Ant-Man is Cute, and a Little Cursory

Marvel’s pattern continues. There’s no doubt they’ve got “fun” down to a science. Ant-Man, a risky adaptation of one of the more obscure characters in comic lore, is cute, funny, and refreshingly weird in many ways. How else do you describe a climactic scene where the hero plummets through something called the “quantum realm?”

Would the venerable Edgar Wright have done any better? There’s evidence to suggest he might have, but there’s no point in dwelling on a what-if scenario that’s mostly irrelevant to the movie at hand. Reed’s comedic energy is a welcome reprieve from the dire dramatic stakes seen in Age of Ultron or The Winter Soldier, and the cast assembled here is the best you could ask for. Paul Rudd doesn’t know how to be not charming, and Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lily bring emotional depth to Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne, respectively. An obligatory romance between Hope and Rudd’s Scott Lang is just that, obligatory, but their chemistry is on point when butting heads prior to the kisses.

Three-quarters of the movie are a breathe of fresh air, a heist movie masquerading as a comic-book thriller, filled with funny supporting characters, such as Michael Pena, T.I., and David Dastmalchian as Lang’s likable criminal buddies. And where else can you catch a future superhero starting his post-prison life as a cashier at Baskin Robbins? Or donning a ridiculous suit not to save the world, but to pay child support for his daughter? It’s the little things that count, like those cute army ants he learns to control in the obligatory¬†(seeing a pattern?) training sequence, or the great absurdity of watching a Thomas the Tank Engine toy blown up to full-scale proportion.

Unfortunately there’s the other quarter of the movie: the re-appropriated plots of 2008’s Iron Man and 2013’s Iron Man 3, revolving around an evil corporate titan’s plan to steal the all-important tech of our dear protagonists and use it for military gain. And naturally, he’s been rejected in some way by said protagonists and promises revenge. Trust me, these aren’t spoilers, these are road marks. Corey Stoll, a wonderful actor, is stuck in a shell of former Marvel villains as the aforementioned titan, Darren Cross. Through his mentor-protege relationship with Pym, there are cursory attempts at making him more than an ordinary villain.

A comic-book’s inventive action and a caper’s darkly funny thrills propel Marvel’s big lower-budget risk to slightly greater heights than the big budget milestone that was “Age of Ultron” a few months ago. Despite questionable originality on the page, Ant-Man gets by on the talents of Paul Rudd, and the poignant familial bonds forged throughout this resolutely charming picture.

Grade: B+

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