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Although it is predictably Marvel, Ant Man has much to offer.

 

 

Here we are, the 12th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Once again we have another new character and another origin story. This is the story of how Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) turns from being one of the best burglars around into the super hero Ant Man.

 

 

We start off the movie in 1989 with Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) resigning as the original Ant Man as S.H.I.E.L.D. is trying to replicate his Pym Particle. It is a sub atomic particle that allows the distance between atoms to shrink, thus allowing the wearer of the Ant Man costume to shrink (and, conversely, in the comics, grow to larger proportions).

 
Fast forward and we see Lang in prison at the end of his sentence and being released. He is picked up by his former cell mate, the slightly neurotic Luis. Right off the bat, we get to know that Scott wants to reform his ways, get a real job, and take care of his daughter Cassie. A little further in, we are introduced to Dave (T.I.) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian) in Luis’s apartment. Dave is a wheel man while Kurt is a Russian who happens to be a very competent hacker, rounding out this crew. During this time Lang is employed at Baskin Robbins. However, because of his felony conviction, he is fired. We also see Lang show up unannounced to his daughter’s birthday party. We are introduced to Paxton, an officer who is engaged to Lang’s ex-wife, who is not happy that Lang showed up. Cassie is ecstatic to see her father. After being asked to leave, Maggie, his ex, tells Scott the only way he will see Cassie is if he gets a job, pays child support, and is a hero to her. Heavy handed foreshadowing indeed.

 
Back to Pym: we learn that he was ousted from his company in a hostile manner when his protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), convinced the board and Pym’s daughter, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), to vote him out. This, in part, leads to the strained relationship between Pym and Hope. Cross had been looking for the secret to the Pym Particle, and grew resentful when he couldn’t get Hank to give it to him. We see that Cross has almost perfected his version of shrink technology, and that he has developed a militarized version of the Ant Man suit, complete with wings and laser beam cannons. Horrified, Pym tells Cross he can’t do this, that it will bring chaos to the world. We also learn that Cross is selling this technology to HYDRA. Pym mentions to Hope that something needs to be done and he already knows who is going to take his mantle to do it.

 
We then see that after Lang is fired, Luis says he has a score for them. Initially Lang refuses, but the lure of money that could pay for child support is too much and he agrees to be in on the heist. We find out that the target is Pym’s mansion, and the safe within. After breaking into the house with the help of his crew, Lang cracks the safe and finds the Ant Man suit. He doesn’t know what it is but ends up taking it, disappointed that there is no valuables inside. Once back at the apartment, Scott tries on the suit. He accidentally shrinks himself and we hear Pym’s voice roughly guiding him on what to do next. Lang is so freaked out by it that he breaks back in to return the suit. As he leaves, he is surrounded by cop cars and arrested. We learn Hope called the cops on him. While in prison, we see a bunch of ants bring the suit into Lang’s holding cell and instructions to put it on. He does so, follow’s Pym’s voice and instructions, and breaks out of prison. After some nice CGI effects, Lang ends up in Pym’s house and basically begins today’s version of an 80’s work out montage to become Ant Man. There is a brief scene where we see Lang as Ant Man trying to infiltrate an old Stark warehouse too, which is the new Avenger’s HQ we see in Age of Ultron. He has a brief fight with Falcon, and ends up retrieving the item he needed to get. We then get a scene of reconciliation between Hank and Hope. We learn that Pym’s wife joined him on missions as Wasp and that she was lost forever when she shrank to sub-atomic size to disarm a Soviet ICBM.

 
Meanwhile, Cross ends up perfecting his shrink technology. He holds a big gathering at the company headquarters to show off his suit, the Yellowjacket, and the ability to shrink someone in it. Hank, Scott, and Hope hatch a plan to steal the Yellowjacket and destroy all data regarding its development. Cross, however, anticipates this and sets a trap for Lang. Ant Man escapes, thanks to some new weaponry, and there is a large fight. Cross boards a helicopter with Yellowjacket suit in hand, while we see a HYDRA member steal a vile of Cross’s particles. Lang pursues as the building is destroyed. A midair fight aboard the helicopter ensues, and Cross puts on the Yellowjacket suit to battle Lang. The fight ends up in a back yard, where Scott punches Darren into a bug zapper. Then Paxton shows up, Tasers Scott, and puts him in the back of a squad car. We hear over the radio that there is a break in at Maggie’s house and Cassie is being abducted. Ant Man enters the house to see that Yellowjacket is there with Cassie. A battle of epically small proportions ensues. During the fighting, Paxton is able to remove Cassie from the home. Scott tries to deactivate the Yellowjacket suit, but it’s protected by titanium, the same metal that was on the ICBM from earlier. And as in the earlier flashback, Scott decides to go sub-atomic to destroy the suit controls. He is successful, and we see Cross essentially get sucked into a miniature black hole and die. Scott floats around in the quantum realm, but is able to make it back by manipulating his helmet’s regulator.

