Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll, Michael Peña
Writers: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Paul Rudd, and Adam McKay
Director: Peyton Reed
Ant-Man is such a complicated and fun movie that, honestly, I am surprised got made in the form it ultimately came out in. Originally conceived by Cornetto Trilogy auteur Edgar Wright, Wright eventually opted to leave the project after pre-production due to “creative differences” between himself and Marvel. While the general public will never know why this came to be, perhaps Wright wanted more time for post-production, or more days of shooting, Marvel Studios handed the project off to Peyton Reed.
Reed does an admiral job, as the story is still Wright’s. Marvel even kept his name in the credits. It can be tough as a director to take over a project from someone else who helped the project along during its initial days of development (see also, Solo). Paul Rudd and Adam McKay went through the script and punched it up a bit.
What we are given is a pretty serviceable film that takes what worked best from the Ant-Man comics, the crazy science and general “funness” of it, and jettisoned some of the more … troubled aspects of the character. The movie focuses on Scott Lang, played by Paul Rudd, a con man recently released from prison who decides to pull one last job by breaking in and stealing stuff from golden parachute recipient Hank Pym.
Let’s talk about Hank Pym for a bit. In the film, Hank is played by Oscar-winning smart-ass Michael Douglas. In a key scene in the beginning of the film detailing the past of Ant-Man, Marvel uses their incredibly expensive technology to make Douglas look like he walked right off the set of Wall Street. This tech is so good and allows Douglas to play the character during a sliding time frame, and it doesn’t look uncanny valley at all. This is probably the single best use of this technology outside of Captain Marvel.
The entire movie revolves around the plan to stop Pym Technologies from selling a new piece of military hardware to the Phase 2 baddies of the MCU, Hydra. The mastermind behind this all is Darren Cross, played by Corey Stoll from House of Cards. He plays slimeball in HOC pretty well and continues to do the same here.
The biggest draw for me upon revisiting this film was the special effects. Sure, you can look at nearly all of the Marvel films and their special effects are amazing, but Ant-Man here is doing completely different things than Guardians of the Galaxy and Iron Man, which seem to just want to put bright explosions and lasers on screen (this is not a bad thing!). Instead, Ant-Man focuses on the world we live in … but at such ridiculous scales that it seems completely foreign to all of us. To achieve the shrinking motif established by years of comics, there is a faint outline of Scott whenever shrinking is involved. It gives the movie, and Scott, a unique texture.
Another big draw is that this movie never misses an opportunity to tell a joke. It is a funny film! Michael Peña plays Luis, one of Scott’s best friends, and absolutely steals every single scene he is in, specifically those scenes, you know the ones…
There is a reason everyone wants Luis to do a recap Endgame, and it is because Michael Peña is amazing and great.
The physical humor is there too, and not just the random nut-shot or fart jokes. There is a pretty good bit involving a knocked out security guard, Paul Rudd getting hit in the face by Hope Van Dyne, and more.
Finally there is Hope van Dyne/Pym, played by the underrated and amazing Evangeline Lilly. While Wasp was one of the founding members of the Avengers in the comics, it took too many movies to give her an on-screen appearance, and even then, she didn’t even get to put on the Wasp suit. It sucks that we don’t get to see her in action until the sequel, but the reasoning is actually the theme of the movie.
Paul Rudd straight-up states the theme: Hank views Scott as expendable, and he wants to keep tech a secret but not risk his daughters life to do so. This movie is literally about overprotective dads. And honestly, the movie didn’t really click with me until I became a dad myself. Does this world, and Marvel specifically, need another white guy saving the world? No. But am I mad that it is telling a very personal story that is deeply relatable? Absolutely not. Not everything has to be about saving the world; sometimes it is about saving your kid.