I think it’s true what Honest Trailers said that anything is automatically awesome once you slap Marvel’s name on it, and Ant-Man is no exception for a lot of reasons. Some people said that Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man weren’t going to do great, and look where those movies are at now, pretty much shutting those naysayers up. It’s an awesome comic book movie that is fun, funny, action-packed, and did I mention awesome? Granted, this movie has a bit of history, having been conceived since the 1980s and going through various people, from Howard Stern (no joke) to most notably Edgar Wright, who spent TEN YEARS developing the movie and then dropping out to what is commonly known as “creative differences”. Now, this isn’t the first time this has happened between a filmmaker and Marvel, with Joss Whedon severing ties and his comments about Marvel after Avengers 2 to Selma director Ava DuVernay dropping out of directing Black Panther. I’m not gonna point any fingers or whatever, but if this is the kind of trend that Marvel and/or Disney is doing with their adaptations and the people that help make them, either side is walking a thin line and could result in no joy whatsoever for ANYONE, though they aren’t the only ones doing it (*cough* Fox and Fantastic Four 2015*cough*). And of course, there’s always the thought of what could’ve been had Edgar Wright had stuck around, though at least he’s still credited for writing, story, and producing.
But yeah, who would have thought that a movie based on ANT-MAN would actually be pretty awesome? I mean, I know I wasn’t alone in looking forward to it, but still. While Avengers 2 was okay for the most part, it was really Ant-Man that ended up being Marvel’s saving grace for the MCU in 2015, in my opinion.
One thing I really liked about this movie was the initial concept, showing both Pym and Lang as Ant-Man, that managed to carry through somewhat, despite some changes, I guess, from Wright’s original idea. The movie manages to feature both Hank Pym (played by Michael Douglas) AND Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd) as the titular character. Pym is only featured as Ant-Man in flashbacks voiced by Douglas and played by Dax Griffin, while Lang is the primary Ant-Man in the main story.
The standout characteristic that makes this movie different from other MCU movies, and maybe even other superhero movies, is that it’s not necessarily a superhero movie. This is a heist movie, with superhero stuff in it. Sure, it’s done in a “superhero fashion”, it exists in the MCU, making references to the Avengers (especially Avengers 2, no less) and even having Falcon in it, there’s themes of legacy by passing the mantle from one person to the next (which is also unique for this movie among other superhero movies), and of course there’s a sorta generic villain, but I’ll get to those later. While Lang, Pym, Pym’s daughter Hope (played by Evangeline Lilly), and Lang’s friends Luis, Dave, and Kurt (played by Michael Pena, T.I., and David Dastmalchian) are trying to save the world, they are doing it by breaking and entering. And while the focus is on the heist, that which being they must steal the Yellowjacket technology from getting into Hydra’s hands, because of course Hydra has to be in it somehow, that doesn’t mean it can’t have other moments in it, not to mention explore the ideas of the shrinking technology, which this movie does do good at certain extents, and probably hints at stuff to come out of it (like finding Janet in the quantum realm or something, just saying).
Legacy is definitely an important theme in this movie. While some superhero movies nowadays may have hints of it here or there, there are some superheroes and even superhero movies that have legacy being a big part of it, the most notable ones I can think of being The Mask of Zorro and The Phantom movie that came out in 1996. Hank Pym has been trying to find someone to be able to handle being Ant-Man in order to carry out the heist, mostly because he’s old and his body can’t handle the shrinking technology after so many “trips” (the quotes are to make a drug-trip joke; yeah I know kinda forced, sue me). He sets out a task for a skilled thief to pull off, and Scott Lang fits the bill, though Pym has also been “watching” him too (no judgement). At first, Scott is hesitant, but after a while he’s all in, especially considering that it would also help him look like a hero in his daughter Cassie’s (played by Abby Ryder Forston) eyes, and how could anyone not try to be a hero around her? She’s adorable! Anyway, Lang does have shoes to fill, and no one likes to point that out more than Hope, who has friction with her father due to the standard movie “distant parenting” trope, but it does present itself understandable. Pym feels guilty about losing his wife and partner Janet van Dyne aka The Wasp (hooray Wasp is finally in MCU!), and doesn’t want the same thing to happen to Hope, which of course the friction is absolved, I guess, during the movie. Darren Cross (played by Corey Stoll), the villain of the movie, is also one that is pressured A LOT by the legacy of Pym, his mentor, trying to succeed where he didn’t, and then going insane/evil as a result. There’s even a moment when Cross confronts him about this and why he was pushed away, which Pym explains as “seeing too much of himself” in him. Honestly, given Pym’s history in the comics, I couldn’t help but feel this was a reference to not only his “mental problems”, but also him creating Ultron, if what he says is implying about him being a terrible guy sometimes (yeah I’m still not buying Stark and Banner being Ultron’s creators in the MCU, no matter what anyone says).
Speaking of Cross, while he is portrayed greatly by Stoll, I can’t help but feel something lacking with him, and that’s a common criticism with MCU villains that aren’t Loki or even Thanos. It’s not just that he gets killed off in the end (spoiler alert, though this movie’s been out for a while anyway), it’s just that sometimes, while he can be sympathized with for his actions having been motivated by his desire to impress his mentor, kinda like how a son tries to impress his distant father, sometimes he just goes from slick businessman to full-raving psychotic, though the movie tries brush that off to “side effects” from Pym particles, it doesn’t make it feel less forced or that, given he has a BALD HEAD here, it also doesn’t make him feel less like a rent-a-Luthor. Even his transition to Yellowjacket is rushed too, though I will say the movie itself did provide great buildup to the fight between him and Ant-Man, showing that most of the time, skill (or maybe dumb luck) outweighs however advanced the gear is. Basically the movie is saying “it’s not the size, it’s how you use it”, though I guess the movie is also saying size and skill do matter, in this case. Also the other villain of the movie, whom I guess will be featured in future movies, Mitch Carson (played by Martin Donovan), seems pretty generic in his portrayal of “bad guy against good guy”, but that seems to be expected. Sidenote though, while the makers of this movie said there won’t be elements of the Eric O’Grady Ant-Man in this movie, Carson is a villain O’Grady’s tenure as Ant-Man, just saying.
A great relief this movie has, like GOTG, is that it’s able to balance both the serious superhero drama and good humor, especially with a lot of “dark” comic book adaptations lately. Since this movie had people that’ve done comedy movies involved with it, the humor is really spot-on, especially in the self-awareness, and boy there’s a lot of it. The characters are funny too, even the side ones, especially Luis and the rest of Scott’s crew, having their own quirks and stuff. Even at the very end (yes I’m talking after the initial credits, though not the Civil War sneak peek), when the new Wasp suit is finally shown, foreshadowing Wasp’s appearances in future Marvel movies, I bet everyone in the audience, be it comic book fans or not, couldn’t help but agree with Hope when she said “it’s about damn time”.
Given I saw this movie twice, especially since I saw it the second time in order to wash the taste of Fantastic Four 2015 [insert dry-heave here] out of my mouth, I think I can safely say this is probably the best superhero movie of 2015. There’s great action, drama, humor, special effects, and overall a good heist story feel to it. Now that there’s a sequel in development, called Ant-Man and the Wasp no less, and Ant-Man is gonna have a role in Civil War, I can’t wait for what’s next. Just let there be more Wasp next time, both Hope AND Janet, “cause dammit, Janet, we love you” (what, I had to put a Rocky Horror joke in there, lol).