ANT-MAN Review: Bigger Doesn’t Always Mean Better

Marvel knocks another one out of the park.

At the end of the day, we don’t necessarily want gigantic movies with a gazillion action scenes and a climax where the good guys save the world. We certainly go see those movies because often that’s what’s available to us. But what we really want is just a good movie. Ant-Man is a good movie.

While full of the CG action we’ve come to expect from modern blockbusters, Ant-Man enjoys a much smaller scope than we’re used to. It doesn’t look or feel much like Marvel’s Iron Man, but that’s the film it might have the most in common with. We meet a guy with special talents, he gets a cool suit, we see him learn to master it, and then he has to battle a battle a bad guy with a very similar suit.

This is the first new superhero introduction movie Marvel has done since 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, and it’s remarkable how much trust Marvel still puts in people’s ability to fall in love with character over spectacle. Directed by Peyton Reed, Ant-Man looks great but puts a way higher premium on charm and humor.

Beginning with a flashback filled with familiar Marvel faces, Ant-Man exists in the Marvel world much more than its advertising might have you think. While the story primarily focuses on Scott Lang, it wouldn’t be incorrect to say the film is also very much about Hank Pym, a legacy character who has been fighting the good fight for almost as long as Captain America but without the benefit of a multi-decade ice nap. Scott Lang is great, but Pym, and all the story elements that come with him, offers the film’s most intriguing addition to the Marvel universe.

Lang comes pretty close though. Played by Paul Rudd, Scott Lang doesn’t have as large a personality as the other Marvel heroes we know. His down-on-his-luck everyman is humble and affable to a degree that almost makes him invisible by comparison. That may not sound like a compliment, but it’s going to be really interesting to see him in an Avengers context because he essentially expresses the point Hawkeye’s character was meant to express in Age of Ultron, but he does so instantly and without any extra effort. He’s just a guy, not necessarily as outmatched as Hawkeye, but definitely less suited to this superhero world, which is exactly what makes his intersections with that world so charming. Through Lang, we get to vicariously imagine what it would be like to find yourself suddenly going from working at Baskin Robbins to playing on this field. That’s a Marvel first.

As you’ve probably heard, Ant-Man is mostly a heist film. As such, it’s a bit light according to most heist sub-genre standards. You have your cool crew (in this case Michael Peña, David Dastmachian, and T.I.), but their contributions are somewhat minor. In fact, Ant-Man’s contributions are surprisingly minor too. As far as the heist goes, he’s about 90% reliant on the army of various ants he controls. They’re kind of like Ant-Man’s Batcomputer or Jarvis. Sure, he’s in control, but after a while it starts to look like he’s doing the least amount of work.

When he gets to do stuff by himself, however, Ant-Man seems almost unstoppable and provides the Marvel universe with an extremely fun and unique fighting style. I won’t spoil with details (though they’ve probably been spoiled already), but Ant-Man’s first fight is one of the coolest fights in any Marvel movie yet. I could watch him use his fluctuating size to beat people up all day long.

Marvel movies have been working toward a crescendo for a while. Ant-Man halts that progression and helps us remember why these movies are so good in the first place. It’s fun, funny, and here to humbly entertain you. 

(Also, it probably doesn’t need to be said, but make sure you stay in your seats for BOTH post-credit sequences.)