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Ant-Man is directed by Peyton Reed and stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Pena, Anthony Mackie, Wood Harris, Judy Greer, and Michael Douglas. It is the 12th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The stakes feel extraordinarily high in some of Marvel's bulkier outings, so it's nice that a film like Ant-Man can come along every now and then to remind us that not every superhero adventure needs to put the universe at risk. The only comparison that would make Ant-Man seem rather small is comparing it to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, where the majority of the heroes are characters with at least one gaudy feature: Tony Stark is a tech genius and the possessor the ultimate suit of armor; Steve Rogers is a super soldier with more muscles than that lunkhead you'll see at the gym; Thor is the God of Thunder, wielding an almighty hammer. I suppose I'm claiming that Ant-Man is a more down-to-Earth kind of superhero, which he is. Ant-Man never takes part in some destruction-heavy fight nor does he need to worry about the Earth spinning off its axis. The climactic battle of this movie takes place in a child's bedroom, so let that be an indication of the kind of "take it easy" attitude that Ant-Man sports.
Ant-Man's practical approach to the superhero genre is largely due to its protagonist, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd): a thief who serves time in prison and, upon release, is determined to be a better man. Lang cares deeply for his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), but he is rebuked by his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her new fiance, police detective Paxton (Bobby Cannavale). Lang is unable to provide child support for Cassie, and he also finds himself unable to hold on to a job due to his criminal record. Out of options, Lang agrees to join his former cell mate Luis' (Michael Pena) crew and break into a house that contains a safe, one that is supposedly filled with lots of valuables. Lang successfully breaks into the house and cracks the safe, but instead of money or jewels, Lang only finds a strange suit and a helmet.
The house that Lang breaks into turns out to be the house of scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and the suit that Lang finds is Pym's Ant-Man suit, which is equipped with shrinking technology. Lang later discovers that stealing the suit was actually a test administered by Pym, who had hidden the suit away because he believed the technology to be too dangerous to use. Impressed by Lang's thieving skills and Lang's determination to be a hero to his daughter, Pym offers Lang the chance to don the suit, learn its technology, and become the new Ant-Man. Pym also wants Lang to become the new Ant-Man in hopes that Lang can steal a similar piece of technology, the Yellowjacket, from Pym's former protege, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Cross had forced Pym out of his own company, Pym Technologies, and seeks to sell the Yellowjacket to Hydra.
- Ant-Man contains a "feel-good" vibe, something that almost none of the other MCU films can brag about. Scott Lang's transition into becoming Ant-Man allows him to restart his life, the second chance he needs to not only better himself, but to grow closer with his daughter. Lang is no super human, but a man going through a rough patch, strapped with a criminal history that hinders everything in his life. Maybe I'm a bit of a sucker for these "protagonist gets a second chance" kind of movies, but Paul Rudd delivers an evidently charming and heartfelt performance, so I find it hard to not feel sympathy and be won over by his character. Lang never goes through any kind of radical physical or emotional changes (this is not meant to be a shot at Captain America, by the way), but instead finds new confidence, a sense of purpose, and, above all else, the belief that he can be there for Cassie. In other words, Lang experiences human-like changes throughout the film, allowing us to better realize the actual man inside the suit. Lang's character development is pretty similar to that of Clark Kent's development in Superman II, in which the more human side of Ant-Man/Superman are given proper development.
- Michael Douglas gives the best performance in the film as Hank Pym. For some reason, hearing his voice coming out of the mouth of a character like Pym gives me a lot of joy. Douglas successfully capture the essence of his character: a scientist whose life is in shambles, until he discovers Lang and realizes that Lang is the one that could turn everything around. In addition, Douglas delivers his lines with the right kind of voice intonation, done in a way that makes you truly want to listen to him.
- Before 2018, Marvel struggled mightily with presenting us memorable and interesting villains, and sadly, Ant-Man is no exception. Darren Cross being the main villain is totally obvious from the first moment we see him, walking around Pym Technologies with a smug-look on his face. He might as well have a post-it note on his name tag that reads, "I'm The Villain! It's So Obviously Me!" My gosh, you could just look at the poster and determine that Corey Stoll plays the villain. It's not like his motivations are unique or that he's simply full of malice; he's just a sneaky business suit that's in it for the money. For all the tiny things in this movie, Darren Cross' intimidation factor is certainly one of them. I mean no ill will upon Corey Stoll and his acting; he does the best he can with a script that doesn't leave much space for him to do anything bold.
As odd as it may sound, I consider Ant-Man to be one of my favorite entries in the MCU, even if Ant-Man seems inferior to the other big wig Marvel superheroes. My fondness for this film comes from its feel-good atmosphere, something I thank the film's human center for. Ant-Man's hero is a realistic man with no wacky gimmicks or exaggerated features, a kind of superhero that adds more to the MCU than you might first think. As a whole, Ant-Man is breezy, delightful fun, getting a major boost from charming performances by Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas. It's not an overly ambitious film by any means, and why should it be? Not every superhero movie needs to be Avengers: Infinity War or The Dark Knight. It may not seem that important within its over-arching universe, but in its own small ways, Ant-Man proves itself to be a triumph.
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