Ant-Man is the latest superhero movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, preceded by Avengers: Age of Ultron. The film stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, and Michael Douglas.
In 1989, Hank Pym (Douglas) confronts S.H.I.E.L.D. about their attempts to acquire and replicate the Pym Particle, a technology Hank discovered that allows living beings to shrink to very small sizes while maintaining full or increased physical ability. S.H.I.E.L.D. executives, including Howard Stark (John Slattery) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) reason that the technology is necessary to maintain a level of security. Pym vows to take the secret of the Particle to the grave, believing it to be too dangerous to be reproduced.
The film flashes forward to present day, where Scott Lang (Rudd) gets released from prison to find his friend Luis (Michael Peña) with a new heist opportunity, but Lang promises to give up his life of crime to make a legitimate living for the sake of his daughter. After seeing his daughter and ex-wife (Judy Greer), Scott realizes that his family is moving on without him, making his attempt to get things straight all the more urgent.
Meanwhile, Pym Technologies is now run by Darren Cross (Stoll), Hank Pym’s ambitious protege and Hope van Dyne (Lilly), Pym’s daughter. Cross reveals to Pym and several potential buyers a new weapon called the Yellowjacket, a weaponized suit that can shrink the wearer and stop several threats without being seen. The suit is mostly well-received, but the technology to shrink living organisms is still lost to the suit’s developers. Cross is determined to find it, not content that his mentor calls the technology “Tales to Astonish.”
Scott Lang’s only job prospect falls through, citing his criminal record. With no other options, he takes Luis’s tip about stealing a large fortune from a home with an absentee owner. The fortune is revealed to be nothing more than an old red suit and helmet, but Lang leaves with it anyway. He tries on the suit and accidentally shrinks himself; the suit is powered by the fabled Pym Particle. Hank Pym communicates to Scott that now that he’s found the suit, he has a job to offer him.
Scott’s character moments come up right as he’s introduced as somewhat of a joker and atoning criminal. Despite his wanting to get out of crime, he’s not shy about what he knows how to do. His compatriots in crime, particularly Luis, also have their own little quirks that make them distinct. Luis, while very detailed about plans of action, is also very detailed about extraneous information, which is exclusively played for laughs. Hank Pym is almost straight atoner for the duration of the film. He discovered something very powerful and takes steps to make sure it doesn’t stumble into the wrong (or right) hands. There are two specific moments that break from his reserved nature and show how nasty he can be. The moments were put in to reflect the source material, where Hank Pym has a tendency to commit domestic violence. That obviously wouldn’t make for a good hero, so the temper was put in a slightly different direction. Hope’s focus to accomplish a mission is compared and often clashes with her relationship with her father. She’s very capable of completing a mission put in front of her, which she puts up every time she’s directed -not- to do something. A lack of sympathy for her father is addressed in pieces throughout the film.
Any technical terms, such as the mention of atomic sciences, is often explained so the audience can understand the context. At times, though, it has to be explained even further for some of the characters for a comedic effect. Those moments come often enough to be recognized but not enough to be trite or belittling. Any swearing is kept to a minimum, being a film intended for a wide audience. In particular, a character is called an “ass-hat,” to the chagrin of another character. It’s met with a paraphrased, “What’s wrong? I said ‘hat.'”
Redemption is brought up deliberately when it comes to Scott Lang and a much more subtle way with Hank Pym. Scott redeems his criminal past by committing an act for the greater good, while Hank struggles to reconcile with a daughter he pushed away. Passing judgment is also touched on, citing why heroes are reduced to trusting criminals to accomplish a mission. Family is mentioned at the forefront as well, with Scott and Hank both trying to place the pieces together with their respective estranged daughters.
During the climax fight, a song is used that’s more or less lampshading the use of music to heighten a situation and instead makes it more lax. Score music for training montages and drama are also present, but not overbearing.
The growing/shrinking with the Ant-Man suit is the biggest spectacle, for obvious reasons. For several instances, this effect is used for scale between small fights and its real-life observation. The climax fight with the train set is the most obvious example, used in the trailer.
Paul Rudd gets front billing with the movie, drifting away from his straight comedy and in to a more action-based movie. Evangeline Lilly as the female supporting character is a wonderful choice considering her past fantastical roles, such as The Hobbit. Corey Stoll plays a good villain, which is different from his more recognizable dramatic role in House of Cards. Michael Douglas gets back billing as Samuel L. Jackson does for the Avengers movies, and perhaps the biggest pull for the older audience members.
Who to Watch With
Thinking back on it now, there’s a huge plot contrivance that was the make-or-break point of Scott Lang and Hank Pym from meeting. With all of the other moments that have the audience surrender to suspension of disbelief, the method that they get together is fragile at best, considering Scott originally wanting to stay out of flimsy crimes. That aside, the movie does well with a standalone hero as opposed to the multi-layer, multi-hero movies that the rest of the MCU has become.
As with other Marvel films, the movie has a lot to work with, but forced to be contained within the universe made by the MCU. While Hank Pym is responsible for the creation of Ultron in the comics, it’s not at all mentioned in the MCU because Tony Stark and Bruce Banner are responsible for Ultron. Hank Pym also had to go through a big character change to avoid the fact that he beat his wife in the comic series. That certainly wouldn’t make a good hero for a movie perspective, but an interesting character in the realm of comic books.