Here is a good news for you. Although it did have some problems during its pre-production stage, “Ant-Man”, another new superhero film from Marvel Comics, is equipped with enough wit and personality to distinguish itself amidst a myriad of superhero films produced during recent years. While following a quintessential origin story guaranteeing next installments to come, the movie is packed with enjoyable moments to amuse or excite us, and the result is a fun superhero film both charming and exhilarating as cheerfully zooming back and forth between its small and big dimensions.
The story is about how a young thief named Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) comes across a chance to change his life forever. While the crime for which he was jailed was rather well-meaning, that does not change the fact that he is an ex-con not very welcomed by many employers, and he soon finds himself tempted to go back to his criminal career even though he sincerely wants to be a good father for his young daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), who is currently living with his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her detective boyfriend Paxton (Bobby Cannavale).
By coincidence, Scott’s close friend/accomplice Luis (Michael Peña), who usually hangs around with his fellow goofy criminals Kurt (David Dastmalchian) and Dave (Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris), recently acquires the information about a possible big score. There is a safe in the basement of a house belonging to some retired old man, and it seems this safe is storing something quite valuable. During the first major sequence of the film, Scott penetrates into the house and then the safe step by step while assisted by his bumbling but mostly reliable accomplices, and the movie smoothly glides between humor and intrigue like a good heist film especially when Scott deals with a couple of unexpected obstacles through his clever improvised tactics.
But there comes a more unexpected thing when Scott finally discovers what is stored inside the safe. As we already know, the house in question belongs to Dr. Hank Pim (Michael Douglas), and he has been watching on Scott from the very beginning because he believes that Scott is the right man for a certain job to be done as soon as possible.
More than 25 years ago, Dr. Pim found a special particle which can freely shrink or bloat anything through manipulating the distance between atoms, and he has been hiding and protecting his revolutionary technology for years since his bitter departure from SHIELD, a secret agency which is certainly familiar to you if you have seen any of recent Marvel Comics movies. But his former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who took over Dr. Pim’s technology company years ago, has been determined to replicate his mentor’s technology for himself. Although there are still a number of problems to be solved by him and his technicians, Cross’ secret project on a new weapon called Yellowjacket is now very close to the success he has craved for, and he is already ready to sell his weapon to anyone willing to pay a lot for it.
After being pushed into the situation where he does not have many options, Scott agrees to participate in the plan to stop Cross, and he begins to work closely with Dr. Pim and his daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lily), who has been a sort of double agent for her father while working under Cross on the surface. With a special suit which can instantly shrink him into the size of an ant, Scott goes through a number of training sessions, and one of them is about how to handle and control several types of ants, who are more trustworthy (and likable) than those Velociraptors in “Jurassic World” (2015). Although I have some reasonable doubts on the scientific settings in the film (there are lots of implausible moments especially if you consider the laws of physics), the director Peyton Reed provides entertaining visual moments whenever Scott hurls himself into the microworld, and the movie even dabbles in the netherworld of quantum mechanics, though I must point out that, unlike what is shown in the film, there is no such thing like color in that theoretical world.
It also helps that the movie has engaging actors to watch. Paul Rudd, who also wrote the screenplay with Adam McKay, Joe Cornish, and Edgar Wright, is convincing as an ordinary guy who comes to find more of his better sides through his bumpy adventure. Besides suitably looking brave and heroic during the action scenes in the film, Rudd can easily switch his performance between drama and comedy, and his few warm scenes with young actor Abby Ryder Fortson are the main reason why the later part of the climax sequence works within its relatively modest scale. Even when it goes into full action mode, the movie does not lose its sense of humor amid busy CGI actions while making us involved in what is being at stake for its characters, and I must tell you that it has the most exciting (and hilarious) toy train action scene since Aardman short animation film “Wrong Trousers” (1993).
The supporting characters are broad and simple, but they are imbued with distinctive colorfulness to engage us. Michael Douglas, who briefly looks younger during the prologue scene thanks to special effects, clearly relishes his moments while bringing some tough grit to his wise mentor character, and Evangeline Lilly is feisty as demanded as a substantial character who will probably be more active in the following sequels. As the megalomaniac villain of the film, Corey Stoll exudes manic intensity in his slick, obnoxious appearance, and Michael Peña, David Dastmalchian, and Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris are the constant source of laughs and chuckles as Scott’s comic sidekicks. While they may bumble and fumble a lot, they are still professionals with a particular set of skills anyway, and they do rise to the occasion when they see something must be done right now.
As reflected by one sequence featuring a certain character who recently appeared in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015), “Ant-Man” and its sequels will be connected more with other Marvel Comics franchises. I am not that sure about whether this is a good thing or not, but I can assure you that “Ant-Man” shows the potentials for going further on its own way, and now I have some expectation for whatever will come next.