The first I heard of Ant-Man was when Edgar Wright (director of SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ) had initially signed on. I thought it seemed like a dumb superpower, a man that can shrink. The next I heard of it Wright had gotten into a spat with Marvel and had left the movie. He was replaced by the director of YES MAN, Peyton Reed. This raised a few red flags with me, since the movie only had a year left to go to finish production. My guess would be that a lot of time would be spent on effects work while not as much effort would be put into building a compelling plot.
For the most part I was right. What I was wrong in was assuming that ANT-MAN would be a bad movie, it isn’t. At least it isn’t for the most part, the film is not without its flaws. Said flaws primarily being caused by the feeling that the movie got fast tracked, most likely caused by Edgar Wright’s spat with Marvel. It was astounding that this didn’t sink ANT-MAN; it’s a fun, charming romp buoyed by good acting and stylish direction.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) just got out of prison and is trying to find a job to make money. He wants to rebuild his life so he can establish a relationship with his daughter. His ex-wife and her current boyfriend (Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale) are skeptical. He gets a job from his friend Luis (Michael Pena) to rob a millionaire named Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Little does Scott know that Hank has set him up and before long he has him roped into a plan to stop one of his pupils (Corey Stoll) from, you guessed it; taking over the world.
What carries this film is its acting. I wish it wasn’t that simple but it is. Paul. Rudd has a lot of charm in the lead role. We so often see him in comedies that we never really think of him as a leading man but I think he’s got some chops. Evangeline Lilly plays Hank’s daughter, Janet Van Dyne, and she’s terrific. She puts a lot of effort into what it is a pretty standard role. The other one I want to talk about is Bobby Cannavale as the stepdad, because that character could have been written as the clichéd stepdad you used to see in a lot of movies in the 90’s. The guy whose only goal is to usurp the main character’s family and make him miserable, Cannavale’s character was nothing like that at all and I am so grateful. He actually seems like a pretty good guy trying to do the right thing and that made this movie a little easier to sit through for me.
Also noteworthy are the effects. Many of the action scenes in ANT-MAN are creative and well-implemented. The films set-pieces are just flat out gorgeous to admire. Peyton Reed proves everybody wrong and shows that he does have a certain eye for how scenes like this should work. He paces the film briskly, it’s an easy sit. There were a lot of visual gags thrown in there that actually got genuine laughs out of me, which is a hard thing for a Hollywood blockbuster to pull off.
The film is not without its flaws. You can tell the plot was fast-tracked by Marvel so as to get the film released on time, and you can tell the behind the scenes fighting with Edgar Wright had a stirring influence on the movie as a whole. There are several gags in the film where they are deliberately emulating Wright’s style of editing. You can see traces of the film it should have been to be certain.
If you read about the behind the scenes trouble and decided then and there that you were going to hate ANT-MAN no matter what, there is little in the finished product that will convince you otherwise. However a casual viewer could rent the film and enjoy their time fine. ANT-MAN is a fun movie that nobody was expecting to deliver. It just barely gets a passing grade.
A Review by: Jeff Turner
Dir: Peyton Reed
Written by: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish.
Produced by: Kevin Feige, Brad Winderbaum.
Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Pena, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Wood Harris, John Slattery, Hayley Atwell.