Now more than ever, I really wish that we could have seen what Edgar Wright had planned for Ant-Man. Throughout the version that is hitting screens, we see tons of hints at what his vision was for the diminutive superhero. Of course, even though Wright stepped away from directorial duties after disagreements with Marvel, Wright and Joe Cornish‘s screenplay is still partially being used by director Peyton Reed and company, resulting in a truly odd cinematic experience. I liked Ant-Man quite a bit, but the parts I enjoyed most of all are Wright’s. Paul Rudd‘s turn as a thief turned hero is effective, while Reed keeps things moving along, but the parts that are more generic Marvel Cinematic Universe don’t hold up as well as the quirkier bits. Obviously, an ant sized superhero and future Avenger is a silly premise to begin with, so this odd tone and set up actually fits, but despite the movie being better than you’d expect after all the pre shoot chaos, it does leave you wishing for the flick we never got. That’s a moot point, but it hovers over Ant-Man throughout. In the end though, this is a solid new addition to the MCU, setting up the beginnings of Phase Three. Ant-Man is a lot of fun, but somehow you still wonder about what might have been…
After a prologue introducing us to Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) in relation to Howard Stark (John Slattery) and the “Pym Particle”, we meet Scott Lang (Rudd), a burglar about to be released from prison. He took the fall after trying to take down a giant soulless corporation, with that crime costing him his wife (Judy Greer), who is now with a cop (Bobby Cannavale), as well as his daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson), who he can’t see nearly as often as he’d like. Eager to go straight and make them proud, he resists robbery offers from his friend Luis (Michael Pena), until he really just needs the money too badly. The job winds up being a set up by Pym to recruit Lang to become his Ant-Man and assist him and his estranged daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) in stopping former protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) form utilizing his research to create an army. What follows is Scott learning how to be a hero while also planning the heist to end all heists. Of course, it has to end with Scott up against Darren as super villain Yellowjacket, since this is Marvel, after all…but up until then, it’s pretty quirky.
Paul Rudd was pretty perfectly cast by Wright for this project before he stepped aside. Not only does he look the part of a hero and can hold his own in a fight, he effectively brings the humor and everyman quality to the part that makes the ridiculousness work. It’s really a showcase for him, and he doesn’t disappoint. Michael Douglas isn’t asked to do much, but he’s solid here as a mentor and the one to explain a lot of the silliness to us. Evangeline Lilly is underused, but there’s hints of more for her to do going forward. Michael Pena is actually great comic relief, while Corey Stoll chews the scenery and manages not to be a stock Marvel villain. Bobby Cannavale is underserved, as is Judy Greer, while the rest of the cast, in addition to Abby Ryder Fortson and the cameoing John Slattery, includes T.I., David Dastmalchian, Wood Harris, Martin Donovan, and some other Marvel movie veterans I’ll keep a secret. Through it all, Rudd is the one who shines through though.
Peyton Reed is no Edgar Wright, that’s for sure, but armed with a piecemeal screenplay by Cornish, Wright, Rudd, and Adam McKay (who nearly directed this himself), he makes it work. Reed has some fun with where the big set pieces are done, particularly with the final fight. This is one of the most amusing and self aware Marvel outings to date (a character mentions calling in the Avengers), due to not shying away from what Wright wanted to do with Ant-Man. I know that his singular take on the whole wouldn’t have jived with Marvel wanting everything to set up the next big film, but what we see here just makes me wish it happened anyway, particularly since he’s so much more of a visual director. McKay, Reed, and Rudd do their best and put out something strong, but Cornish and Wright could have done an alternative classic, in my humble opinion.
What it comes down to is this…Ant-Man isn’t the best Marvel has ever done, but it’s their most surprisingly effective movie to date. It’s right around the bottom of their top five (which to me is Iron Man, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and this), and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Many were expecting a disaster and I can certainly testify that it’s not one at all. Some moments are on the generic side, but the Wright influence manages to infuse a personality into this blockbuster. Ant-Man won’t change the world, but it’s a solid summer superhero flick that’s well worth seeing.
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!