Reviewed by Mitch Burns
Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangaline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Peña, Bobby Cannavale, Anthony Mackie, David Dastmalchian, T.I., John Slattery, Wood Harris, Martin Donovan and Abby Ryder Fortson
The MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is starting to get crazy now, we have Ant-Man. A man, who can shrink down to the size of an ant, and communicate with/control ants. While you may have been okay with a man in an Iron Suit, a god from the skies or a superhuman from the 1940’s, this is probably where you have to stay on board or get off the Thomas the Tank Engine.
In the late 80’s Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) resigns from S.H.I.E.L.D. after they’ve tried to mess with a solution he’s created that can shrink people down to ant size. Pym runs Pym Laboratories until he is forced out of the company, by his “protegé” Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) and daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly).
It’s present day, and a man named Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is being released from prison, and meets up with his old buddy Luis (Michael Peña). Scott is trying to live a clean life now, no crime, he wants to do good-by his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) who lives with her mother (Judy Greer) and Step dad (Bobby Cannavale).
Scott, through a series of events, meets with Hank Pym who has been admiring Scott and his robbery abilities. Pym and his daughter Hope have figured out that Darren Cross has gone mad. Cross is hoping to harness the power of the shrinking formula that Pym created and militarize it, and sell it to HYDRA. Pym and Hope need Scott Lang to become Ant-Man, and defeat Darren Cross.
Ant-Man‘s journey to the screen hasn’t been an easy one, originally starting development back in 2006, with Edgar Wright on board to direct and co-write the film. Edgar Wright, who has directed films such as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, etc, saw the film into pre-production and casting, but ultimately left the project in 2014. Wright directing a Marvel film excited a bevy of people (including me), as he might have brought something unique to the film, and while it was sad to see him leave, it didn’t come as a huge shock as Wright always seemed an odd choice for Marvel.
I’m sure bits of Wright’s script and direction are still in this version of Ant-Man, he gets a story and executive producer credit, but it’s not his, and it’s depressing to think of what he could have created. Instead we get mainly what we have come to expect from Marvel films, passable entertainment that we forget about until the next sequel.
The Edgar Wright debacle and Ant-Man‘s nearly 10 year journey to the screen definitely hurt this film. It feels jagged, and tonally awkward. The story is packed with jokes, and while we’ve come to expect some humor with our superhero films, Ant-Man tries (and fails) to be a straight up comedy. The many jokes are hit or miss but the biggest issue is the movie wants us to take it seriously one moment, but is making fun of itself the next. Sure, it might be funny, but it’s sending mixed signals.
There are a few really good, almost great, portions of film here, Anything with the always smiling Michael Peña is terrific, some interesting action beats where they play with shrinking and enlarging, and a fun action sequence involving Thomas the Tank Engine and a large ant. I don’t think any of us will ever know 100% how much of this was Edgar Wright or not, but he’s felt sporadically.
Speaking of Peña, he’s terrific, and the rest of the cast… they’re trying. Paul Rudd is fine, charming as always, I’m sure he’ll be fun in future Avengers movies. Rudd is barely the main Character, he is usually in the Ant-Man suit, or just a CGI speck, it’s Michael Douglas’ character Hank Pym who is really the main character, and present in most scenes. Evangeline Lilly acts her heart out but her character is one note, boring and there is no chemistry between her and Rudd. Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, and T.I. are given useless roles, while generally unknown actors David Dastmalchian and Abby Ryder Fortson shine.
Ant-Man suffers from being yet another origin story, and it takes a long time to get anywhere. A lengthy training montage is inserted to try to sum things up, but it goes on forever, we get it, he couldn’t fight but at the end of this montage he can! Overall, Ant-Man has a few good sequences but a great cast has been squandered, on a film that’s trying very hard to make you forget what it could have been. (Insert lame joke from Ant-Man here)
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