Movie Review | Ant-Man
Movie summary: Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world. (IMDb)
Going back to watch Ant-Man after the events of Avengers: Endgame feels pretty similar to watching it the first time following on as it did from Avengers: Age of Ultron. It's one of Marvel Studio's 'smallest' movies and not just because of the title character, but because the stakes are personal this time instead of world-ending.
It also shouldn't be understated just how important the Ant-Man series is to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, introducing not only Scott Lang so he can take part in Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War or the previously-mentioned Avengers: Endgame, but also the Quantum Realm, which proves especially important in the last of those three.
Yet there are some - including 'professional' film critics - who seem to hold a grudge against Ant-Man because Edgar Wright didn't direct it as originally intended. I am not one of them and am glad he didn't because this movie set up a lot of pieces for the future of the MCU, even if they are only really noticeable in retrospect.
These MCU ties are apparently what put off Wright, who wanted to make an entirely standalone movie, which it still pretty much is - as long as you have a rough idea of who Falcon, Tony Stark and the Avengers are, you don't need much else going into this movie. If Wright had his way, this movie and large chunks of what followed would be drastically different.
In fact, the sequel to Ant-Man would be the biggest change as that movie would almost certainly have never existed, with Evangeline Lilly confirming that Hope was effectively a bit-part character in Wright's version of the movie, but was able to lobby for increased screen-time after he left the project and wound up becoming the first female title character in a Marvel Studios movie.
Regardless, I think either movie would've leaned heavily on Paul Rudd's natural charm and comedic abilities as Scott Lang to win the audience over and he does so easily here. Rudd makes Scott so immediately likeable that I can't imagine anyone holding his legitimate (as in not-framed or unfair) conviction against him.
But it's also that easy-going nature of his that makes his struggle to cope with becoming Ant-Man so much fun to watch. His reactions always feel genuinely in-character, rather than behaving in a way to simply move the plot along, leading to you becoming invested in his arc and the journey his character takes never feels false as a result.
As for Lilly's Hope van Dyne, she doesn't have a suit or powers here, but is still clearly one of the smartest people in the room and fiercely determined to achieve her goals. I can't imagine how her role would've been played with less screen-time, as she feels absolutely vital to every part of the overall plot and I enjoyed her antagonism with her father, Hank, and how raw it felt.
You can understand Hope's frustrations too, with Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) being overly-protective of his super-smart and highly-competent daughter. On the other hand, and what makes this relationship work so well, is that you can also understand his side: he lost his wife and Hope is the only family he has left - he would rather lose everything else than risk his daughter's safety.
The supporting cast are also pretty great, even if Judy Greer is criminally under-used as Scott's ex-wife. Again, while her character, Maggie, might come across as antagonistic in a weaker movie, it's still made clear here that she is looking out for her own daughter and not wanting her to go down the wrong path like Scott and you understand why she treats him the way she does.
It's Michael Pena who steals the show though, with his Luis providing the biggest laughs - especially his amazing high-speed monologues voiced over scenes of the other characters miming his style of speech as he explains events while diverging from the important stuff pretty regularly. It's no real surprise that he's probably one of - if not the most - popular non-hero characters in the MCU.
As for the villain of the movie, it's a case of them being a bad guy because the movie needs them to be and is probably the biggest single criticism I'd have of Ant-Man as a whole. Corey Stoll does what he can with the character of Darren Cross, but there isn't really much there for him to work with as he quickly devolves into outright madman and murderer.
Even once he becomes Yellowjacket and fights Ant-Man, the stakes remain small and not just thanks to their diminutive stature - by the time this has happened, Cross simply wants to hurt Lang and targets his daughter - nothing world-shaking, but it does lead to them engaging in one of the more inventive final showdowns between hero and villain in the MCU and is all the better for it.
Ant-Man's also a surprise when it comes to the audio-visual side of things too - he's actually got one of the more memorable themes in the MCU (deservedly being re-used in Endgame too), and how the world looks when Ant-Man has shrunk down is particularly well done. It completely sells you on Lang having been shrunk down to the point that everything looks almost alien compared to normal.
In the last couple of years, there's been a thing about whether movies are 'needed' or not - something said about Solo last year and cropping up again in reviews of The Lion King CGI remake this year. It was also said about this movie, but a lot of people - including myself - were pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable Ant-Man turned out after the relative disappointment of Age of Ultron.
I think the difference between this movie and the others is the inter-connected nature of the MCU - even by this point, I think Marvel fans knew that something that might appear unimportant here could potentially pay off later. That turned out to be very much the case with Ant-Man, making it feel even more rewarding going back to it when you know where it all ends up.
Ant-Man is a fun little movie that set up a lot of things to come, although most of them are only noticeable in retrospect. It's one of the few MCU movies that can stand on its own and is one of the most family-friendly movies in the franchise, with a light, breezy tone and a perfect lead performance from Paul Rudd, even if Evangeline Lilly's Hope seems far more competent.