Review: Marvel's 'Ant-Man' Stands In Some Pretty Big Footprints

July 17, 2015

Marvel's Ant-Man

Marvel's Ant-Man could have been the strangest superhero movie to date. The comic character who can shrink himself down to minuscule sizes - and, in the comics, blow himself up to gigantic heights - and has a telekinetic link to our ant population had countless avenues in which to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Our minds could have been blown despite the inundation of superhero stories since Spider-Man first leapt onto the screen 13 years ago. Instead, fun as it might be, the Ant-Man we get is a basic, hardly-any-frills, comic book origin story. Its potential for strangeness aside, the movie delivers on all the surface-level excitement & adventure you've come to expect from Marvel. You just expect a bit more, as well.

Our straightforward, white guy hero this time around is Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), an expert thief with an engineering degree and an unlucky knack for getting caught. He's spent the earliest years of his young daughter's life behind bars, his one desire when he's released to go straight and provide for her. This proves easier said than done, and Scott is soon back to his old ways, breaking into vaults and looting whatever valuables he finds there.

The turn towards the comic book pages comes when Scott burgles – and is caught burgling – the home of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a biophysicist who has discovered the "Pym Particle," which, along with a specialized designed suit, allows the wearer to shrink down to an almost microscopic size. Naturally, Hank sees the good in Scott, and the two come to an agreement that has Scott donning the Ant-Man suit and taking up Hank's heroic mantle. Good thing, too, since Hank's former company, now in line with S.H.I.E.L.D. or Hydra or whatever it's called nowadays, wishes to use the Pym Particle as a weapon.

Ant-Man Review

There's no telling what kind of Ant-Man movie we would have seen had the project actually remained with writer/director Edgar Wright all the way through. The man who gave us The Cornetto Trilogy and the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World adaptation had his eyes fixed on Ant-Man since 2003, and the film was his up until a year ago. Rumblings that Marvel and Wright split ways due to Wright's vision of the film being "too weird" seem to only be strengthened when you realize how simplistic the story here is.

There's very little depth to Ant-Man's screenplay, Rudd and Adam McKay getting screenwriting credits here alongside Wright and his writing partner, Joe Cornish. Scott's one motivation seems to be keeping his daughter safe, Hank's reasons being not much different. Evangeline Lilly, strong and fascinating as ever, plays Hope van Dyne - Hank's own, estranged daughter who now works for Hank's former, now-nefarious company. These, along with Scott's bumbling team of thieves, make up the good guys. You know the bad guys from their shiny suits and bald heads. That standard-issue crazy look in Corey Stoll's eyes helps set him apart from the rest as the main baddy.

All the while Ant-Man moves from joke to joke, the level of comedy in the first half of the film a clear indicator where its story's strengths lie. Rudd is typically hammy and suitably charming for a superhero. Douglas is superbly aged as the elder Pym, and his unflinching ability to captivate – as well as some of the best de-aging effects seen on film – makes us wish the MCU had come about in the mid-80s. Michael Peña, playing Scott's old cellmate and current partner in crime, lays on the humor pretty thick and with pretty impeccable timing. Much of Ant-Man's first, two Acts play like a modern, Hollywood laugh-fest, the direction from Wright's replacement, Peyton Reed, coming across like the works of Judd Apatow.

Ant-Man Review

Reed keeps the momentum flowing and dazzles his audience between action scenes. Even when Ant-Man flexes its special effects muscle, though, it all lands slightly lighter than much of what Marvel has delivered previously. The explosions are still in there. The digital effects, impressive as they've ever been, bring everything to gloriously visual life even if it's all the same glass building-helicopter-ticking clock substance we've seen before. Seriously, bad guys just need to stop investing in helicopters. It never works out for them.

There's nothing about Ant-Man that completely fails. The film's Second Act is essentially a prolonged montage, Scott learning about his abilities and the good guys' plotting of an ultimate heist against the bad guys, but the chemistry everyone has makes it all entertaining. It also distracts us from how much the scenes of Scott interacting with his new, insect friends reminds us of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids… almost. The standard climax featuring good guy versus bad guy plays out just as you would expect. Reed and company utilize their protagonist's small-scale environment well, turning the typical explosion-fest finale into something much more comical.

There are still glimpses hidden throughout this Ant-Man that tell us the makers behind it were aiming at something different, and there's certainly room for something different with this particular, comic book character. Perhaps going in those off-kilter areas – seeing Hope van Dyne don the suit and/or seeing a full-Hank Pym/Janet van Dyme as Wasp adventure – should come after the basic, establishing story of the typical, Middle-American, white guy superhero. Marvel knows best, and, even when they're delivering standard fare, they still deliver. Ant-Man, routine and ordinary as it is, still delivers.

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Here we go with the "white guilt" bullshit by another obese white nerd...

txJM on Jul 17, 2015


I'm losing weight.

Jeremy Kirk on Jul 17, 2015


Well...can't say anything bad about that...!

txJM on Jul 17, 2015


Even though I agree that was a dumb thing to add, good reply 🙂

OfficialJab on Jul 18, 2015


I think the white dude jab was a metaphor for vanilla

TheOct8pus on Jul 20, 2015


Maybe it's just me, but it just seems like that's something that could have been better conveyed by a review author. If that were even the case.

txJM on Jul 20, 2015


Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you pieces of shit? Jumping on the white guilt bandwagon cause it's so popular nowadays? It's the big "it" thing now. A white guy is the lead? RACIST! SEXIST! WHATEVER ELSE-IST! Go fuck yourself you pathetic piece of shit. I would say that regardless of this being an adaptation a beloved character who is also a WHITE MAN. Go fucking fuck yourself you useless, whiny little bitch.

davidshaw on Jul 17, 2015


Sounds good to me. Thanks for the review Jeremy.

