Ant-Man first appeared in Marvel Comics “Tales to Astonish” #27 in 1962. Scientist Hank Pym invented a substance that allowed him to change size, called Pym Particles. He became a founding member of the Avengers, along with his girlfriend Janet van Dyne - the Wasp. Pym had a bit of a checkered history, creating Ultron, and developing several mental issues which resulted in him hitting Janet. After Janet’s presumed death, he stopped being Ant-Man, developing other hero identities while others became Ant-Man. Scott Lang was a thief who became Ant-Man after stealing the suit to save his daughter Cassie from a heart condition. Pym allowed Lang to continue using the suit when he gave up his criminal ways.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe began in 2007 with Iron Man and has built successfully since then, with very few misses (this means you, Iron Man 2). Fans had been looking for Ant-man since the first Avengers movie, since Ant-Man was a founding member of the Avengers. He is a bit difficult to bring to screen, mainly since Pym was a difficult character, and after all, his power was shrinking to ant size. Edgar Wright originally was hired to write and direct the movie, but he left after having some difficulties with Disney/Marvel. Peyton Reed was brought on to replace him as director, and Paul Rudd was hired to star. Rudd did some re-write work on Wright’s script with Adam McKay, and the result is a tighter, smaller story than we are used to seeing in Marvel movies, but one that is equally as well crafted with a lot of heart and humor.
The story opens in 1989 as S.H.I.E.L.D. is still constructing the building we see destroyed in Winter Soldier. Agent Carter, Howard Stark, and Mitchell Carson are hanging out, presumably discussing if they can shorten the acronym, when Hank Pym storms in, angry with them for attempting to use his technology, and smacks Carson’s head into the table after he callously brings up Hank’s wife Janet. Pym leaves, presumably taking his tech with him.
We jump to present day and learn that Scott Lang is a thief (a righteous thief) who is being released from San Quentin and picked up by his friend Luis. He tries to reconnect with his daughter Cassie, but his ex and her new cop fiancée won’t really let him until he gets a job and starts paying child support. That goes about as well as you would expect for an ex-con, and after getting fired from Baskin-Robbins, he finally agrees to help Luis on a tip he’s gotten for a ‘job’ with his “associates” Dave and Kurt. An old man is out of town and there’s a fancy safe in his house. They break in, but the only thing in the safe is the Ant-Man suit – which Lang takes. He tries it on back at his place, and swiftly shrinks with Pym communicating to him inside the helmet. That terrifies him and he attempts to return the suit, but gets arrested. Pym comes to visit him as his ‘lawyer’ and explains that he wants to give him a second chance to be the hero his daughter thinks he already is.
Lang takes the opportunity, and starts training with Pym and his daughter Hope on their plan to break into Pym’s former company. His protégé, Darren Cross, has finally discovered the secret to the Pym Particle, and is about to sell the tech to some nefarious characters (they turn out to be Hydra). After learning how to use the suit and communicate with ants, Lang successfully runs a pre-heist to break into what used to be an old Stark storage facility, but is now the new Avengers headquarters, leading to a hilarious encounter/fight with Falcon.
Meanwhile, Cross starts to go a little crazy, or continues to go crazy, and triples security, so Lang has to bring Luis, Dave, and Kurt into Hank and Hope’s plan, leading to a big final heist to steal Cross’s tech, and destroy his research so that he will not be able to ‘plunge the world into chaos”, as all villains want to do.
Peyton Reed is mainly known for oddball comedies up to this point: Bring It On, The Break-Up, and Yes Man, so I expected this movie to be funny, but I wasn’t sure about the action. I am pleased to report that the action was exceptional as well. I do recommend seeing the movie in 3D because of the new “macrophotography” that was used for the shrinking sequences. It looks amazing. The fights are all really well done, and Reed does a great job letting his actors have great quiet emotional moments as well as big over-the-top humor moments.
- Paul Rudd is absolutely a great choice for Scott Lang. He certainly is not what you would expect for a super hero, and that is actually what works perfectly for Ant-man. He’s completely relatable, and super charming. He’s a guy the audience wants to root for. Yes, the underlying “do-it-for-your-daughter” theme got a little heavy-handed and cheesy, but it felt like it made sense and did make the character more lovable.
- Michael Douglas is actually a perfect choice for the angsty and aging Hank Pym. He’s so destroyed by the loss of Janet many years ago that he is very withdrawn and controlling with his own daughter Hope. He actually does get the opportunity to throw a little humor in there too.
