Ant Man – Marvel’s most recent movie, from director Peyton Reed, stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Peña, Michael Douglas, Bobby Cannavale, and Judy Greer. When I first learned there would be a superhero called “Ant Man,” I laughed. A lot. It really did sound like the worst idea ever. However, after watching Reed’s adaptation of the comic book, here I sit with my foot in my mouth.
The film begins in 1989, when Hank Pym (Douglas) – the original Ant-Man – leaves S.H.I.E.L.D. after discovering that they are trying to copy his shrinking technology. In the present, Pym is kicked out of Pym Technologies by his own daughter, Hope (Lilly), and his malicious former apprentice, Darren Cross (Stoll). Meanwhile, Scott Lang (Rudd) has just been released from prison after his incarceration for burglary and has resolved to lead a clean life, much to the dismay of his roommate. With his criminal record, Scott has an impossible time getting even a minimum wage job. All he wants is to see his daughter, but his ex-wife Maggie (Greer) will only let him see her when he can pay child support. In desperation, Scott turns to his roommate Luis (Peña) and agrees to join his crew for a burglary that they’ve received a tip for. However, the tip only leads them to find a motorcycle suit. Later, Scott tries on the suit and accidentally shrinks himself to the size of an ant. Next thing he knows, Scott is the new Ant-Man and is on a team with Hope and Pym trying to stop Darren Cross from selling the shrinking technology to Hydra as weaponry – something that would have disastrous results for the world.
Most of the acting in Ant-Man is spot-on. The writers take advantage of Rudd’s comedic pedigree and use him as comedic relief, along with Peña. Still, when seriousness is needed Rudd does come through with an emotional performance; he establishes for the audience the pain Scott feels over not being able be there for his daughter. Peña also gives a notable performance, with his character maintaining a goofy grin akin to Donald Faison’s in Remember the Titans. Peña manages to keep the mood from getting too dark and provides the audience with lots of laughs. Lilly, however, does not make such a good addition to the cast. She reminded me too much of a clone of Bryce Dallas Howard in Jurassic World, for starters. Hope is written as a complex character with a tough exterior and a sense of pride to protect herself from being hurt by her father; she initially dislikes Scott because her father has chosen him as his predecessor over her. Lilly doesn’t convey this; instead she spends half the movie as an obnoxious bully and then suddenly becomes compassionate and supportive of Scott. Such a dramatic character shift isn’t believable.
Another problem I have with Ant-Man is some of the writing. Writers Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright use distasteful foreshadowing. The plot winds up being very predictable; there are no surprises in the film. Despite this, the storyline is still entertaining to an extent. Cornish and Wright also team up with Stoll to create an insufferable antagonist. Darren Cross is quite clearly evil with mal intent right off the bat. Again and again in the exposition, metaphorical neon signs that say “I’M THE BAD GUY!” point at Cross. It’s excessive and the point is ridiculously over-emphasized.
Although the idea of an insect as a superhero is innovative, this particular story is quite overdone. Controlling and containing weapons is not exactly a new theme in this day and age. This certainly isn’t Ant-Man’s only lesson, but it is definitely the most central to the story. With no new or diverse angles on the message, this film will undoubtedly get lost with Marvel’s other mediocre superhero flicks.