Ant-Man Review – A Film That Transcends All Puns


I promised my editor, Nick Tylwalk, that I would try and make my review headline unique from all the others by not using a pun.  However, I’m still itching to get a few in, so let me purge my system …

“Ant-Man is no small feat”

“Ant-Man swarms successfully into the Marvel Cinematic Universe”

“Ant-Man is no drone”

“Ant-Man proves that good things do come in small packages”

Okay, that felt good.

Did I like Ant-Man?  No, I didn’t.  I loved it!  The latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe shrinks (there’s that dang pun again) … ahem … takes a step back from the growing geography of settings in this universe and proves that a more intimate story is all you need to engage the audience.  Paul Rudd turns up the awkward everyman charm and mesmerizes the audience with his flawed, but lovable Scott Lang.  Michael Douglas entertains us with his older Hank Pym by making the character a sort of world-weary future Scott Lang.  And Evangeline Lilly gives us a tough, no nonsense Hope van Dyne.  Both the duo of Hank and Hope become a type of hardcore, cynical Mr. Miyagi to Scott.  The resulting chemistry of this trifecta is perfectly balanced and is just as adeptly coordinated as the very ants their respective characters control.

Spoiler-Free Synopsis

Our story starts off in 1989 where we see a younger Hank Pym meeting with the SHIELD brain trust — Howard Stark, Peggy Carter, and Mitchell Carson.  Pym is not happy about SHIELD trying to reproduce his shrinking technology without his knowledge.  He warns them of the impending dangers and destruction it could bring to the world.  With his concerns falling on deaf ears, Hank angrily resigns and separates himself from SHIELD.

In the present, Hank, now a retired CEO of his own company, Pym Technologies, discovers that his successor, Darren Cross, has been attempting to reproduce the source of Hank’s shrinking technology — Pym particles.  Hank is again angered and seeks to stop Darren from creating a dangerous weapon.

Scott Lang, just released from prison for playing Robin Hood, is a highly skilled burglar trying to get visitation rights to his daughter, Cassie.  Though Cassie looks up to her father, Scott’s ex-wife and her new husband think that he needs to get his life in order.  With past due child support payments and the inability to secure an apartment, Scott accepts an opportunity to burglarize a home for a share of the fortune.  Breaking in, he only finds the Ant-Man suit.

Scott soon tries it on and discovers the shrinking abilities of the suit.  Scared of what he’s stumbled onto, Scott attempts to return the suit, but is caught red-handed by the police.  In jail, he meets Hank Pym, feigning to be Scott’s lawyer.  Hank reveals that he’s the owner of the burgled home, and he himself was the one who organized the heist.  After some back-and-forth with Hank, Scott accepts an opportunity to redeem himself to the world.

Through rigorous training and the planning of a detailed heist, Scott learns about what’s at stake and what it means to become the next Ant-Man.

A Small Story with a Big Payoff

Ant-Man‘s plot is simple: Scott needs to steal some s***.  Hey, those aren’t my words.  That’s what Hank literally tells Scott.  And that’s also the ingenuity of Ant-Man.  It doesn’t allow the plot to drive the film.  Because it’s so simple, the characters and the emotions are brought to the foreground.

At the end, we see Ant-Man for what it’s really about: the relationship of fathers and daughters.  The relationship of Hank and Hope act as a crystal ball to Scott.  It shows Scott what may happen to his relationship with his daughter, Cassie, if he doesn’t make the move for redemption.  Because the audience is given a great first act of Scott with Cassie, we buy the fact that he’s doing all of this for her, and ups the emotional thread.

Yes, it’s not as big as the Avengers trying to save the population of a falling city, but Cassie is Scott’s world.  And that becomes just as big of a reason as any to go up against the impossible.  This is why Ant-Man is a smaller story, yet also a bigger one at the same time.  It has a bigger heart.

Let’s also not forget about the other characters.  Every protagonist in the film has their likability turned up a notch.  Scott’s team may be a band of burglars, but they never turn on each other and are an extremely humorous bunch.  Michael Peña has been in plenty of movies, but he’s extremely memorable here.  From the way he tells overly long stories to his quirky inflections, Peña’s Luis is a character you can’t get enough of.

Final Thoughts

The initial assessments of the film were correct: Ant-Man is Marvel Studios’ smallest effort to-date.  And no, I’m not trying to make another pun.  The story is about family.  There isn’t the usual fare of aliens, killer robots, or the team flying halfway across the globe.  In fact, the characters hardly leave the vicinity of San Francisco and the final act takes place in a little girl’s bedroom.  However, the story is big on emotions and theme.

As great of a success as this film will be, it should get even higher praise.  Why?  For starters, it was already public knowledge that Ant-Man ran into some difficulties with the leaving of original director and writer Edgar Wright.  Then, when director Peyton Reed stepped in, people weren’t confident that he could salvage the production.  Ant-Man has now been released and the naysayers can eat their words.  This is the best Marvel Studios character introduction film since Iron Man (2008).

With a tight script, well-choreographed action sequences, and emotions to the brim, Ant-Man finishes off Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe like a delicious dessert of souffle — light and airy in a good way, but satisfying and sweet.

Released in the United States on July 17, 2015, Ant-Man closes out Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The film is directed by Peyton Reed, written by Gabriel Ferrari, Andrew Barrer, and Adam McKay, and stars Paul Rudd as Scott Lang / Ant-Man, Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne, Corey Stoll as Darren Cross / Yellowjacket, Bobby Cannavale as Paxton, Michael Peña as Luis, Judy Greer as Maggie, Tip “T.I.” Harris as Dave, David Dastmalchian as Kurt, Wood Harris as Gale, Jordi Mollà as Castillo, and Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym / Ant-Man.

Next: Ant-Man mid and post-credits scenes explained

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