Marvel’s Phase 2 has come to a close, not with the subplot-stuffed Whedon spectacle of Avengers: Age of Ultron, but with a quirky action comedy where Paul Rudd rides on a bug. With clever writing, clear and believable character motivations, and a desire to take itself just seriously enough that the titular character doesn’t become a Deadpool-caliber walking joke, Ant Man hits the mark of quality we’ve come to expect from Marvel Studios. It just doesn’t go very far beyond that.
The most surprising thing I realized leaving the theater was that Ant Man simply wasn’t as funny as I expected it to be. It was funny, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not even the funniest Marvel Studios movie—a title that’s still being passed around between the members of the Iron Man trilogy. I’m a huge fan of Ant Man’s original screenwriter, Edgar Wright, and consider his work on the Three Flavours Coronetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, At World’s End) to be some of the best comedy to come out of the British Isles since Monty Python. Wright did leave the project partway through, but I still expected anything containing his creative DNA to have me out of breath with laughter rather than quietly chuckling.
In some ways, Ant Man’s decision to tone down the humor works in its favor. The trailers suggested that we might be in store for one, big, self-aware in-joke. “Haha, it’s the guy from Role Models playing a super hero who shrinks down to the size of a quarter and kicks bad guys in the face.” Yet, they mostly play the premise completely straight, even to the point of coming up with a semi-decent explanation for how such an absurd, 1960s comic book power works that probably won’t give the physics majors in the audience an aneurysm. The studio that got us to take Rocket Raccoon seriously has done it again with Ant Man.
The action is inventive and visually interesting—particularly an early scene where Rudd’s Scott Lang is experimenting with the suit for the first time. The pacing and plotting are both smooth and even, which is definitely not something I could say about Avengers 2. All of the principle cast seem invested in the end product, and perhaps more importantly, like they’re having a good time with it. Michael Douglas is a great Hank Pym, if perhaps less troubled and more eccentric, in a Doc Brown sort of way, than the comic book character on whom he is based. The villain is really just a Saturday morning cartoon bad guy stock character with daddy issues, but the way he’s brought to life by Cory Stoll (whom I only recognized as “that bald guy from House of Cards”) gives him some dramatic dimension that elevates him above the trope.
My only casting concern now is that having both Evangeline Lilly and Cobie Smulders in the Avengers is going to get kind of confusing.
As a Paul Rudd/Edgar Wright movie, I don’t know I could recommend Ant Man to fans of one or both of the aforementioned laughsmiths who aren’t into all the comic book stuff. As a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, it probably lands right about in the middle of the pack. Which is to say, it’s actually really good. Even the worst MCU movie (looking at you, Thor: The Dark World) is still good enough that I can watch it multiple times in the space of a weekend. As an Ant Man movie, independent of any outside expectations, it succeeds on just about every level. It doesn’t manage to take a bunch of third- and fourth-string characters and make them instantly into superstars to the same degree as Guardians of the Galaxy, but its cleverness, enthusiastic performances, and inventive action scenes make Ant Man easy to recommend.
About Our Rating System: The Loresworn Order reviews games, movies, TV, books, and music on a four-point scale.
- No Medal, “Not Recommended”
- Bronze, “Okay”
- Silver, “Good!”
- Gold, “Great!”