot of that comes down to all the tiny battles that have been promoted heavily in the marketing, like the fights that take place on a toy train set. After we’ve seen approximately 10 billion superhero movies over the past few years, it’s always great when one comes along that offers something truly fresh. The fight sequences in Ant-Man are like nothing in any other superhero movie, and that’s not something you can say too often anymore. In an increasingly bloated genre, Ant-Man stands out.
In addition to the tiny scenes, Ant-Man really feels like the product of a bunch of talented, creative people sitting around and just shooting out crazy ideas about what could be done with this very comicbook-y technology. Without revealing any of the joyous third act moments, the film does some hilarious things with the grow/shrink technology here that make you laugh just at how ingenious and different what you’re seeing is.
The cast is truly fantastic, and just like it’s hard to imagine someone other than Robert Downey Jr. playing Iron Man or Chris Evans playing Captain America, it’s hard to imagine a Scott Lang other than Paul Rudd. He’s got the kind of charm that’s perfect for this universe, always slightly detached and delivering quippy lines in between scenes but still invested enough that we care about him. He feels like the guy who used to be an asshole and not care about anything, and he’s slowly turning around, but he still just can’t help himself from letting some of that out every once in a while. The prospect of seeing this character alongside Star Lord and Iron Man is kind of overwhelming at this point.
In terms of other characters, the always awesome Evangeline Lilly is fantastic as Hope, and I am so profoundly excited to see more of her in the Marvel universe. Suck it, Tauriel haters. Michael Douglas is great as Hank Pym, and though his character functions to deliver a whole lot of information, Douglas and the movie itself usually makes you forget about that. I do have some minor gripes with a storyline between him and Hope, and it feels like him keeping some major information from her is kind of a lame plot contrivance, but that’s hard to get into in detail without spoilers.
Corey Stoll is fine, but yeah, Darren Cross isn’t really the best villain ever. He’s another bland guy in a suit who’s trying to execute some evil plan, though again thankfully that doesn’t involve destroying the world this time. He’s a totally serviceable villain, but if you’ve had problems with these characters before and have wanted them to be more memorable, Ant-Man won’t do much to change your mind.
In terms of pacing, it’s definitely a little off balance and there are some slow moments in the first act. I wasn’t quite prepared for how long it takes to set everything up, as this really is an origin story through and through. But coming off a movie like Age of Ultron that kicks it into high gear right from the first scene, maybe we were just a bit spoiled.
What about the humor? That’s increasingly a draw in these movies, and every Marvel film since The Avengers has been full of almost as many gags as an actual comedy is. With a leading man like Paul Rudd, Ant-Man obviously goes for the comedy quite often, and it almost always works. This is a hilarious film that kept the audience laughing from start to finish, about as funny as Guardians of the Galaxy although not quite as consistently.
However, the movie’s sudden transitions from light moments to more serious ones are a little jarring, like it wants to take a moment to make you tear up but can’t quite commit without quickly making another gag. I don’t want to keep talking about Guardians of the Galaxy, but that film definitely had a much better balance of comedy and sadness.
Much of the humor is used to get you used to how ridiculous this whole premise, though, as if Marvel is assuring you, “yeah, don’t worry, we get how weird this is. But just give us a chance, it’s gonna be awesome…”
And it really is awesome. This is another Marvel hit that I’d probably rank in their top five so far. Despite being 12 movies into this series, Ant-Man feels like nothing we’ve ever seen before, in this franchise or in any franchise, and it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer ingenuity in all the shrinking scenes. This is a movie that’s weaved perfectly into the fabric of the Marvel universe but without relying too heavily on it, perfectly content to do its own thing. It’s so damn charming at every turn that you’ll go along with all the crazy, ridiculous ideas it throws at you, and by the end you’re practically begging for them. Because yeah, sure, why not?