- Evangeline Lilly plays Hope, and plays her as very cold and calculating, mainly because she’s so angry that her father will not simply let her wear the Ant-Man suit and get things handled. She’s slow to realize that he’s trying to protect her, but he’s slow to admit why. She finally starts to warm up to Scott, and she really did a great job in the scene where she finally learns what happened to Janet.
- I have been telling you for the last year to get on the Corey Stoll bandwagon, so I would hope that by now, you were completely familiar with him. He’s fantastic as Darren Cross – exceptionally hurt and angry that his mentor Pym chose to abandon him rather than share his greatest invention with him. He’s got a slick elegance that works great for the super-villan in a movie like this. Yes, the Yellow Jacket suit was all CG, but it looked amazing.
- Bobby Cannavale plays the new fiancée to the ex-wife Judy Greer. He’s constantly after Scott once he’s released, in general making him feel bad about himself until he finally sees what Scott has been up to – and witnessing the final showdown between Ant-man and YellowJacket.
- One of my biggest complaints with Avengers 2 was not enough Falcon, luckily, there’s some Falcon in this movie and Anthony Mackie once again nails it. He’s so funny and entertaining, and still completely believable as a badass superhero. The fight sequence between he and Ant-Man is really well done and amazing to watch – but equally as entertaining is the beginning of that fight, where Lang attempts to introduce himself to Falcon.
- You’ve heard this, and now I’m going to confirm it – Michael Pena steals this movie as Luis. He is hilarious, genuine, and a great friend to Scott who is ready to become one of the good guys. From his very first appearance in the movie when he picks up Scott and tells him that his girl left him, his mom died, and his dad was deported, but at least he got the van! His exuberance carries all the way through the movie, rubbing off on the audience.
- David Dastmalchian – who is one of those dudes you’ve seen in everything before but never knew his name – plays Kurt, who has most of his scenes with T.I. as Dave. They work well together and add to the comedy relief.
- Hayley Atwell plays Agent Carter again (Hulu season 1 if you missed it because that show is awesome!) along with John Slattery back as Howard Stark. He played Howard Stark in the videos in Iron Man 2, although Dominic Cooper plays young Howard Stark on Agent Carter. It was a great callback to see them establishing S.H.I.E.L.D. and worrying about Hank Pym.
- Marin Donovan plays Mitchell Carson, who will no doubt pop up again somewhere because he ran off with a vial of Cross’s version of Pym Particles.
- In a really fun cameo – Garrett Morris shows up as a cab driver – why is that significant? Well, because of this sketch from a 1975 Saturday Night Live episode where Margot Kidder was the guest host. Garrett Morris played Ant-Man in his first ever live-action appearance: http://comicbook.com/2015/07/18/ant-mans-most-overlooked-cameo-ant-man-himself/
I loved this movie! It was a tighter, smaller story than we are used to seeing from the recent MCU movies. It was fun, it was entertaining, and it has great heart and great action. The effects were fantastic, and as much as I was unsure about really getting into an Ant-Man movie because his powers are admittedly a little silly – the scenes of him running with the ants were thrilling, especially after his training sequences where we get to learn about the 4 breeds of ants and their special abilities. And yes, I got a little choked up over Antony.
Yes, parts were a little cheesy, but in the best way. Having Paul Rudd on hand to both re-write and then interpret the script made all the difference. This one was almost as enjoyable as Guardians of the Galaxy. Also – as a quick side note, something that has been a bit of a complaint about the MCU up to date was a notable lack of diversity. I don’t think that was on purpose, just the characters they had chosen up to this point. This movie has a pretty diverse cast – not in the leads, but more so than most of the other movies. It’s certainly a start in the right direction to get us more female and minority characters in the MCU. As Hope says at the end of the movie, (stay through all the credits by the way) “It’s about damn time.”
10 out of 10 – I liked it better than Avengers 2. Gained points for Antony – so cute! Lost points for losing Antony, but you knew that was coming as soon as Scott gave him a name. Gained points for Hope being awesome, gained points for Kurt and Dave being less than helpful, and gained all the rest of the points for Luis’s recollection way of telling Scott what is happening. Absolutely fantastic!
Bonus Video 1: Again – if you want to know more about Ant-Man, Netflix the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes show – it’s great, and they really give both Hank and Janet their due.
Bonus Video 2: Some Paul Rudd Tim and Eric Show nonsense - and I mean NONSENSE.
Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews: