Honey, I Shrunk the Ant-Man

Ant-Man posterSo far Marvel has given us a universe of larger than life superheroes: the billionaire genius, the retro super soldier, the mythical god, and the gang of alien misfits, to name a few. Is there room for one more do-gooder with a need to avenge? Perhaps only if “pocket sized” is on his resume. Ant-Man may be petite but he can still pack a punch, and he won’t tire easily after tremendous feats like tossing railroad cars at his enemy (albeit toy-sized ones). His most recognizable superpower, however, is on a much more relatable level: obeying parole. Hang on – that’s not quite right…

For those familiar with the comic, this Ant-Man’s Ant-Man is not Hank Pym. The retired Dr. Pym (Michael Douglas) plays an observer-role in this Marvel movie and is relatively powerless when the company he founded turns to weapons manufacturing. The company’s new director, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), is extremely proud of his design for a laser-equipped shrinking suit. When completed, the suit will surely be a hot commodity for several military buyers. Dr. Pym decides to take Ant-Man Yellowjacketaction and hires Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), an ex-convict with experience in electronics and burglary, to steal the suit before Cross can make the sale. Anxious about being able to afford his daughter’s child support, Scott agrees to the task. However, in order to successfully steal Cross’ weapon Scott has no option but to don the invention that inspired Cross’ design in the first place: Pym’s original shrinking suit. Scott Lang, father, ex-convict, electrical engineer, and casual comedian is… way in over his head- I mean…the Ant-Man!

There are bugs. With a title like “Ant-Man” it’s kind of a given, but this movie is absolutely crawling with insects. I will, however, hand it to the designers for attempting to make the skittering, pincer-faced crawlies more Ant-Man bugshuggable than the average, non-Hollywood ant. Along with a shrinking suit (the science of which is as clear as that physics class you once slept through) Hank, Scott, and Hank’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) can also control the ants through mind-power (the science of which falls somewhere between palm-reading and David Blaine). This power puts Scott on an arguably equal level to Cross’ laser beams. Whatever the combat applications, being able to control ants sure simplifies the laborious task of putting sugar cubes in your tea…

Ant-Man is perfectly divided between Scott’s origin story, training montages, and putting the plan in action. We get a couple of interludes including Hope’s frustrated outbursts, a brief explanation into the death of Pym’s late wife, and Scott’s shady prison buddies bein’ all street. I found the first two sections (origin and montages) a little mainstream, following the classic zero-to-hero, rich-man-gives-second-chance-to-stranger archetypes. When the Ant-Man Hopeclimax breaks out, however, Ant-Man becomes a whole new movie. The direction, humour, action bursts, changes in setting, and big-to-small variations make this last chunk captivatingly entertaining.

What saves Ant-Man is Paul Rudd. That man is so effortlessly hilarious I could watch him all day. To balance out the laughs, Scott’s love for his daughter and eventually the camaraderie he feels for the ants make Scott a compelling, likable character. He is in perfect contrast to Hope who finds every possible opportunity to be a Negative Nancy or, to spice things up, a Doubting Debbie.

It helps to know a little about The Avengers to fully grasp every nuance in Ant-Man, but it’s not necessary to have seen all the Marvel movies or to have memorised every character arc. Obviously Ant-Man and The Avengers will eventually join forces in the “One Marvel Film to Rule Them All”, but for now Ant-Man is a stand-alone superhero movie that speaks to The Avengers franchise through a soup can and string rather than FaceTime. I found Ant-Man a lot like the other Marvel kick-off movies, even with the (let’s face it) kind of dorky array of superpowers. Unlike Thor or Iron Man, Ant-Man is an unlikely hero and thus a pleasant, almost real-world addition to The Avengers’ team of titanic gods. Ant-Man is a smooth, funny 7/10.

Ant-Man trailer.

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