reviewed by Tom-Tom
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has brought us much. We’ve gotten gods, super soldiers, green giants, iron men, blue frost giants, iron men, spies, ex-mercenaries, smugglers, bounty hunters, and aliens. The shortest hero so far has been Rocket, the genetically spliced raccoon like creature with a knack for building weapons of hilariously disproportionate size which can “destroy moons.” Now we get Ant-Man. And what a treat it is. Aided from its early stages by genius writer/director Edgar Wright, this film was destined for greatness from the very beginning. I was quite disappointed to hear that Wright left the project for creative differences and I was worried that the new director Peyton Reed, (an unknown to me at the time) would ruin everything that was Wright about the movie the way Peter Jackson laid waste to the Hobbit Trilogy after Guillermo del Toro’s excellent preparation and hard work had set up everything perfectly. My fears were allayed almost immediately. All the joy and fun you’ve ever experienced in an Edgar Wright film is alive and well from the random humor, geeky references (“I know what you’re thinking, ‘Tastes of Astonishment’, right?”) to frenetic action sequences complete with silly yet exciting situations which amuse and exhilarate in fair measure making everything feel all Wright even if it isn’t exactly all right.
We begin in 1989 which a CGI reconfigured Michael Douglas playing Hank Pym, one of the Top Ten Marvel Geniuses up there with looking just like his original Wall Street self speaking with an elderly but still hot Hailey Atwell as (ex) Agent Carter with Howard Stark (John Slattery) looking just like his Mad Men incarnation but with a mustache to add to his snowy down of a hairstyle. Joining them is Martin Donovan playing Mitchell Carson, the first openly hostile bad guy I’ve ever seen him as after the nice guy image he presented in Insomnia, Agent Cody Banks, and most of The Sentinel. Carson is trying to imitate the Pym Particles created by you know who without success but to Pym’s great anger. Things come to blows before the end.
Fast forward to the present with Paul Rudd playing Scott Lang who seems to be in trouble in addition to being in jail which is trouble already. He’s soon out (legally) and on the straight path working at Baskin Robbins. Dire straits lead him to be tempted by his old life (not the least being roommates with 3 thieves, something usually frowned upon in most parole regulations, I’m sure). His former cellmate Luis, played with motormouth gusto by the great Michael Pena, details the plan but more importantly (for him, I guess) a long laundry list of the people from whom he heard the info about the plan. This is one of many ionic scenes where the presence of Wright makes itself known. The lips of the characters being recounted in rapid fire fashion by Luis move hilariously in sync with every word he zips out regardless of who’s speaking.
Lang agrees to a seemingly low-risk break-in and theft at a rich guy’s apartment where he isn’t expected or a week. Being a burglar and not a robber (as painstakingly explained by Lang to his manager at Baskin Robbins earlier), the owner’s absence is the selling point for him. He finds a suit, what he takes to be a motorcycle suit after getting through a few layers of security i will leave you to enjoy. This is the titular Ant-Man suit and having a Master Electrician’s License, he tests its electronic components with various hardware store knickknacks before trying it on only to shrink down to the size of .5 inches or 1.5 cm, as is advertised on the Japanese TV commercials. This is so well done with heretofore unseen rust, specks of blemishs, sound dialed up, and the terror of being small presented so shockingly and effectively. We really feel like we’re in Lang’s shoes. It’s a master scene that could have been brushed over or overdone but here, it’s done just right.
It’s also refreshing to get a scaled down plot without the fate of the universe hanging in the balance. The fate of warfare as we know it is on the table but the heist caper theme is surprisingly effective. Along the way we meet Lang’s daughter who is well cast. She’s not the prefabricated 5 year old beauty nor the incredible advanced actress but just an ordinary girl missing her front teeth and in love with her Daddy making her an endearing presence. Her Mommy is engaged to a cop Frank Paxton (Bobby Cannavale in a break from his Boardwalk Empire Mob lieutenant as is his partner Wood Harris also taking a break from being a Drug Kingpin after The Wire) who isn’t overly unreasonable as characters in his position usually are. He’s quite charming, actually. The ex-wife isn’t the usual unreasonable hag characters in her position are either. She demands the practical stuff real mothers in her position do: alimony and child support back payments.
The film’s ultimate villain, Darren Cross (a bald Corey Stoll from TV’s The Strain) is a former disciple of Pym and is trying to replicate the Pym Particles which cause one to shrink under controlled conditions safely. He just doesn’t want to rule the world or kill someone. He’s got Daddy issues and wants to impress the father he apparently never had, Hank Pym by creating something that will finally make him happy. A sympathetic villain is not something we’ve seen recently in the MCU and it is refreshing and satisfying to see one now. This doesn’t make Cross a weak character. His method of dispatching critics still creeps me out when I remember it. Be prepared to cringe…
…and to laugh. This is a very funny movie. I don’t think I went more than 5-7 minutes without laughing out loud at least once. An Avenger makes an appearance to qualify our new hero as does Thomas the Tank Engine. For all those of you who loved Anty in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, meet…I’ll let you learn his name at the movies. A few loose ends too many keep me from giving this film perfect marks but I’d love to see it again soon. It was just so much fun.