Ant-Man Movie Review
The great thing about Marvel's Ant-Man is that with its smallish character, we get a smallish story, a refreshing change of pace from the last however many superhero movies where the fate of the world literally hinges in the balance--in plain view for all to see. Ant-Man is first and foremost a heist movie, albeit one full of pseudo-science and Marvel hijinks.
The disappointing thing about Marvel's Ant-Man is it serves as nothing more than a small reward, a mildly entertaining but surprisingly dull setup film that doesn't click into gear until it's too little, too late.
Paul Rudd plays the unlikely hero, a good-hearted criminal who is recruited by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his underdeveloped-daughter-who-can-punch-good (Evangeline Lilly) to break into their own company to destroy technology that could bear grave consequences for the world. The company is now being run by the evil and psychotic Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), though it's never explained why he is evil or psychotic.
Ant-Man devotes much of its time to setting up the character and showing how Scott Lang (Rudd) becomes Ant-Man. Unfortunately, unlike other efforts to introduce Marvel superheroes, Ant-Man is oddly inconsistent, not sure whether it wants to be serious or funny, something small or something large. The result: a long stretch of the movie is not nearly as humorous or entertaining as the filmmakers intended it to be.
Going into Ant-Man, my intention was to not even mention that Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) was originally attached to direct the movie--only to drop out at the last minute due to creative differences with the studio, Rudd or both, depending on the source. Why? Because the average moviegoer doesn't know who Edgar Wright is, nor really cares.
The thing is... Ant-Man feels like an Edgar Wright movie without the brilliance of Edgar Wright in the director's chair. Wright is still credited as a co-writer of the movie, and his imprint is evident throughout. Ant-Man works at a frenetic pace, with the screenplay and cinematography trying to do a thousand things a minute. Wright's movies have always operated with a heightened energy, relying on quick cuts and fast and furious dialogue to keep the action and comedy spinning around each other even in the simplest of scenes.
Replacement director Peyton Reed, whose only good movie to his name is 2000's Bring It On, is no Edgar Wright.
Reed tries to propel the story and its characters forward with the same energy as Wright, but struggles to hold things together in a cohesive way. For much of the movie, Ant-Man falls just short of hitting its stride, and it's painfully obvious. Paul Rudd is a funny guy when given the right material, but he is strangely subdued here, rarely able to go full Paul Rudd even when you can tell the movie wants to let him. Ant-Man is filled with single-chuckle moments--scenes or jokes where you can tell the filmmakers wanted to get more from what is happening than what they actually get. For the first two acts, Ant-Man offers entertaining moments, but it lacks the energy and cohesive humor that many other Marvel property launches have benefited from. The movie is, from time to time, sort of boring, though "boring" may be a bit too harsh--it just isn't that fun.
The movie's saving grace is the final act, and this bodes well for future Ant-Man movies. Once Rudd is finally in costume and has more or less mastered his suit's ability to shrink and expand, taking the action from a helicopter to inside a falling briefcase and back again in a split second, Ant-Man does kick into gear. The extensive use of mind-controlled ants doesn't even feel this farfetched by this point. Basically, the movie's final act is a lot of fun.
Had Ant-Man's whole been anything like its climax, Marvel would have had another critical winner on their hands, but it was not to be. Though far from bad, Ant-Man is far from great, a mildly entertaining but ultimately mediocre action-comedy that purposefully goes small, but feels even smaller.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.