Warning: this review contains spoilers.
Ant-Man, right? What kind of superhero is that? Though Marvel’s latest superhero might sound a little ridiculous, and even he’ll admit that the name is, the little guy packs quite a punch. Paul Rudd stars as Scott Lang, recruited by the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas, to help him stop his former prodigy, Darren Cross, played by Corey Stoll, who is trying to build upon Pym’s technology for potentially sinister reasons. Pym’s daughter, Hope Van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lilly, has an icy relationship with her father, but she too teams up with him and Scott to help save the day. Mix in some friends and family issues, and it sounds just like most of Marvel’s other origin films. And while that might be somewhat true, Ant-Man stands out from the rest of the pack because, well, he’s Ant-Man.
I’ll be honest, I was not psyched about the possibility of an Ant-Man film. Though I tried to separate the movie from it’s comic book origins, and this is not a review of how it compares to comic story lines because they are quite different, it was hard to not be a little upset that Janet Van Dyne, my favorite comic book superhero, was not going to be in the film. Though she ended up being referenced, her and Hank, along with Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk, founded the original Avengers team in the comics, so knowing that they wouldn’t be fighting alongside this current Avengers crop was a little bit of a bummer.
However, taking this movie for what it was, a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was actually quite enjoyable. Though some might not be able to get past the idea of a superhero named Ant-Man, this movie holds its own among its counterparts in the MCU. Paul Rudd was very capable as Scott Lang, and his charm and humor worked to his advantage in the role. Evangeline Lilly was excellent as Hope Van Dyne, showing both toughness and vulnerability reminiscent of how her mother, Janet Van Dyne, is in the comics. Though Ant-Man definitely has issues, it serves as a worthy introduction for two characters who will most likely continue to make their mark in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
So, without further adieu, here is the good, the bad, and what I’m on the fence about in Marvel’s Ant-Man.
Making a completely serious superhero movie called Ant-Man doesn’t really work, and thankfully Marvel didn’t take that approach. One of the best things about Ant-Man was it’s humor and its ability to not take itself completely seriously. Though it arguably wasn’t as funny as 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, it was definitely one of Marvel’s more lighthearted movies. There were definitely serious moments, but interspersed were necessary bits of humor. Two of the moments that got the biggest laughs in my theater came during the fight at the end where Ant-Man and Yellowjacket are fighting in a suitcase and one of them accidentally activates Siri on an iPhone, which starts playing The Cure. Also when they’re fighting in Cassie’s bedroom, people laughed not only when some of her toys and one of the ants became giant sized, but also when they zoomed out from the fighting to show what it looked like in “normal size” with almost no destruction happening even though it was very intense at the micro-level. Ant-Man also poked fun at the superhero name and the fact that he could control ants because, in theory, it’s kind of an absurd premise. There were a lot of other funny moments in the film, but for something like this, it didn’t take itself too seriously, and that was definitely a good thing.
Though occasionally bordering on stereotypes, Scott’s criminal friends were still some of the highlights of the movie. His friend Luis, played by Michael Peña, was definitely an audience favorite. His roundabout way of storytelling was both hilarious and endearing, and his interest in the finer things like art and wine made him an intriguing character. The three were all capable in their own right, using their unique skills to help Scott in his fight with Darren Cross. Besides adding some humorous moments to the film, the three added depth to Scott’s story line and hopefully this won’t be the last we’ll see of them in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Ant-Man arguably had some of the best visuals of any Marvel movie to date. Most Marvel films don’t need to be seen in IMAX 3D, but I felt Ant-Man was worth it, if only for the scene where Scott goes subatomic (shrinks while already in his smaller state, meaning he’ll continue shrinking without ceasing). Aside from the “Groot Cocoon” scene in Guardians of the Galaxy, the subatomic scene was probably the prettiest visual I’ve ever seen in a Marvel movie. But the shrinking effects and the animation of the ants was also very good, and they were definitely enhanced by the 3D and larger IMAX screen. Though I wouldn’t say it’s a requirement to see this movie in IMAX 3D, if you happen to catch it in that format, you won’t be disappointed.
