The Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far has been very much revolving around the Avengers; a group of the most elite soldiers, monsters, geniuses, and gods, the likes of which our planet has never seen. Marvel Studios has made 11 total movies leading up to the release of Ant-Man. The first nine of those movies were about the Avengers and getting the Marvel Cinematic Universe well established. The only exception to building the Avengers’ world was 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, but even that movie brought relevance to the Earth-based stories. Every story has been increasing in tension and the ongoing extreme threats add an almost unrealistic amount of pressure to these movies. Because of this pressure, which is entertaining, I’ve been reflecting on the beginning of this nonstop train, when things were simple and the heroes we love were finding their footing. The amazing thing about Ant-Man is it satisfies both the desire for the cinematic universe’s growth and the need for something fresh and new.
This movie, with its great supporting cast, is very much about the personal growth of two men, Hank Pym and Scott Lang. The story opens in 1989, when Hank Pym decides to quit the superhero scene and take his research with him from the likes of Howard Stark and two others. Some of the partners wanted to take Hank’s Pym Particle, the miracle invention that allows Ant-Man to shrink and grow, and turn it into a weapon. He basically took his research and retreated into his home and isolated himself from that world. Enter Scott Lang, a master electrician and convict who has a bit of a Robin Hood complex. After he gets out of prison, he tries to provide for his daughter but has the worst luck holding a job because of his criminal record. After Lang and his thief friends break into Hank Pym’s house, because of the rumored promise of riches and treasures, Scott gets introduced to the Ant-Man suit.
Hank, as previously mentioned, is obsessively determined to make sure nobody can use his Pym Particle formula. The only people who knew of the mythic Ant-Man were the people involved in the group with Hank, so for everyone else in the world, they either don’t know about him or suspect him to be a myth. Darren Cross, Hank’s former student, was resentful that Hank wouldn’t share the technology he suspected he was responsible for. This resentment created a passion to replicate the Pym Particle into something known as the Yellowjacket Formula. Darren’s development of the formula gets on to Hank’s radar and causes him to find someone capable of carrying out the ultimate heist to steal it and destroy all data on it. This is why Hank looks to Scott for help. Over the course of about a week, Hank and his daughter (who works for Darren Cross) train Scott for what will be the greatest burglary he’s ever done. His training consists of being able to shrink and grow with complete control, breaking into the new Avengers building from Avengers: Age of Ultron, and an up close and personal education about all of the different kinds of ants.
It’s important to note that the Ant-Man suit isn’t just a shrinking suit that makes everything like a modern day Honey I Shrunk The Kids. The Ant-Man suit uses the mentioned Pym Particles to grow and shrink, but it also has the ability to use brainwave patterns to communicate with ants. On paper, this sounds about as stupid as a talking space raccoon or a man able to train velociraptors. I went in skeptical to Jurassic World and came out believed in the raptor training, and I went in thinking the ants in this movie would be stupid but it was just the opposite. There are a few varieties of ants that Scott employs to help with this job that are more than capable. Fire ants can build bridges, crazy ants can carry electrical charges, and carpenter ants can fly and carry other ants. The level of teamwork that Ant-Man commands of these ants is astounding!
This movie isn’t about stopping a terrible killer robot, an ego-driven god, or even a monster. It is a heist movie, from beginning to end, and that’s something that I really got into. It reminded me a lot of the 1st Mission Impossible movie and Oceans Eleven, with all of the prep work needed to do the big job. Each of those movies had an excellent cast of characters that brought something unique to the overall operation. Scott employs his thief friends to finish the task, and once Cross catches wind of things, suits up as the Yellowjacket to get revenge on Scott by going after his little girl! There are two quarrels these shrinkmen have, and both are memorable. One of which is entirely within a briefcase, and despite of what’s at stake, the humor of them fighting around keys, phones, papers, etc. is just terrific. The entire final battle of the movie takes place in Scott’s daughter’s bedroom, fighting on a train set while Scott hurls train cars at Cross. It was the part of the movie I was most excited about in the trailer, and seeing the whole thing didn’t disappoint at all.
Paul Rudd brings a lot of his charisma to the character, in the same way Chris Pratt did for Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s predictable, but with actors like these, you basically can watch anything they’ve done and like the movies for how great they perfprm in them. Micheal Douglas plays Hank Pym and ultimately he’s the grounding actor, keeping everything feeling honest and real, even when there’s a subject as dorky as talking to ants involved. Evangeline Lily feels a bit like a wasted talent by being an assistant to Cross, but a mid-credits scene definitely implies she will be back for bigger and better things in this cinematic universe, regardless of the success of this movie. Darren Cross is played by Corey Stoll, who is obsessed with figuring out his formula to the point that it drives him mad. He’s played like a younger version of Iron Man’s 1st movie villain, but more emotional and with what feels like a lot more on the line. The core cast is small, but everybody here brings their A-game to the movie to make the Ant-Man suit and the history behind it great. Paul Rudd brings a sense of honesty and a desire for redemption that feels real to Scott Lang. He’s just a guy who wants to do right by his little girl, but can’t help that his past is ruining it. Douglas brings one of the most grounded characters to the flick. He has a troubled past and provides a promise to Scott to help him if he aids in the heist. The two men need each other and their back and forth chemistry is excellent. It reminds me a lot of Marty McFly and Doc Brown from Back to the Future. The personal growth of Scott and Hank in getting closer to their families by opening up and doing something good is the driving force of this movie, and it’s the respect and integrity these actors bring to the movie that makes it all feel believable.
Overall, Ant-Man is a terrific movie and I can’t wait to see Rudd suited up again in Captain America: Civil War next year. I suspect a lot of people think this movie will be stupid and lame because it’s about a guy who hangs out with ants, but nothing about this movie is lame. It’s because of the way this movie looks on paper that makes it a tough sell, no doubt. Everything was well researched, the acting talent was spot on, the plot is fun and exciting, and you can’t help but get emotionally invested in these characters. This movie, after one viewing, is easily on my list of top 5 Marvel movies.