2015. Rated PG-13, 117 minutes.
Tip "T.I." Harris
Way back in 1989, Hank Pym (Douglas) is forced out of his own company over a disagreement with the board of directors. Mainly, they want to weaponize and sell the shrinking technology which he invented, but wants to keep under wraps. After one of the most egregious continuity errors in cinematic history, Hank leaves and we fast-forward to the present day. Current big wig Darren Cross (Stoll) is working on a suit that will shrink the person who wears it down to the size of an insect. It is to be used in military applications. His work is based on rumors of the same Ant-Man suit designed by Hank years earlier. Little does Cross know that this is no myth. Hank really did design such a suit and still has it. He gives it to down on his luck ex-con Scott (Rudd) because Hank needs a skilled thief to help break into Pym Industries and steal what Stoll has been working on.
The first thing that pops out at you is the visuals. They are an important aspect of any superhero movie, but perhaps more so here than in others. We’re dealing with a character who literally becomes the size of an ant. In order for the film to be effective, we have to see the world from his point of view, and it has to be convincing. If it isn’t any other attributes of the film would be irrelevant because we just couldn’t buy into the world created for us. Thankfully, the team behind Ant-Man does a marvelous job. The very first time our hero shrinks he’s standing in a bathtub. What occurs during this scene is a wonderful sight to behold. It quickly immerses us in his reality and gives us the suspension of disbelief needed to make a film like this work. The climactic battle, which takes place on a child’s toy train set, is a magnificent piece of techno wizardry that gets everything out of the characters involved.
With the effects taken care of, other aspects of the film are allowed to sink or swim on their own. Most of them swim. The biggest contributor is the way the style of storytelling perfectly matches the overall tone to create a fun and engaging film. Its style is that of a heist film. While there is a lot riding on the success of our good guys, it doesn’t have the overwhelming urgency of saving the world form its imminent doom. This differentiates it from many of its sister films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a good way. The humorous tone is a more natural fit, especially given the personalities involved. We have a couple of masterminds, Pym and his daughter Hope (Lilly), the main talent Scott, and a trio of bumbling fools needed to help out. Scott proves to be the linchpin with Rudd slipping comfortably into the straight-man role he’s inhabited in so many comedies. He is also a wonderful go-between for the refined brilliance of Hank, Hope, and the boneheads he hangs out with. Of those three dudes, Michael Pena gets the most screen time, and rightfully so. He delivers a thoroughly entertaining performance. A number of the film’s funniest moments belong to him.
The elements detailed above help the story work really well. Within the whole of it, there are portions that aren’t quite as successful. A major motivating for our hero is getting back into his daughter’s life. This is fine. I just think his ex-wife Maggie (Greer) is too passive about the situation. Granted, and understandably, she often sends her current hubby Paxton (Cannavale) to deal with Scott. This gives a lot of face time to the always enjoyable Bobby Cannavale, but leaves her in the background a bit too much. I’m willing to chalk it up to being a “me” problem. What’s less subjective is the amount of shoe-horning that goes on just so the film clearly marks itself as part of the MCU. Captain America’s buddy Falcon (Mackie) is used for this purpose. Unfortunately, there seems to be no way around since it’s a problem the entire MCU has saddled itself with.
What brings us back to just being concerned with this particular story is that heist part of the film. We watch our heroes train, plot, and attempt to execute this great robbery. It is loads of fun to watch. That is what makes Ant-Man compelling viewing. We really want to know can these guys pull it off. Next to that, any of its flaws are minor bumps in the road. This includes that ridiculous continuity error at the very beginning. It involves a nose which is bloody, then not bloody, then bloody again. I don’t always catch such things, but this was far too obvious not to. Point is, as bad as that is, it is ultimately a footnote to a thoroughly entertaining popcorn flick.