Marvel has been all about the weirdness in the past year. Last summer saw Guardians of the Galaxy, a lesser known Marvel franchise careen to unexpected success after a very successful marketing campaign.
Since the time between that and Ant-Man, audiences have been split between “wow, that looks stupid” and “that’s what you said about Guardians and look how that turned out.” As it turn out, Ant-Man falls somewhere in between those expectations. Not bad by any means, but it may not be enough to dissuade the skeptics.
Ant-Man is a heist movie with a superhero twist, for better or for worse. The main problem with that setup is just that: there’s a lot of setup. Nothing really gets going until the last third of the movie. The first 90 minutes seem overly devoted to convincing everyone that Ant-Man isn’t stupid, we swear! There’s a lot of showing off of the Ant-Man suit’s powers, but the stakes are relatively low for way too long. It’s hard to care about anything that’s happening until it finally hits the fan in act three.
It still succeeds in a lot of ways, though. The climax is wonderfully tense and action-packed, and it did get me excited to see more Ant-Man due in no small part to Paul Rudd’s performance as Scott Lang/Ant-Man. Casting Rudd as the lead was a move I was skeptical of for a long time before going to see the movie, but it definitely worked out for the best. He carries the movie with humor and heart, and brings the usually bombastic superhero genre down to earth for a couple hours.
Ant-Man’s greatest strength is perhaps that it comes only a couple months after Avengers: Age of Ultron, where an entire city floated into the sky. Ant-Man doesn’t have any huge set pieces like that, but it doesn’t need to. It’s a quieter, more subdued superhero movie, except when it’s trying not to be. Marvel really wants us to buy Ant-Man, so there’s these attempt throughout the movie to raise the stakes to “save the world” levels, but it never quite works.
The villain Darren Cross, played by House of Cards’ Corey Stoll, is beautifully scummy and over-the-top, but it’s very hard to believe that his Yellow Jacket suit would really pose such a huge threat to the world, particularly after seeing the things the Avengers have had to deal with on multiple occasions.
The tension feels much more effective when Scott’s daughter is the one at stake, proving that maybe Ant-Man is reaching a little too far to be like its older siblings. The most effective moments of the movie are the intimate ones, not the big explosions. For example, a montage of scenes in the middle of the movie where Hope and Hank Pym attempt to teach Scott how to use the Ant-Man suit and control actual ants is a joy to watch.
The cast is really what makes everything work. Besides Rudd and Stoll, there is a fantastic supporting cast, the highlight being Michael Douglas’s Hank Pym, creator of the suit and retired super-scientist. All the actors work together work together, and it makes me long for when Ant-Man will be sharing a screen with Captain America and Iron Man in the near future.
Ant-Man just feels too much like a bridge between Marvel movies. It’s a fun bridge for the most part, but boring in parts and forgettable in others. It’s hard to imagine that in a decade or two when looking back on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, people will think of Ant-Man and say, “that was definitely one of the best in the series.” It’s not the best, and I doubt anyone will ever say it is. But it’s fun, and when your movie stars a guy who can command an army of ants, that’s probably the most important part.
3 out of 5 Stars
Joel Wallick is currently pursuing a degree in film studies at Bowling Green State University with a minor in creative writing. He has been gaming since early childhood, beginning with Pokemon Silver. Follow him on Twitter @SuperNerdJoel.