DAVIDPD on Jul 17, 2015


Don't know what movie you watched Jeremy but it doesn't seem to be the same movie I watched. You seem to be projecting a lot of ideas that weren't there. That, plus your obvious need to still reference Edgar Wright as the previous director (can we get off that bandwagon already, just like the white male superhero issue?) doesn't really do you much credit. Why don't you just review the movie for what it is instead of what you wished it would be?

1ftninja on Jul 17, 2015


I don't get it! isn't ant-man from origin white ?

ari smulders on Jul 17, 2015


Hmm, sound kinda mundane. It would probably be better if he wasn't like... white.

Swanland on Jul 18, 2015


I think I'm gonna love this. And I don't blame Paul Rudd for being white.

ryderup on Jul 18, 2015


SERIOUSLY! The nerve of Marvel to cast a white guy to play a white character. White guilt at an all time high. Are you a feminist too?

rolyjimenez on Jul 18, 2015


What is with you people? He's not saying anything against white people, or your standard white male, he's saying that that's what Paul Rudd plays in this movie, and he's right! I absolutely loved this movie, so don't twist my words, but he wasn't playing a Steve Rogers, or a Tony Stark, he was playing a Scott Lang, who is your standard, run of the mill, average white dude, who happens to be a great cat burglar. Get off this "white guilt" bull crap and just read the article without being so dang sensitive. Geez

prantsdagger on Jul 18, 2015


I don't see any reason why race was even brought into this review, but he felt it necessary to make two completely pointless passive-aggressive swipes at the fact that the main character was a "typical, straight-forward, middle-American, white guy." He decided to create some kind of race-baiting issue where there was none... and we have the right to not-so-passively call him out on it.

Swanland on Jul 18, 2015


Do you think it would be acceptable to classify Falcon as "your standard, run of the mill, average black dude" in a Captain America/Avengers review?

txJM on Jul 18, 2015


I enjoyed it. The Ant-Man suit could have been better looking and not as bland as it looks.

Sean on Jul 18, 2015


The suit was about 30 years old, so it stands to reason it would look like that, and I'm sure when next it is seen, it will have been "updated" kinda like the suit we see at the end of the movie (no spoiler here)

theslayer5150 on Jul 20, 2015


It's been confirmed that Rudd has been seen on set of Civil War in what appears to be an updated Pym suit. And rumor has it he'll grow bigger in CW as well as mini-AntMan.

VAharleywitch on Jul 20, 2015


...I just wanted to get across how fucking vanilla the whole thing was...

Jeremy Kirk on Jul 18, 2015


Well if that's the case for most superhero movies it's probably pointless to bother.

OfficialJab on Jul 19, 2015


...hence the white dude comment....which is a metaphor for vanilla, right?

TheOct8pus on Jul 20, 2015


Jeremy your review was spot on but the whole white guy stupidity was kind of pointless and sorry completely out of context. Why even bring it up during a review of Ant Man? really? anyway... the movie was completely vanilla. safe as shit. The only part I liked was the Thomas the Train fight and that was ruined by them putting that scene in the fucking trailer. But the best part was the siri iphone part. Even then they picked a fucking shitty Cure song to play.

jimfromtoto on Jul 19, 2015


Just watched Age of Ultron yesterday (I really took my time at this one). After watching it and this review , seems safe to skip every marvel movie till Civil War... After watching something like Winter Soldier, AoU was so messy and below bar that I started to regret that I payed the ticket price. With what I've heard and read from this film, maybe rental watch, probably not...

ProjectionistHP on Jul 19, 2015


First of all, the next film IS Civil War, second, this film is not only good, it ties in perfectly between Ultron and Civil War. But skip it if you feel the need to.

theslayer5150 on Jul 20, 2015


It is? I was expecting at least one film before that since they come so frequently... If it ties in between somehow, it pretty much has to be watched.

ProjectionistHP on Jul 20, 2015


Yup - Civil War in May, then IIRC Thor 3:Ragnorok is like July 2016. Then something fall 2016/spring 2017 before Infinity War pt1 in Summer 2017.

VAharleywitch on Jul 20, 2015


Just stay until the end of the credits (as if that needs to be told in a Marvel movie 🙂

theslayer5150 on Jul 20, 2015


Yeah, the white guy swipe was unnecessary. In a world where we're getting Black Panther, Ms Marvel and Wonder Woman films and major white characters being cast as other races, it just seems like you're being PC for the sake of looking progressive. Focusing on race in this instance is utterly pointless. I don't understand the "meh" response, either. The flick was a ton of fun. It's not Dark Knight gritty or anything but it's one of the more funny comic movies in the Guardians realm. The end sequence in the Quantum Zone was pretty original and beautiful. There were lots of things here that we've never seen in any movie, which is what I think most people are looking for in an action flick. Go see this.

daneforst on Jul 19, 2015


Agreed agreed agreed

Tom Anderson on Jul 20, 2015


I enjoyed the move quite a bit, standard Marvel comic movie with their type of humor, and even brought a tear to my daughter's eye when a certain "experiment" failed. I think it was a near perfect link between Ultron and Civil war, thus ending phase two, and setting up whats to come.

theslayer5150 on Jul 20, 2015

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