I didn’t know
what to expect from Ant-Man, given
its checkered production history and the fact that the screenplay is credited
to two unlikely sources: star Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell’s frequent
collaborator Adam McKay. What I got was a thoroughly entertaining, solidly
constructed action-fantasy yarn that ranks with the best movies from the Marvel
universe. Go figure!
I don’t know how this resembles the project that original director
Edgar Wright and his writing partner Joe Cornish were working on—they still
share screenplay credit, but that’s now moot. We have a really good movie to
celebrate and enjoy, with truly startling visual effects. A lot of filmmakers
throw around the word “immersive experience” but this one delivers the goods.
We see and feel what Ant-Man is going through at every turn of the story, and
with today’s cutting-edge technology it’s a quantum leap ahead of The Incredible Shrinking Man or Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, good as they
The story has many interlocking pieces—perhaps a few too
many—but they all fit neatly in place. Rudd plays Scott Lang, a bright guy
who’s just finished serving a prison term for a Robin Hood-like burglary of a
corporation that was cheating its customers. He wants to go straight for the
sake of his little daughter, who lives with her mom, but it isn’t easy for an
ex-con to find a job. Eventually he succumbs to a tip from his pal (a very
funny, motor-mouthed Michael Peña) about an inside-job robbery just waiting to
unfold. It turns out that what seemed too good to be true was just that: a
set-up by the long-simmering mastermind Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas).
Pym, you see, is the genius who figured out a way to
manipulate atoms and shrink human matter, using what he called an Ant-Man suit.
But he’s kept his discovery under wraps for years because he feared what could
happen if it fell into the wrong hands. And now it has: his former protégé
(Corey Stoll) has eased him out of his own corporation and trusts no one,
except perhaps Pym’s savvy daughter (Evangeline Lilly), who resents her father
for a variety of reasons. Pym needs an agile younger man to take his place in
the suit and become Ant-Man.
Now all the ingredients are in place: an underdog hero, a
mentor with ambiguous motivations, a bad guy who has no conscience, a cute kid
who deserves to have a relationship with her errant dad, and a series of
formidable physical hurdles that have to be cleared for the good guys’ schemes
to pan out. There’s even comedy relief, including a couple of whopping sight
gags near the end that made me laugh out loud.
I can’t overstate how impressive the visual effects are, as
supervised by Jake Morrison. We’re bombarded with astonishing sights we’ve
never seen before, again and again, right through the final frames of the
movie. And crucially, all of these feats of movie magic are in service of the story:
that is their only purpose.
Although he’s never tackled anything in this genre, or on
this scale before, director Peyton Reed deserves tremendous credit for
orchestrating all the components of this complex enterprise. Ant-Man is a smart, original, consistently
surprising piece of entertainment. Bravo!