Ant-Man (Marvel Studios 2015)
While Ant-Man himself is one of the original Avengers, it took fifteen years and eleven other films before he would finally be granted his silver screen debut.
Marvel Studios’ latest film and the true end of “Phase Two”, the overlying arc spanning six films (Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and finally Ant-Man) has had a rocky go of it from the get-go. Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish were tapped to write the script, with Wright set to direct. This made a number of fans very happy, as his quirky style of writing and unique approach to film making seemed a perfect fit for what is such an arguably odd story. Wright and Cornish had been involved in the development of an Ant-Man script since as early as 2003, with them being officially brought on to the project in 2006. Development continued through the entirety of Phase One, as Ant-Man wasn’t considered a “tent-pole” character. Months after turning in the fifth draft of their script, however, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish left the project, citing “differences in their vision of the film”.
The story doesn’t end there, thankfully.
Filmmaker Adam McKay entered negotiations to replace Wright as director, though ended up backing out a day later. Marvel Studios would soon after name Peyton Reed as Wright’s replacement, with McKay contributing to the script. It was revealed that Paul Rudd, after being cast as lead character Scott Lang, would also lend a hand with the script. So, we have a movie that went from being written exclusively by Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, to a movie that has four screenplay credits altogether. This was troubling to many, and it could be said a stigma was added to the film after that. Many doubted Ant-Man would meet the standards of quality set by the Marvel Studios films that preceded it.
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Evangeline Lily as Hope Van Dyne
Michael Douglas as Dr. Henry “Hank” Pym
Corey Stoll as Darren Cross/Yellowjacket
When career criminal Scott Lang is released from San Quentin, he vows to turn his life around. He’s given a very clear set of goals by his ex-wife: Get a job, get an apartment, pay his child support. Only then will he be able to spend time with his young daughter, Cassie. Walking the straight and narrow doesn’t pan out for Lang, and when his friend and former heist partner Luis (Michael Peña) offers him “the perfect job”, he decides to take his chances.
The perfect job ends up being more than Lang bargained for, though, when he crosses paths with Dr. Hank Pym. This mysterious older scientist inserts himself into Scott Lang’s life and makes him an offer of his own. One that takes Lang on a wild ride to redemption as he struggles to win back his daughter and, oh yeah, save the world.
I will preface this by saying that there has not been a single Marvel Studios movie that I have disliked. There have been some that I truly loved (Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy) and some that I enjoyed but could have been much better (Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron). Even the ones that have been heavily flawed, have had some redeeming quality for me.
Now, to Ant-Man.
I’ve seen reviews comparing Ant-Man to heist movies like Oceans 11, and I could not agree more. At its core, this is two movies in one. A tale of redemptions and the story of a daring heist. The combination of these elements, along with the heart and charm of Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas, are what really hold this movie together.
The cast is great and each member plays off one another very well. Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas have an undeniable chemistry when on screen together. Evangeline Lily’s Hope Van Dyne is believably at odds with her father, Douglas’ Hank Pym. Michael Peña steals every single scene he’s in as Luis. Going in, I thought for sure that Rudd was going to get the biggest laughs, but Peña nails it every single time.
Even actors in smaller roles, like David Dastmalchian and rapper-turned-actor T.I., or character actress Judy Greer and Boardwalk Empire’s Bobby Cannavale, shine during their brief moments on screen.
Corey Stoll, who can be seen on The Strain on FX, does a fine job as the villainous Darren Cross, though there was something about his performance that didn’t sit right with me.
I’m still blown away that Michael Douglas was in this film. Between Douglas being in Ant-Man, and Robert Redford in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it’s truly astonishing to see the caliber of actor being drawn to Marvel Studios.
Edgar Wright’s influence is still very much felt throughout the movie and I can’t help but wonder how much of his original script made it to shoot. I also can’t help but wonder what the finished product would have been if Wright had remained signed on as director. All of that said, between Wright and Cornish, and Adam McKay and Paul Rudd, all having their hands in the screenplay, the pace of the story is very smooth.
I go back to the combination of heart and humor that made me enjoy this movie as much as I did. While I would not rank Ant-Man with the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy or Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it’s a solid heist movie and just a lot of fun all around. It’s certainly a better movie than you might expect considering it’s a movie about Ant-Man.
Both the mid-credits scene, which sets up some exciting opportunities for Phase Three and beyond, and the post-credits scene, which does a fine job of leading into next summer’s hotly anticipated Captain America: Civil War, are a blast to see.
Overall, I would say Ant-Man does a great job of being a fun summer popcorn flick and fits in to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe in subtle but promising ways. I absolutely recommend seeing it, if you’ve enjoyed the Marvel Studios films as a whole so far.