Ant-Man: Small Hero, Huge Laughs

Ant-Man: Small Hero, Huge Laughs
Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

5 out of 5 Stars

I initially had no plans to see Ant-Man this weekend. Marvel’s conclusion to it’s massive Phase 2 project was definitely on my list of things to see, but I planned on waiting for a while. On Sunday, I started seeing all of these websites deriding it for having Marvel’s smallest opening weekend ever (if adjusted for inflation) and I felt bad for the little guy. So, before the weekend time ran out, I hurried to the very crowded theater to watch Paul Rudd become a superhero. I am very glad I did.

Ant-Man is one of Marvel’s best yet, which is honestly getting really tiring to repeat. What makes it so good is that, while grounded in the larger universe (the Avengers get several name-drops, and Falcon just shows up) is a small movie about fathers and daughters, and at its core its a heist movie disguised in superheroics.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a thief with a Robin Hood complex. We meet him the day he’s being released from San Quentin, and learn that he wants to get out of the life and go straight, for the sake of his daughter. His friend and roommate Louis (Michael Peña, in one of the best roles I’ve ever seen him play) doesn’t quite buy that, but holds off on his big offer until after Scott’s tried and failed at a career with Baskin Robbins (they always find out). In a hilarious monologue, Louis tells Scott about this job that he’s gotten wind of, an old rich CEO with a giant safe in the basement. Out of legal options and seeing this as an easy way to get a leg up, Scott takes the job, and the caper is off.

Only when they get there there’s no money in the safe, just this weird suit and a helmet. Scott takes it anyway, and it isn’t long before he tries it on and presses the big red button (because who can resist a button) and shrinks down in the bathtub. A voice in his ear tells him this is a trial by fire, or water really, as the bathtub turns on and Scott is launched into the first of many micro adventures.

Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the developer of the Pym Particle that allows the shrinking, as well as the scientific-sounding mumbo-jumbo that allows him to speak with and control ants, has chosen Scott to help him steal a ripoff version of his suit developed by his former protege, called the Yellowjacket. Hank needs Scott to become the Ant-Man, and boy does he deliver.

What makes Ant-Man so much fun in comparison to Marvel’s typical earth-shattering fare is its, and I swear I’m not constantly punning on purpose here, but its scale. The climactic battle all takes place in a suburban bedroom, and the majority of the movie stays in the same area of San Francisco. It’s a small movie, and Paul Rudd brings his ad-libbing style to the script that he helped write along with Adam McKay, director Peyton Reed, and Edgar Wright.

The Edgar Wright thing will forever overshadow this movie. He left the movie during production because of “creative differences” and the others were brought in to re-work the script. Apparently, his story remains the framing device for the movie we got, but Wright had been fighting to make Ant-Man since the early aughts, and the fact that it finally happened without him will always be a little sad.

Despite all of that, it remains a really fun movie. Different enough from Avengers and the Big 3 movies to leave its mark, but clearly existing within the Marvel realm, so it’s going to be exciting to see more of Paul Rudd/Scott Lang in Marvel’s Phase 3. I cannot undersell Michael Peña in this movie, he’s worth the admission price alone. Ant Man delivers on the laughs and the action, and actually takes some time to deliver an emotional story as well. Also, they make you tear up for ants, which, when you think about it, is surprisingly common in movies.

That does it for comic book movies until next year. Captain America: Civil War is next, where we’ll get our first glimpse of Spider-Man, and pretty much all of the heroes show up, so much so that they should probably just call it Avengers 2.5: Civil War instead.

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