By: Anthony Zangrillo
Ant-Man! After all the mystery and intrigue surrounding the development of the Avenger’s smallest asset, Marvel has not disappointed in its Age of Ultron follow-up. Yes! The mini-sized Avenger overcomes the tall tales surrounding the film’s rumored production nightmares, resulting in a fantastic film.
Here’s a little history of the development of this film. Originally, in the late 90s, Marvel sold the rights to make an Ant-Man film to Artisan Entertainment, yet the rights reverted back to Marvel, when Artisan entertainment merged with Marvel Studios in 2000. Soon after, Edgar Wright, a TV director at the time, became fascinated with the Ant-Man concept. Wright and Joe Cornish pitched a film involving Scott Lang stealing the super-suit from Hank Pym, but Wright admitted that his idea felt more like a supernatural crime movie, rather than a superhero film. After years of no progress, Kevin Feige became interested in Wright’s Ant-Man, until Marvel announced their plans for a cinematic universe. Still, an Ant-Man movie was announced at San Diego Comic Con in 2006. For years, Marvel creative struggled with finding a way to have the pint-sized hero connect with a larger audience. Ant-Man, an original Avenger in the comics, missed the Avengers film and Battle of New York spectacle in 2012. Following the success of the Avengers, Wright and Marvel screened test footage of the film at San Diego Comic Con, once again confirming the development of the film.
However, as more of the solo Marvel films experienced the windfall of being an Avengers sequel, Feige requested that Wright connect the Ant-Man film to the overall scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yet, Edgar Wright (hot off The World’s End, the conclusion of his Cornetto trilogy) ignored these requests, advocating for a standalone feature. Despite this statement, everything seemed to be finally moving along. Michael Douglas would play the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym, while Paul Rudd would embody the thief turned hero, Scott Lang. Suddenly, Feige decided that a new writing team would pen a draft of the script. When Wright read this updated version of the script, he promptly left the project the following day.
While Edgar Wright could have directed the “ultimate” Ant-Man film, his unwillingness to compromise forced him to leave the project (yet still receive a writing credit). Fanboys (and fanboy directors) cried blasphemy! Yet, Marvel still used many of Wright and Cornish’s elements, having Adam McKay and Paul Rudd further polish this new draft to neatly fit within the larger library of Marvel films. Surprisingly, the current incarnation is hilarious and even innovative for the comic book genre. Given the film’s troubled history, this result is truly astonishing and audiences will surely deem Ant-Man a worthy member of the Marvel Cinematic brand.
Move over Star Lord, Scott Lang is officially the most relatable Marvel superhero. The core of Lang’s character resembles a devoted father stuck in a cycle of crimes. Lang only desires to spend time with his young daughter, yet one massive theft against a horrible, billion-dollar company labels him as an ex-con for life. Hank Pym recognizes the immense talent and character within Lang, offering the modern “Robin Hood” a chance at redemption. Donning the ridiculous shrinking suit, Lang must master this new power in order to prevent Pym’s successor, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from selling his Yellowjacket suit to militaries in order to create an army of pint-sized super soldiers.
The student-teacher dynamic between Rudd and Douglas is phenomenal. I honestly believed that Lang was a hero forced to save the world by a mysterious veteran in Pym. The writers maintain Pym’s mystique, and I would not be surprised if Hank Pym receives a prequel TV show on ABC. The best part of the master-apprentice relationship involves Rudd’s witty quips throughout the film. Rudd brings his classic, dry humor to subvert common superhero and drama plot points. In fact, some of the fights that Lang undergoes towards the middle of the film firmly establish Ant-Man as a formidable Avenger, who has the wit to rival Tony Stark or Peter Parker.
An impressive standout from the Ant-Man cast is Evangeline Lily as Hope van Dyne, the daughter of Hank Pym. Throughout the film, Hope puts Lang to shame time and time again. Indeed, Hope showcases a total mastery over the Ant-Man powers, as well as a martial arts background that could rival Black Widow. Hope should be the true successor to Pym’s superhero mantle, yet Pym can not risk losing his only daughter. In the past, reviewers have criticized Marvel for not having enough strong female characters. Through Hope’s characterization, I have faith that Marvel has listened to their fans and have begun to showcase stronger and more compelling female characters. Not everything surrounding Hope works to perfection as a romantic interest between her and Lang felt a little forced. On a side note, Janet van Dyne, Pym’s wife and Hope’s mother, is referenced throughout the film, and her inclusion has a significant impact on the other characters.
Unsurprisingly, the weakest part of the film is the villain Yellowjacket. The stereotypical corrupt businessman willing to sell his soul for money and power provides enough motivation to not utterly ruin the film. However, Yellowjacket fails to revolutionize the comic book villain, even though Corey Stoll brings a disgruntled, yet menacing take on the character. The beginning of the film establishes him as an immediate threat, but the character slowly delves into the common tropes of a Marvel antagonist. Unfortunately, most audiences will ultimately write off Yellowjacket as a character that merely services the action-packed finale.
A strong supporting cast provides great comic relief, a hallmark of Marvel movies. Lang’s heist team consists of Michael Peña, Tip “T.I.” Harris, and David Dastmalchian. This motley crew each has a moment to shine and help keep the witty tone consistent throughout the film. Bobby Cannavle plays a cop, who married Lang’s ex-wife. Cannavle brings his “tough guy” attitude to the role, yet still shows enough heart to sell the role.
The true strength of this film is the inventive and creative action sequences. Viewers will literally be taken into Ant-Man’s world. Just as viewers soared with Iron Man, audiences will shrink with Lang to experience the life of an ant. The film has a lot of fun with this premise, such as placing Ant-Man in a tub filled with water, a conflict with a rat, a disco floor of death, and the inner workings of a computer chip. Rudd’s unique take on the “Antony the flying ant” sequences are funny, yet their inclusion leads to a pivotal scene toward the end of the film. The whole movie builds to a stunning fight within a briefcase and a finale within a little girl’s bedroom, involving a Thomas the Tank Train toy. One plot point towards the end of the film could seem like a cliché, yet I believe that it fits the Lang character perfectly.
In conclusion, Ant-Man is the definitive superhero film of summer 2015. I saw the film in Imax 3D and enjoyed the experience. Specifically, the big Ant-Man heist sequence was a joy to view on a pristine screen in 3D. Make sure you stay for the end of the credits, as the movie has a mid-credit and end-credit scene.