“Ant-Man” doesn’t have the same superhero appeal as Captain America, Iron Man, or Thor.
He’s not as big, or strong, or superpowered. But as the star of his first standalone film, people might soon look to Ant-Man as their favourite Avenger.
The movie is lighthearted in every sense of the word. There’s no overwhelming or incoherent plot line, and your enjoyment of the movie doesn’t rely on seeing or enjoying the other Marvel films. It’s also not about saving the world or the universe; sure, Ant-Man needs to stop a super-powered villain to save his daughter and stop an evil corporation from gaining a powerful weaponised suit, but the stakes aren’t nearly as lofty as other Marvel films.
The story is relatively straightforward: Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas, is a scientist who has created something called the “Pym particle,” which powers the Ant-Man suit, capable of shrinking and growing back to normal size with the click of a button. But after Pym refuses to give his invention to the government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. — run by Tony Stark’s father (played by John Slattery) and Captain America’s love interest from the 1930s Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) — he starts his own company, which is eventually led by his protégé, the brilliant but headstrong Darren Cross (played by Corey Stoll).
Years later, Cross is ready to unveil his own Ant-Man suit and sell it to the highest bidder: In this case, the evil corporation H.Y.D.R.A. But Pym is too old to use the suit to steal Cross’ creation, and he doesn’t want his daughter Hope (played by Evangeline Lilly) to use it. (There are some negative effects to using the suit over time.)
So Pym seeks out Scott Lang, played by Paul Rudd, an intelligent and even altruistic burglar — he robbed a millionaire who stole money from people and returned it to those folks. Lang is down on his luck after getting out of jail. But after Pym gets in touch with Lang and asks him to become Ant-Man, it’s all a matter of training for the big heist.
The second half of “Ant-Man” feels like “Ocean’s 11” or “Mission Impossible” mixed with superheroes and, uh, ants. A lot of different kinds of ants (four to be exact). But that’s a good thing! While there are plenty of laughs in the first half of the film, the entertainment is certainly kicked up a notch in the latter half — complete with an enjoyable and somehow not cliché training montage, as well as some clever visual gags and some excellent Marvel fan service. It’s a little predictable, but it’s got some surprises everyone will enjoy.
“Ant-Man” achieves a rare balance that other Marvel movies have difficult achieving no matter how good they may be. Thanks in large part to Rudd, who is charismatic but also a total goofball, “Ant-Man” manages to be a hilarious movie, and an enticing visual marathon, but also emotional at the right times. Last year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” is the only other Marvel film that has come so close to achieving this kind of balance. You actually care about the characters, and you want them to succeed — even the side characters, played by Michael Peña, David Dastmalchian, and T.I. (yes, the rapper T.I.) add a strong dose of fun and variation.
You don’t need to be a Marvel fan to root for “Ant-Man.” The film’s final act will have you wanting more of Rudd, Douglas, and co. — and luckily for fans, the final line of the film before the lights come back on promises “Ant-Man will return.”
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