Ant-Man has perhaps one thing going for it; a lifeline that keeps it afloat. Not for a second does it take itself seriously. Not for a second does it actually believe its hero can shrink to the size of an insect and still fling a full-grown man across the room. All the actors play their roles with a smirk and a wink to the camera. The action is light-hearted and innocuous. The humour, while flat, is necessary for the viewers who will laugh at it. There is an innocence about its way, and if it’s not refreshing, it’s at least comforting.
Here is a Marvel movie that employs simplicity as its greatest ally. The plot centres on revenge, with subplots about romance, redemption, and my favourite: The father and daughter who reconcile over the mysterious and unexplained death of the wife. Why can’t family members just learn to get along after a death? Why hate when consolation would be more prudent?
Never mind. The story must strive to bound forward in spite of such heedless obstacles. The villain is Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), a tech tycoon who was once a protege of the famous Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), designer of the Pym Particle, if I recall correctly. What Hank has managed to do is develop a full-body suit that, when worn, can transform you or me into a speck small enough to mount an ant like a steed. Naturally, when ant-sized, one is also able to summon all the ants like a magnet attracting iron filings. This is done, again if I recall correctly, by transmitting brain waves via a compact device to the ants, which then bend and break to perform helpful tasks, such as adding two sugars to your coffee.
But the hero of the movie is not Hank, or the ants (though they are given a surprising amount of screen time). Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, a professional thief on parole who wants more than anything to be able to see his daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson). She, of course, lives with the ex-wife (Judy Greer) and the new father, a cop played by Bobby Cannavale, and thinks of Scott as nothing less than the coolest, most sophisticated hero on Earth.
Scott’s done with the whole bad guy lifestyle. He wants to change. Really, he does. So at the behest of his crime buddies he breaks into Hank Pym’s basement and freezes open a 1920s vault that contains within the magical ant suit. That’s his recruitment, see. Hank orchestrated the heist because he wanted Scott to break in. He wanted Scott to find the suit and wear it, because Hank has a plan to stop Darren Cross, and damn it, he’s too old to don the suit himself. All this leads to a showdown between the good Scott and the bad Darren, as seen in the trailers.
What’s fun about Ant-Man, besides its cheer, is the many different ways Scott circumvents tight situations using the abilities of his suit. He sprints along the barrel of a pistol. He zaps in and out of the visible spectrum as he pleases, which makes for energetic action sequences. We get to see ants in giant proportions, along with an array of environments and products, like the plug for a bathtub drain.
But when it comes to the characters and the climax, there’s nothing we haven’t seen. The main battle plays like a copycat of Iron Man (2008) and The Incredible Hulk (2008) and lacks the kind of gentle genius present in supreme superhero movies like The Dark Knight (2008). There’s very little steam and no payoff. It’s as if the entire movie is waiting for the real, hard-hitting Ant-Man story to appear, but it never does. Maybe the inspiration got lost in the screenwriting phase. Or maybe it’s waiting to blossom later down the Marvel track. In the meantime though, you want fluffy family fun, you got it.
Best Moment | Michael Douglas playing an integral Marvel character.
Worst Moment | The I hate this guy, but I just saw him without his shirt on and now I think I might be falling for him scene.