Ant-Man July 17, 2015
A movie about the bond between parents and children, wrapped up in an epic heist, this is the film that will restore fans faith in Marvel Studios after the missteps of Age of Ultron.
Ant-Man is, at its heart, a story of fathers: who they are, how they’re seen and how their decisions can have repercussions for their children that are beyond anything they could possibly imagine.
When we first meet Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) he’s still in recovery from an unspeakable tragedy involving his beloved wife Janet and fighting with his fellow scientist and colleagues over his Pym Particle, an invention that allows him to grow and shrink at will. While the scientific and medical applications are vast, Hank and at least one of his friends realizes that in the wrong hands the military applications could mean the end of the world.
So Hank does what any sane person would do: buries it, as far and as deep as he can. Unfortunately for him, he’s surrounded by deeply entrenched Marvel adversaries, who have no problem exploiting his weaknesses. Mainly his relationships with his metaphorical and literal children: the terrifyingly intelligent Darren (Corey Stoll) and the just plain terrifying Hope (Evangeline Lilly), both of whom have distanced themselves from Hank, due to his secret keeping, neither of whom realize that he’s doing everything he can to protect them from making the same world breaking mistakes he has.
Which is why when he sees just how far SHIELD has fallen he realizes that he will have to pass on what he knows, whether he wants to or not, and goes about trying to find a worthy successor.
And that brings us to Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), cat burglar, ex-con and most importantly father. Scott, in some ways, is already a hero: after realizing his former employers are embezzling millions of funds he becomes a whistleblower. And promptly gets fired for it. So he uses his engineering, gymnastic and computer skills to not only steal the money back and return it to its rightful owners but lay all of that information out in the public domain. It’s the right thing to do. It’s also corporate espionage. Scott goes to jail and misses the first four years of his child’s life, a pain that is eating away at him and makes him take one last job.
And what a job it is, mixing the adrenaline rush of a Mission: Impossible movie with the Marvel Universe in a combination that’s exhilarating and truly tension filled, the heist aspects of the movie are nailed wonderfully but what really raises this movie to Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier levels are the relationships. Each one is organic, each one feels genuine and every character’s deep seated pain is fully realized.
The bad guy isn’t just a bad guy and you honestly understand, even if you don’t agree with, what’s pushing his actions. The good guys have made multiple and severely destructive mistakes that have horrifying consequences for all those around them, something that’s becoming a theme in the Marvel Universe.
Speaking to themes, more groundwork for Phase Three is laid subtly, and deftly, setting the stage by showing how decades of pain, lies, and poor choices by the heroes of the Marvel Universe, past and present, are about to explode and possibly destroy this generation of heroes, while planting the seeds for the next generation in a way that would allow Marvel to continue the franchise well into the future.
In the end Ant-Man is a fun, heartbreaking, yet hopeful romp through the Marvel Universe, adding to the overall tapestry in a unique way, and surprisingly tying together threads from Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter, Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy and Age of Ultron that have been dangling for a while.
And as always, stay past the credits. The first of which elicited a deafening cheer from the audience and made this reviewer cry a bit with joy.
It’s about damn time, indeed.
4 out of 5 stars
Paul Rudd: Scott Lang/Ant-Man; Michael Douglas: Dr. Hank Pym; Evangeline Lilly: Hope Van Dyne; Corey Stoll: Darren Cross/Yellowjacket; Bobby Cannavale: Paxton; Judy Greer: Maggie Lang; Abby Ryder Fortson: Cassie Lang; Michael Pena: Luis; David Dastmalchian: Kurt; TI Harris: Dave
Directed by: Peyton Reed
Written by: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Paul Rudd and Adam McKay