It’s the same old song: every time a Marvel film opens, the usual suspects raise their voices to complain about the overabundance of superhero movies, which are, according to those naysayers, interchangeable. Even though there generally isn’t more than 4 or 5 a year, i.e. much less than the number of horror flicks, biopics or romantic comedies, and despite the fact that, more and more, Marvel and their competitors’ productions each have their own distinctive flavor.
In 2014, was it really possible to compare espionage thriller “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” with space opera “Guardians of the Galaxy”? And this summer, can you honestly claim that the (literally) minimalist “Ant-Man” follows the same formula as the epic “Avengers: Age of Ultron”?
Beyond taking place in the same continuity, what Marvel’s various films have in common, mostly, is their high quality. Give or take a title or two, since the first “Iron Man”, they’ve all been very funny and exciting, and “Ant-Man” is no exception. In fact, I think it’s one of the highlights of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far.
Following a prologue at S.H.I.E.L.D. in 1989, we meet Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a cat burglar who’s just been released from prison and who’s desperate for a second chance, in order to redeem himself in the eyes of his adorable daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson) and of her mother (Judy Greer), who’s now married to a cop (Bobby Cannavale).
Early on, we’re treated to blasts of pure comedy filled with hilarious one-liners (e.g. “Baskin Robbins always finds out, bro.”), thanks to a hybrid screenplay originally written by Edgar Wright (who was also going to direct the film) and Joe Cornish, then rewritten by Rudd himself and Adam McKay.
The deadpan Rudd is perfect in the lead role and he’s wonderfully surounded by thee other ex(?) criminals (Michael Peña, Tip “T.I.” Harris and David Dastmalchian), who will keep helping him in his redemption quest.
Lang eventually joins Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) in their efforts to stop a military-industrial conspiracy led by Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who’s about to sell to shady characters a variation of a Pym invention that allows a human being to shrink to the size of an insect, while increasing his strength and his speed.
We find ourselves in a full-on heist film, as Scott and his accomplices prepare, then execute a plan to steal Cross’ prototype. Think “Ocean’s Eleven” or “Mission: Impossible”… except that our hero here becomes super by slipping into the retro-futuristic Ant-Man costume!
From start to finish, Peyton Reed’s direction is lively and inventive, but the miniaturization scenes are particularly visually dynamic, the stunning special effects, fluid long takes and immersive 3D making us run and fly with Ant-Man and his army of ants… Did I mention that Pym also taught Lang how to communicate telepathically with ants? “Ant-Man” is that kind of movie, original and quirky as hell!
Reed and his two screenwriting duos deliver tons of memorable moments, some of which have been partly shown in the trailer (notably the fight on the model train, an instant classic), but many others are surprises that I will let you discover, such as the identity of the Avenger who makes an unexpected cameo or the contents of the bonus scenes during and at the end of the credits.
Ant-Man was far from being a sure thing like an “Avengers” film starring characters everyone know and love, but ultimately, I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes one of the favorite Marvel movies of a lot of people.