Movie Review: Ant-Man

Because that is how you get ants… man!

It was either that or, “Bite-sized Superhero!” but I had to go with the Archer quote.

Like many others, I chuckled at the idea of Marvel making an Ant-Man film way back when. How does one make such a hokey superhero into a live action film. My interest was piqued when Edgar Wright was assigned to the project. And then Wright left the project at the beginning of filming due to creative difficulties. And then my interest fell again.

This has been one of the least anticipated films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (If not the least anticipated.) I kept my expectations mellow and went into the theater expecting a decent superhero flick. And that is exactly what I got.

The main character in this flick is not Hank Pym, who is the traditional Ant-Man, but Scott Lang, who is the current bearer of the Ant-Mantle. I am not certain why this is done. My guess is because Marvel wants to familiarize newcomers to the franchise with the current bearer of the Ant-Mantle. Hank does appear in the film, however, played by Michael Douglas.

Part of the plot involves Hank passing on the mantle to Scott in a way that we have not previously seen in a Marvel film before. The idea of having a mentor to help the new hero is a fresh take on the kind-of-becoming-stale superhero genre. Seeing yet another hero come across superpowers and learning what to do with them can only be done so many times before it gets old.

That is not to say that this film does not have similar moments. There is a scene where Scott puts on the suit and discovers that he can shrink and is overwhelmed by the notion. There is also a training scene where he leans to control the powers.

Scott is a very likeable protagonist. He is a master thief who has recently been released from prison after performing some Robin Hood-like theft on some big business. He has a family that he is estranged from and a daughter who he really wants to provide for. We see him break into a huge safe using some smart ingenuity and scientific know-how.

The antagonist is a stereotypical evil businessman named Darren Cross who gets ahold of the shrinking technology. One would think that having a shrink gun would have amazing civil uses like shrinking cargo to make it easier to ship, but no, this guy plans to use it for blatant evil. He develops a suit called the Yellowjacket that is shown to be used for nothing but assassination and murder. Cross comes off as a weaker version of Jeff Bridges’s Iron Monger character for the first Iron Man film.

The overall plot of the film is more like a heist movie. Hank hires Scott to be the new Ant-Man and break into Cross’s building where the Yellowjacket and shrinking technology is and wreck it.

The film strikes a delicate balance between being serious and comedic. There is quite a bit of mileage out of how much of a ridiculous (but surprisingly utilitary) a power shrinking is. The climax features Ant-Man and Yellowjacket duking it out and using their powers while small only to zoom out and show that their titanic-looking struggle only takes place on a model train set.

Ant-Man has three criminal sidekicks whose antics and quips also serve as comic relief. They seem a little gratuitous given the nature of the film. I would have much preferred more focus on Hope, Hank’s daughter who is teased at the very end to become the new Wasp. She has a significant role in the film, but I really would have like to see her kick a little more ass.

Ant-Man and Wasp are one of the few husband and wife superhero duos in comic books. That sort of dynamic is rare and I was hoping to see it on screen. The very end of the film teases that Hope will become the new Wasp but seeing as how this flick performed below expectations at the box office, I doubt that we will get to see that. The end of the film also guarantees the audience that Ant-Man will return, though in what capacity, who can say?

The science-y part of my brain was wondering how the whole shrinking thing works. Ant-Man’s volume clearly changes when he shrinks but they say that his density stays the same. This is supposedly what gives him his strength while small. One would think that mass would have more of an impact on all of this but that is not mentioned. Ant-Man can supposedly stand on top of a person without them knowing but hit with the strength of a bullet at the same time.

The ants are a surprising factor in the film. One of the Ant-Man suit’s powers is the ability to control ants through radio waves or some such. This power gets some creative uses throughout the film. There are four breeds of ants uses, each with their special abilities and they all get used in the big heist in the second half.

That said, Ant-Man is an enjoyable two hours. I don’t know if I ever need to watch the film again but after the grandiose stakes of the last Avengers film, Ant-Man is a refreshingly simple affair.

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