Though it sounds like a dumb movie — one that Marvel made because they’re running out of ideas — “Ant-Man” defies the odds and delivers a thrilling superhero film that may very well be Marvel’s best standalone flick since “Iron Man” back in 2008. Director Peyton Reed’s “Ant-Man” features a tremendous turn from lead actor Paul Rudd, beautiful special effects and invigorating action while avoiding many of the clichés of recent superhero films.
Fresh out of San Quentin, burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has vowed to never return to the perilous world of crime. When he needs money to see his daughter (his ex-wife insists he pay child support first), however, the ex-con quickly accepts a deal to break into a fabled safe belonging to one of the wealthiest men in San Francisco, scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). After a brief heist, Lang is successful and soon finds himself inside the renowned innovator’s secret chamber. Here there are no jewels or money, just a strange black and red suit.
Eventually, Lang puts two and two together and discovers that the suit allows him to shrink down to the size of an ant. And with the encouragement of Pym himself, Lang soon becomes the Ant-Man, a vigilante able to alter his size at the push of a button. Slowly Pym and his estranged daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) train Lang to fight and to control his insect brethren, all in an effort to defeat Pym’s former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who has created a suit similar to Pym’s for strictly nefarious purposes.
Overall the plot is a classic good vs. evil tale, and while it starts off a little slowly, once it gets going, it’s an exhilarating ride. The entire film is well-paced, with Reed able to find a happy medium in most scenes; nothing is too rushed and nothing is dragged on for far too long.
Moreover, Reed strikes a refreshing balance with the film’s tone: “Ant-Man” is not goofily self-serious as was Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” but is, instead, appropriately silly. Also refreshing: For once, the hero does not seem to be facing a potential apocalypse.
This movie also rocks some dazzling cinematography that easily brings Scott’s shrunken world to life. It’s phenomenal how the easily relatively inexperienced Reed manages to pull off some of the film’s many memorable and awe-inspiring scenes, from Scott’s training inside an ant hill to a adventure through a water main atop a vessel of ants. Simply put, “Ant-Man” is one of Marvel’s best CGI efforts.
Additionally, Paul Rudd does a marvelous job as Ant-Man. He’s incredibly likeable and captivating, and this may very well be the reason this film is so prodigious. Normal, everyday people can easily connect with Lang’s very plausible aspirations and goals. Instead of dealing with the hectic madness of other Marvel flicks, “Ant-Man” brings the story back down back to earth, dealing with a “typical,” “everyday” guy. Rudd also brings the physical skills necessary for the role of Ant-Man, especially as seen in a Western-style duel with Cross on a child’s train set.
Helping Scott throughout his journey is a trio of former partners of Scott, including a mind-blowing Michael Peña who is the funniest he’s ever been, stealing every scene he’s in. The same cannot be said of Lilly, who is unable to replicate Peña’s success.
There are some other minute problems with the film as well — including the fact that there is a substantial tone difference between some scenes — but this doesn’t hinder the plot, and the fun remains throughout most of the film.
In the end, Rudd is the one who makes “Ant-Man” click. Combine that with a solid script, astounding CGI and energizing combat, and you’ve got yourself yet another outstanding addition to the Marvel cinematic universe.
Contact Andrew Choi at andrewyoonchoi ‘at’ gmail.com.