The Post-Credits Scene
When Age of Ultron came out, I complained about the lack of a post-credits scene in the film, but thankfully Marvel returned to their original formula in Ant-Man. The mid-credits scene where Hank revealed the Wasp suit to Hope, implying that she’d possibly become the Wasp in a future Marvel film, was very satisfying for those of us who thought she deserved to suit up and take on Darren Cross. The true post-credits scene showcased Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson, who had a very fun cameo in Ant-Man, discussing what they should do with an apparently recently discovered Bucky Barnes. In what was most likely a scene from the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, it left the door open for Scott Lang to return as Ant-Man, as well as give hints at some plot points for the film. There were cheers and gasps in my theater during both scenes, proving that the post-credits scene works for Marvel and, Age of Ultron aside, thankfully doesn’t appear to be disappearing any time soon.
It’s not that Michael Douglas was miscast, per se, but his take on Hank Pym didn’t seem to jive with the rest of the cast. When he delivered his lines, it seemed more like he was giving a narration rather than fully getting into the character of Hank. At least for me, I think someone else playing Hank would have been better for both the character and the movie.
The subtitle for this movie should have been Ant-Man: Family Issues. Between Hope’s issues with Hank and Scott trying to get back into his daughter Cassie’s life, at times it seemed more like a family drama than a superhero movie. While I realize that most superheroes have family issues somewhere in their background, it just seemed like a lot in this movie. Plus they all got worked out a little too easily. Hope and Hank seemed to be on good terms at the end of the movie, despite years of hard feelings between the two, mostly due to Hank’s distance and secrecy surrounding the death of her mother, Janet. Cassie and Scott’s reunion seemed much more plausible and genuine, whereas realistically Hank and Hope should have had a long ways to go.
Janet Van Dyne
Though I, and many others in the theater during my showing, were ecstatic at the possibility that Janet Van Dyne might not actually be dead, she still deserved much better than she got in Ant-Man. In the comics (I know I promised I wouldn’t bring comic history into this review, but I just can’t help it) Janet is one of the founding Avengers and even names the team. Instead, in this movie, she “dies” offscreen and, even in her brief appearance as Wasp, her face is never shown. Though she is shown to be capable and a hero, her character, based on her history in Marvel comics, deserved a much bigger place in the film. I appreciated how much Hope cared about her mother, even taking her last name, but a character like Janet Van Dyne should have had a bigger role in this movie and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well.
On The Fence:
Hope Van Dyne
I’m on the fence about whether I think Hope was a good part of this movie or not. Don’t get me wrong, I think her character was awesome, and I fully look forward to her eventually becoming the Wasp, and Evangeline Lilly played her well. But I don’t like how this movie used her. The entire movie seemed like it was trying to make excuses for why Hope shouldn’t be in the Ant-Man suit, and it failed miserably. Hope was clearly the most capable person in the film, helping run a company while also trying to take down Darren Cross, and she also had to train Scott to fight and communicate with the ants. For all the work she had to do with Scott, I kept wondering why she couldn’t just be the Ant-Man. Of course, Hank’s reasons had to do with not wanting to lose his wife and his daughter, but it wasn’t convincing regardless. Though I appreciated the need for Scott to appear vulnerable and need significant training, to basically show that Hope was superior to him in every way and still didn’t get to wear the suit doesn’t do a good job of convincing me that Marvel doesn’t have a female superhero problem. Having Hope in the suit would have made more sense, and arguably would have been more satisfying considering all she’s been through.
For fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man is definitely not one to be skipped. There’s enough substance and Easter eggs to keep the hardcore fans interested, and the humor will appeal to more casual fans. Though it’s not a perfect movie, almost despite itself, Ant-Man is required viewing for Marvel superhero fans.
Did you watch Ant-Man this weekend? Tell us what you thought of it in the comments!