Ant-Man is the 12th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has been the source of multiple controversies. It was not always meant to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, instead it was the pet project of Edgar Wright. With Iron Man, Marvel Studios birthed their cinematic universe, and slowly started to wrangle Ant-Man in. When Marvel announced actor Paul Rudd, it got a shot in the arm. Eventually Wright and Marvel hit an impasse. Wright left the project and people got nervous about Ant-Man. Although a founding Avenger in the comics, many questioned the point of a character seen as fairly obscure outside of comic circles. But Marvel was determined to make the film, hiring director Peyton Reed (Down With Love, Bring It On).
The film we have gotten is not necessarily what we would have gotten from Edgar Wright. But that does not make what we got a bad offering. The fears that we were getting the first official MCU bomb have not come true.
The film is the story of criminal Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). He was a skilled burglar who exposed a corporation screwing over it’s customers and is now recently released. His hopes of being a part of his daughter Cassie’s life are quickly dashed, as his ex-wife (Judy Greer-underused again) set strict rules before he can re-enter Cassie’s life.
Running parallel is the story of Hank (Michael Douglas) and Hope (Evangeline Lilly) Pym. Hank has spent 20 years trying to protect Pym Particles from falling into anyone’s hands and it strained his relationship with his daughter Hope. Hope felt abandoned at a time when she probably needed Hank the most-the death of his wife and her mother Janet.
The strong points of the film are that it stays mostly in it’s own grounds. There is an obligatory Avengers crossover, and we know Hank used to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. But it is mostly background. This is smaller scale, no universe/planet saving. In fact, it is more of a traditional heist film where they added the element of super-heroics. The final battle takes place in a little girl’s room. The only world at stake in that moment is Scott’s. After so many “bigger” Marvel films, the smallness of the film is pretty refreshing.
The cast is terrific, with Michael Peña‘s Luis being a real highlight. He is solid and enjoyable comic relief. It is a nice touch that he is not inept, simply excitable. I liked Evangeline Lily’s Hope, and even felt Douglas made Hank’s adamant refusal to allow her to don the Ant-Man costume made sense.
The miniature effects look great, and Reed makes the best of the moments.
At the same time, the film seemed to take short cuts. We never really see when Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross shift from ambitious business man to psycho villain. It just happens. While understandable why Hank opposes it, the idea that Hope never dons an outfit as the Wasp in the film? Disappointing.
Another controversy (which proves true in the final film) was “fridging” the original Wasp*. We never see much of her, she is hidden behind a mask. Between this and the lack of Lilly getting to be the Wasp left me wanting a bit more from the film.
The final work is still strong, with likable characters, fun adventure and great humor.
*”Fridging” is the term for storytelling where a female character is killed on or off screen for the sole benefit of the lead (usually male) character.
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