Using Some Thievery to Save the World

Review of “Ant-Man” by Vincent Abbatecola

am3The latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Ant-Man,” based on the Marvel Comics superhero by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Larry Lieber, is now here, but it faced a big challenge when original director Edgar Wright left the project back in May 2014 due to creative differences with Marvel Studios.

With Wright having the ability to blend head-spinning action and sharp humor as we saw in his films “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” “The World’s End,” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” it was a shame that he exited his role as director. Ever since word got out concerning Wright’s departure, it was certainly interesting to see who would take his place.

Not so long after Wright left, the project was given to Peyton Reed (yes, the filmmaker who brought us “The Break-Up” and “Bring It On).” Despite this odd choice for a replacement, the film, while not excellent, isn’t a disaster, thankfully.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is recently released from jail after serving time for a burglary. After his group of thieves talks him into another break-in, for which Scott thinks he will be stealing money to help pay for child support, he finds a strange-looking suit while on the job and takes it home. Afterwards, he gets caught by police and ends up back in jail. Once there, he meets scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). To give Scott a chance at redemption, Hank recruits him to become a hero by wearing a suit that allows him to shrink, which he will use to sneak into a laboratory to steal another shrinking suit that Hank’s previous protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), has created to sell as a weapon.

This mission will put Scott’s thievery skills to the test and have him become what he never expected: the Ant-Man.

Paul Rudd has a considerable history when it comes to the comedy genre, so having him as the witty Ant-Man is a fitting choice. While he doesn’t really expand much from his usual everyman, humorous self, it’s still a personality that works for the character and will surely lend itself well to the entertaining banter of the other Avengers when he eventually teams up with them.

Corey Stoll is appropriately menacing as the main villain, and is given a bit of depth with his background concerning Hank Pym, but he ultimately falls victim to the MCU’s tendency to underwrite most of their antagonists.

In terms of the rest of the supporting cast, Hank and his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), have a surprising amount of development and a touching father-daughter dynamic. Meanwhile, Michael Peña, as a member of Scott’s burglary group, is rather annoying and quickly devolves into a stereotype. He’s a talented actor, as we’ve seen in other films, such as “Fury” and “End of Watch,” so if he’s given a comedic role, he deserves something more substantial than the material he was given for this film.

The screenplay by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, and Paul Rudd has a decent structure, with the first two thirds of the film introducing us to the characters and having Hank and Hope prep Scott on how to use the Ant-Man suit, while the final third focuses on Scott and his team setting out to steal the other suit. The narrative provides the film with plenty of opportunities for scenes that show Ant-Man collaborating with the ants and interacting with his surroundings when he shrinks, all of which allow us to take in the neat visual effects when our hero is in action.

While I don’t mind much of the humor in the Marvel films, I still feel that the filmmakers need to realize when certain scenes don’t call for it. For example, there’s a scene about halfway through the film where Hank reveals to Hope the circumstances of her mother’s death, and it’s a tender moment between the two characters, and then, to lighten the mood, Scott cuts in with a quip. I understand that he’s a humorous character, but his remark pretty much undermines the emotional weight of the moment.

With “Ant-Man” being the last film in Phase Two of the MCU, there are some interesting references to Phase Three, including a fun hint about a certain web-slinging superhero and a post-credits scene that is sure to get you excited for the next MCU film, “Captain America: Civil War,” in which Ant-Man and other Avengers are set to appear.

Although I much rather would have liked to see Edgar Wright direct “Ant-Man,” Peyton Reed does an adequate job as the replacement. He handles the action scenes well enough, particularly the final fight between Ant-Man and Darren Cross as the Yellowjacket. This sequence offers a visually unique look that allows it to set itself apart from most of the MCU’s other climactic fights because of how the two characters frequently change their sizes as they battle each other.

While “Ant-Man” doesn’t quite reach the potential it could have, it’s still a passable comic-book film that shows how a small hero is going to fit in the bigger picture of the MCU.

Final grade: B