Let’s be honest: we’ve been worried about Ant-Man. It isn’t enough that the hero is difficult (borderline silly) to seriously segue into the already-crowded Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ant-Man had a tortured near-deacade long journey to the big screen, a directorial change at the last minute, serious rewrites and cast a comedian with no action movies in his resume in its lead role. Let me allay your fears: Ant-Man is good. It’s a fun, funny heist movie that deftly brings Ant-Man into the MCU in a big way. Marvel’s made another smart, unique film that ends its second phase on a light note before the looming specter of Captain America: Civil War and Phase 3.
I have to admit that I’ve been dreading this movie for months because I was sure that it was going to break Marvel’s momentum. The firing of original director Edgar Wright and the less than inspiring trailers, had me convinced this was going to be …well as stupid as the concept of an “Ant-Man” sounds. It’s not. From a cold open that grounds Hank Pym, the Pym Particles and Ant-Man with SHIELD and its history, the movie is instantly placed right in the heart of the MCU, not on the outside trying to fit in. Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly ground the entire concept and lend it scientific gravitas, while the brilliant casting of Paul Rudd in the lead role keeps the tone of the film light and tongue-in-cheek. The two form a balance that allows the whole concept credibility and, before long, you’re all in on Ant-Man.
As Guardians of the Galaxy was a straight-up science fiction film that just happened to take place in and further the larger story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man is -at its heart- a comedic heist film. Making smart choices to show the diversity of the characters and the kind of stories that can be told within this giant, ever-expanding sandbox is how Marvel can keep things fresh. Rather than being the stumbling block I was afraid it was going to be, Ant-Man furthers the story (it takes place directly after Avengers: Age of Ultron and that movie’s ending is a key part of one of this film’s best surprises; not spoiling it for you).
Hank Pym (Douglas) is a character with a lot of baggage. Marvel essentially ruined the character with a wife-beating storyline in the 1970’s and they’ve never really been able to bring him back to the founding Avenger status he held. Bypassing him and Janet Van Dyne (the original Wasp and Hank’s wife), is a smart move for the MCU. The Wasp is dealt with and addressed and brought into the roster of heroes. Pym has lost his company to his former protegé (House of Cards’ Corey Stoll) and his daughter Hope. He identifies an ex-con with a talent for thieving (Paul Rudd) and trains him as the new Ant-Man to break into his own company and stop his technology from being weaponized as Yellowjacket armor.
Rudd’s training and the execution of the heist are 85% of the film, and while it isn’t as grand or awe-inspiring as some of the best entries of the MCU, it never fails to entertain, is genuinely funny and leaves you genuinely wanting more Ant-Man. That is all this film needed to do to be a home run given its mission and its production difficulties. NOTE: There are two end credits scenes! The first is essential to the future of Ant-Man; the second is essentially the first scene of Phase 3. DO. NOT. MOVE. Ant-Man defies the odds, and Marvel delivers another winner.