Ant Man review: In Marvel's latest, Paul Rudd proves funny things come in small packages
Ant Man is exactly the kind of film that Marvel fans needed – a stripped-down, simple, funny, and exciting little comedy thriller with likable characters and stakes that matter.
When Age of Ultron hit screens, there were two emotions that governed fans of Joss Whedon and The Avengers – a sigh of mild disappointment and the realization that Marvel had finally hit the ceiling of their barrel. Ultron was a bigger, louder and more action packed version of the first Avengers, which was a bigger version of the movies preceding it. But it was painfully obvious that Marvel had a formula and they weren’t going to stray from it.
One big fight in the beginning, roll opening credits, introduce hero, introduce his slipshod heroine, throw in an infinity stone, introduce a weakly-characterised villain compensated by special effects and end with a city being destroyed – if you look at the Marvel catalogue, pretty much every movie follows this pattern. With Ultron, the dead end had finally arrived and Marvel had to do something different to keep the ball rolling. Going bigger was no longer an option.
So Marvel decided to go in the opposite direction: go smaller, both literally and figuratively. Say hello to Ant Man. Yes, the whole fiasco about Edgar Wright’s scrapped script was disheartening, but the finished film, directed by Peyton Reed is excellent. Ant Man is exactly the kind of film that Marvel fans needed – a stripped-down, simple, funny, and exciting little comedy thriller with likable characters and stakes that matter.
Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is a genius scientist who shuts down his own project after he realizes it could endanger the whole world. When his protégé Cross (Corey Stoll) reignites the project years later, with a clear intent to do bad things with it, Pym’s only option is to get small time thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to disrupt Cross’ plans. Thanks to Pym, Lang turns into a man who can shrink to the size of an ant and do creative things with that power.
Ant Man is a heist movie, with a generous sprinkling of humour and kitsch. This could have felt contrived and manipulative, but there are good, likable actors delivering the lines and so, Ant Man ends up with character dynamics and a legitimate story. All of the familiar elements are present – a villain with the exact same powers as the hero, the imminent end-of-the-world scenario that the hero must avert – but Ant Man never lets you forget that at its heart is a simple story of a father trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter. The filmmakers put the father-daughter plot at the center of the film, instead of action and the ever-expanding Marvel universe. This gives some weight to the characters and you feel for them – something that was sorely missing in the recent Marvel films.
Despite all this emotional heft, the best thing about Ant Man is the broad comedy. Rudd nails every scene he is in with his hilarious delivery. He’s all jacked up with twelve or thirteen packs on his abs, but his characteristic goofiness is present in all its glory. The special effects too are amazing. Seemingly mundane things are dangerous to the Ant Man and the film uses this device cleverly. Yes this was explored mildly in the Telugu film Eega, but it’s taken to another level in this film. It’s a special moment to see Lang riding a flying ant and telepathically commandeering other ants to execute his heist.
As a bonus, there’s some extra comedic relief from Michael Pena as Luis, a criminal colleague of Lang’s. He’s slated to appear in three more Marvel films and he’s so funny, it wouldn’t be surprising if his roles get bigger with every film. The icing on the cake is the third act of the film, which is surprisingly strong. The big finale of the movie is hilarious and imaginative, and surely one of Marvel’s most audacious moves. Oh, and going with the Marvel tradition, there are two post credit scenes, both of which are bound to make you squirm with excitement.
It’s a bit unfair to Ant Man that the Edgar Wright episode hurt its publicity because the final film is entertaining and funny. Any fan of Wright would be able to spot his DNA in a few scenes, but there’s no denying Reed’s flair for situational comedy and his ability to subvert the whole concept of big action into a smaller scale. It’s about time Wright’s shadow left this film and Reed received an accolade or two.
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