Ant-Man Is A Fun Heist Movie Masquerading As A Comic Book Film.

Ant-Man.
Director: Peyton Reed.
Writers: Edgar Wright, Peyton Reed, Adam McKay and Paul Rudd, with characters by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Larry Lieber.
Stars: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lily, Michael Douglas, Correy Stohl, Michael Peña, Tip “T.I.” Harris, David Dasmaltchian and Haley Atwell.
Opens at:Wide.

Of all the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man's arguably got the most interesting origin story.

No, not the character, the film itself: Originally, acclaimed director Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Shaun of the Dead) was supposed to direct the movie; he then dropped off of it last year, citing creative differences, but still staying on as a writer. His replacement in the directors chair is Peyton Reed (Yes Man, The Break-Up), with Adam McKay (Anchorman, Step Brothers) contributing to the script. That's a lot of names and a lot of action coming before the opening credits ever roll — plenty to get the fanboy set both fever-pitched and frustrated, and more than enough to skew expectations on a comic book film about a guy who can shrink down to the size of an ant.

Thankfully, the sheer fun of the finished Ant-Man product rises above this all.

The movie centers around the genius scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his Pym Particles, which he developed while working for S.H.I.E.L.D. The Particles allow someone to shrink at will, and Pym fashions a suit that allows him to use this technology. Thus, the first Ant-Man is born. Then, in the '80s, Hank realizes that S.H.I.E.L.D. is looking to weaponize his technology, leading him to quit the business, but retain his technology while keeping it away from S.H.I.E.L.D. and the world at large.

In the present, Pym's protege and the man who ran him out of his own company, Dr. Darren Cross (Correy Stoll), has finally duplicated the Pym Particle after years of effort, and is now looking to sell a weaponized version of the Ant-Man suit, called the Yellowjacket, to the highest bidder. Pym decides to enlist the help of former thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to break into his old headquarters and to steal the suit before it falls into the wrong hands. Oh, and Pym's daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) is somewhere in there, too, serving as a reluctant ally.

To the movie's credit, Paul Rudd carries the hell out of the movie. His Scott Lang is a lovable and flawed man that just wants to be able to live with his family. He is written as a man who bails at the first sign of trouble but also somehow a master thief with a master's degree in electrical engineering. He brings a lot of funny one-liners and a sense of humor that elevates some of the movie's lesser scenes.

Where the movie really shines is when it gets to its various heist sequences. No one would compare this to some of the best heist movies of all-time, but when Scott works with the rag tag group of wanna-be criminals Luis (Michael Peña), Kurt (David Dasmaltchian), and Dave (rapper T.I.), the movie adds a fun level of tension that's reminiscent of the Mission: Impossible movies. It's in these sequences that the ants that Scott learns to control are fun to watch: You get to see each how each species specializes in different but important tasks, like if Q offered James Bond insects to use instead of gimmicky guns.

There's also some very cool themes of fatherhood thrown in the movie. It's that theme that makes the movie feel like it has higher stakes than the world ending at the hands of some robot. There are some real parallels between Hank and Scott as they try to be the fathers they want to be.

Still, it's a Marvel film, and it does suffer from the the standard Marvel movie issues. Much like the first Iron Man, it's a weak script that's buoyed by a charming lead and weighed down by a forgettable villain. You could argue that it's a remake, really, except for the fact that there's a B-plot here that appears to have been created for the sole purpose of connecting this Ant-Man to the future of both this franchise and the greater MCU on the whole. Losing Wright at the head of the film hurts, too; the weakest parts of the movie are the scenes try to emulate a little too closely his A.D.D. editing signature, mostly because they come out of nowhere and don't really fit.

That said, Ant-Man's still fairly creative. And, in the grand scheme of MCU, it's among the more fun efforts. Moving forward, it'll be fun to see how this Marvel storyline grows. And that's not bad considering, y'know, that it's about a guy who can shrink.

Grade: B.

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