 
We see in the end that Paxton cover’s for Lang, so he doesn’t go back to prison. And we also see Hank holding out hope that his wife is still alive and would be able to come back. It also seems that a relationship is forming between Scott and Hope as they share a kiss outside of the mansion.

 

Ant-Man

 

Since Ant Man is a Marvel film, there are, of course, some end credit scenes. We first see Hope being offered a new Wasp outfit. Then we see Falcon and Capt. America with the Winter Soldier. Unable to get ahold of Tony Stark, Falcon says he knows a guy.

 
Overall, Ant Man was an enjoyable film to watch, but somewhat unremarkable. This is now the 12th film in the MCU. On positive side, there is a formula in place that works. Films are of a consistently high quality and are enjoyable to watch. They are colorful, especially compared to DC films, without being campy. They balance humor and light heartedness with serious themes very well. The problem is that Marvel has developed a formula that works, and its films will follow that formula to a “t.” I couldn’t help but feel I had seen this film before. Ant Man follows the same formula established by The Avengers. Individual story lines are established, individuals come together as a misfit team, team has internal struggles, reconciliation within team, final fight. There was nothing new in the story telling. It is hard to fault this strategy as it resonates with people and encourages them to spend their hard earned cash to be entertained. And you will be entertained with a Marvel film. Still, much of the film felt very Iron Man-like. Especially with the hostile takeover back ground, betrayal of a friend, the selling of weapons to terrorists, the final demise. Darren Cross is Obadiah Stane 2.0.

 
There were some really good scenes in the film though. The training scenes were hilarious, with Rudd popping out of the ground. Douglas’s pissed off Pym at the end made me really root for him. And the funniest shots were those that involved Thomas the Tank Engine. Maybe because it reminded me of this.

 
On the character front, Paul Rudd plays Paul Rudd. I mean that you get a character that is charming, sarcastic, and a little self-depreciating with a good heart who wants to do right. For those characteristics, he is a good choice for this role. And he didn’t do a bad job. I just felt I had seen similar roles already for him, sans super suit powers. I was really disappointed in Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym. I know they made the choices they did for continuity’s sake. But in the original source material, Pym is a founding member of The Avengers, he created Ultron, and he is considered the second most brilliant scientist in the Marvel Universe, behind Reid Richards (Mr. Fantastic). But they don’t really play on any of that. He gets a nod he is intelligent, but not to the same level as Tony Stark or Bruce Banner. That said, I did think Douglas played the part of a broken, gruff, older man full of despair and regret really well. The scene when he barks at his daughter was especially poignant as you could see in his face he immediately regretted what he did. It is that sort of nuance Douglas uses to bring alive the character. Lilly, as Hope, also plays a broken person, but in a different way. She is almost steely, using a tough as nails exterior as a mask for the pain that having two super hero parents caused. The let down for me was Stoll’s performance. It was too forced. I just got the feeling at points that I was watching Keegan-Michael Key as Obama’s Anger Translator, Luther. Which would have been fine if it hadn’t occurred in scenes that were meant to be serious. He was also upstaged in any scene with any combination of Rudd, Douglas, or Lilly.

 

In the end, we are left with a typical Marvel film. It is colorful, fun, entertaining, and well constructed. However, Marvel will need to start looking for alternative story structures to avoid getting stale. And it is starting to get stale as this 12th film shows. But the trio of Rudd, Douglas, and Lilly put in some good performances. Rudd is charmingly sarcastic and good hearted, Douglas delightfully rough around the edges, and Lilly is pleasantly a strong woman. The effects are top notch as usual. The ants do look alive. I  recommend watching as Ant Man will be a new recurring character in the growing list MCU characters. Ant Man is fun, has good action scenes, and is typically Marvel. Just don’t expect anything ground breaking or the best the MCU has to offer.

 

 

Directed By: Peyton Reed

Written By: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish

Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll

Release Date: July 17, 2015

Run Time: 117 minutes

 

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