- Paul Rudd
- Evangeline Lilly
- Corey Stroll
- Michael Douglas
- Michael Peña
- Tip “T.I” Harris
- Wood Harris
- David Dastmalchian
- Judy Greer
- Peyton Reed (director)
You know how Marvel took a franchise that nobody knew about and turned it into Guardians of the Galaxy? Well they’re doing the same thing in this movie, with varying levels of success. To begin with, this movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, something that is evident from the very start. Gags are introduced almost immediately and they roll on until the end. This is of course expected when one of the movie’s screenwriters and initial director is the same guy who directed Shaun of the Dead.
The protagonist is the down-on-his-luck everyman Scott Lang (Rudd), who is fresh out of jail after serving time for theft. He spends some time with his rather ethnically diverse crew of prison buddies before he becomes Ant-Man following a series of events put in place by Hank Pym (Douglas).
The antagonist is a former protégé of Pym’s, Darren Cross/YellowJacket (Stoll). Compared to fellow antagonists within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (from now onwards referred to as MCU) such as Loki, he’s a more tame villain.
This movie is, unsurprisingly, tied to the MCU. Connections are made through mentions of the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D and Hydra, just in case the first two weren’t enough. Oh, and there’s also an actual Avenger that makes appearances in the movie. I won’t reveal who, I’ll just let you watch for yourself and be as disappointed as I was. As is the norm with movies in the MCU, there is the obligatory Stan Lee cameo. Thomas the Tank Engine also makes an appearance looking like an emoji that you won’t forget anytime soon.
There were some moments during the movie where it felt like it was preaching too hard on issues like race, family and performing experiments on animals, but maybe I’m just reading too hard into it.
Now for the important stuff:
The cast of this movie delivers solid performances from start to finish. And, yes, that also includes T.I. I know. I was surprised too. The actors nail their roles perfectly, from the villainous Cross to the greatest daughter ever, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson).
The humor is also a big plus (except when it’s not. I’ll explain). When it’s executed properly, it actually does a lot for the movie. Sometimes it’s used to distract the audience from the impractical technology being used; prevent them from thinking too hard about it and asking questions (whilst still in the theater of course). Humor was used to downplay the underdeveloped romantic subplot between Scott and Hope van Dyne (Lilly). Luis (Peña) and Dave (T.I) satirized ethnic stereotypes and we got several good laughs out of it.
The special effects were on point as well. In a movie where a person shrinks to the size of an insect, it’s expected that normal everyday objects are shown from their perspective, contrasting with the usual. This movie does not disappoint – giant record, giant feet in a club, giant vacuum cleaner, giant carpet fibers, giant water droplets and giant toy trains. This is a good time to alert you to the giant insects and rats that look really realistic. If the regular ones scare you, I don’t know how well you’ll do when super-sized ones are staring at your face in 3D. There’s also a scene near the end that could trigger an epileptic seizure for those with a history. You have been warned.
The film avoids clichés for the most part. Some plot points are predictable (romantic subplot, antagonist’s defeat etc.), but there’s more that isn’t. One of my favorite instances of originality is the origin story of our hero. He doesn’t get his powers from gamma rays, he doesn’t get bitten by radioactive spiders/ants and he isn’t an alien from another planet. He is an ex-convict given a suit by the very man we expected to be the Ant-Man. As usual, there is an end-credits scene – two, actually (thank me later). Although the first one does set up another MCU movie, it does so in a way that’s not outright obvious, and will have you guessing.
The storytelling in this movie is definitely above average. The screenwriters took an idea that sounded relatively dull – a man who can shrink himself, control ants and be really strong at the same time – and made it into a concept that’s actually fun to watch come to life on screen. If you think that’s easy to do, just look at every Hulk movie ever made. The exposition is delivered naturally, not like it was added as an afterthought by the director to give backstory or introduce key plot points.
Remember the humor mentioned earlier? That doesn’t always work well for the movie. To begin with, sometimes it feels forced, like the movie is trying too hard to not be serious. I assume they were trying to replicate what they did in Guardians of the Galaxy, but at times it becomes overbearing. It is for this reason that the movie may come off as a comedic flick meant for children (in a way, it is, with its PG-13 rating) and it becomes hard to fear for any character’s life. They never seem like they are in any real danger. Tension is broken at certain instances where it was crucial. For instance, almost every fight between Ant-Man and YellowJacket is interrupted by something that’s meant to induce laughter (making fun of Siri never gets old) thus I was never really at the edge of my seat holding my breath for fear that someone might get hurt badly.
There are obstacles that are thrown in the protagonist’s path, but none of them cause too much difficulty for him. These problems are solved too easily sometimes and it ends up feeling like it’s just one convenience after another.
The first half of the movie is slow-paced. You have Scott’s struggles with life after prison, Darren’s disdain towards Hank and Hope’s broken relationship with Hank. If you didn’t know what movie it was, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was drama with some jokes thrown in. The super heroics don’t come until much later in the film.
- Good acting
- Humor when it’s done right
- Good-looking CGI
- Avoidance of clichés
- Good storytelling
- Humor when it’s done wrong
- Rampant conveniences
- Slow-paced first half
This movie is a great watch that I recommend, but don’t go in there expecting too much. Don’t look to learn, look to laugh out loud at witticisms and a giant ant being called a dog.