Director: Peyton Reed
Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena
Ant-Man’s a superhero character that has always been underestimated because you know, what’s his power? Getting real small? Wow. People think, what, he talks to ants? That’s his power? Which takes me back to when Garrett Morris (who by the way cameos in this film as a Taxi Driver) played Ant-Man in the fourth season of Saturday Night Live. In that sketch, a bunch of superheroes are gathered in a party and Flash (played by Dan Aykroyd) and Hulk (played by John Belushi) are giving Ant-Man a rough time, making fun of his super powers. The Hulk looks at Ant-Mans ass and asks “where you got your ants?” and The Flash is like “Hey Hulk, check this guy out, he has human strength!” And that was the 70’s! Today people feel the same, like Ant-Man is not one of the big heroes. Ever since an Ant-Man movie was announced, I myself thought it wouldn’t be a huge hit because when compared to the big superheroes like Thor or Iron Man, well, Ant-Man’s “small potatoes”. And so I kept thinking, this is going to be the first Marvel Studios movie to flop; I know I wasn’t alone in thinking this way. Most film critics and movies buffs thought the same; our collective expectations for an Ant-Man movie were low all around. Plus, Ant-Man isn’t a a new character (he's been around since the 60's) but he's not household name like Spider-man or Superman, this guy is really new to the masses. So it’s to be expected that the level of excitement surrounding the Ant-Man movie was nowhere near as high as other Marvel movies. Hell, I was already branding it a future flop! It goes without saying that Marvel Studios had a huge task in their hands to try and convince us that this movie was just as valid and entertaining as previous Marvel films. So, was it? Is Ant-Man one of the good ones? Is it a worthy addition to the already awesome Marvel Studios cinematic roster?
Movies about miniaturization have been around for quite a while, here’s a couple of them: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), Fantastic Voyage (1966), The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981), Innerspace (1987) and Honey I Shrunk the Kids (1989) all of these deal with people who are shrunk to microscopic size. They all have one thing in common, the effects work involved building props and sets that made humans look small and the creative use of foreground and background imagery; all done to create the illusion of a human that’s microscopic in size. Other films that played with these types of special effects were Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959), The Gnome Mobile (1967) and The Borrowers (1997). Ant-Man has the advantage of modern day computer effects which gives the movie an upper hand that previous movies with this theme never had. In other words, the effects work on this movie is top notch and surpasses anything that had ever been done in these types of movies before. Camera angles take us into the smallest places imaginable. Ever been sucked into the inside of a vacuum cleaner? Well, now you’ll know what that feels like. You ever wanted to know what it feels like to be inside of an anthill? Look no further, Ant-Man takes us there! This is something I really enjoyed, the concept that we are seeing things we will probably never get to see. This is the films most innovative angle, its strongest attribute. Ant-Man isn’t about gigantic black holes opening up in the middle of New York City, nope, this one goes the opposite way, to the microverse, the idea of “worlds within worlds”.
Ant-Man takes a cue from Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) in the sense that it’s lighthearted, entertaining and fast paced. The dialog is often times funny as are the situations. The addition of Michael Pena to the cast was a good choice, he offers up some of the funniest moments in the movie. Ant-Man also has heart and soul, because it’s all about a dad wanting to prove his worth to his daughter. You see, this is the story of Scott Lang, a burglar who’s just gotten out of prison and now that he is finally out, he wants to do good. He wants to be the good guy for this daughter; he wants to finally take the reins of fatherhood. But it isn’t easy when you’re an ex-con and not even Baskin Robbins will give you a job. So of course, stealing shit is the only option Scott has, or is it? Basically this is a story about Scott Lang’s redemption, which he gets a shot at thanks to Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man who wants to give Scott a second chance at life by passing the Ant-Man torch over to him. Will he prove to be a worthy successor to the Ant-Man legacy? Will he ever regain his daughters respect?
So it was the idea that this was “just” a movie about a guy who gets really small and controls ants that made me think this movie was going to be so-so, yet what surprised me the most about Ant-Man is how far they took the concept of miniaturization. They really do play a lot with the idea, they even went with the idea of enlarging things which was awesome, and it really presented us with some unexpected concepts. For example, how far can you miniaturize a person? What happens when you reach a sub-atomic level? What happens when you get smaller than an atom and beyond? This took the film into surreal territory, in fact, I felt like I was truly going into the unknown. In some ways it reminded me of movies dealing with Black Holes, where the big mystery is what happens after we actually go into the black hole. Disney’s own The Black Hole (1979) played with traveling into the unknow. In that film, when they go into the black hole the film suddenly turns into a surreal, dreamlike nightmare! Ant-man has moments such as these, in fact, in the theater I was in, somebody said “that’s fucking weeeeiiiirrrd!” during said scenes. I felt pretty much the same way, which was awesome; it’s not every day that a film can actually amaze you with its concepts. So yeah, conceptually speaking, Ant-Man is a winner.
The film has a few surprises up its sleeves so keep your eyes peeled. I like how they introduce us to the idea of Ant-Man becoming one of the Avengers because if we get down to it, Ant-Man was actually in the very first original line up of the avengers, way back in Avengers #1 (1963) so it makes perfect sense that they are so obviously lining the character up for greatness on a future Avengers film. Actually, one of the after credits sequences (of which there are two) connects Ant-Man directly with Captain American: Civil War (2016). I love how they are mixing all these characters and films; it really does feel as if they are part of one cohesive universe. But I see what Disney/Marvel is doing here. They want to make a really kick ass first movie (which in my opinion they’ve pulled off) so you’ll have no problem in accepting Ant-Man as a future member of The Avengers. Paul Rudd did a fantastic job as Ant-Man, he is the perfect fit for the character, he plays the everyman to perfection. Michael Douglas and Paul Rudd have great chemistry together. Kudos to Michael Douglas for finally playing likable characters, for a while, all Douglas ever played was assholes. Here he plays the very likable Dr. Hank Pym. Evangeline Lilly rounds things up rather nicely, I have a feeling we will be seeing a whole lot more of her in future films. I’m looking forward to seeing this new chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe develop further, but for now, don’t underestimate Ant-Man, it’s a kick ass, fun ride every step of the way.
Dan Aykroyd (left) and Garrett Morris (right) making fun of superheroes on SNL