Ant-Man is a strange movie in so many ways. It had a long, bizarre and complicated road to getting made and, beyond that, the fact that this particular Marvel character ever became the subject of a live-action movie in the first place speaks volumes about the trust people have in Marvel Studios. Even by modern comic book movie standards, Ant-Man is a bizarre and kind of goofy character. But even if it isn't the most miraculously fantastic and bombastically successful Marvel Cinematic Universe movie ever, it's still an interesting and mostly fun success story within the MCU.
In this series, we've been looking back at all of the MCU movies leading up to Infinity War, which is just around the corner. So far, we've looked at all of the groundbreaking flicks in Phase 1, which concluded with The Avengers. That paved the way for the uneven Phase 2, which contains some of Marvel's unquestioned best, alongside their unquestioned worst. Fitting, it seems, to close out this Phase with the unique, risky and weird movie that is Ant-Man.
I'm a huge MCU fan, but this is the first time I've re-watched Ant-Man since seeing it on opening night back in 2015, which I was also watching at the time for the purposes of writing about it later. It's worth noting that I was never a big fan of Ant-Man as a character (still am not) and that I found myself personally underwhelmed by this movie upon its arrival. That said, I've also always been able to acknowledge that it's a better movie than my fanboy indifference allows my brain to accept. On this second viewing, I still largely feel the same way about it. But it's also a movie I deeply respect.
In-the-know Marvel fans are likely aware that Ant-Man was actually one of the first movies that Kevin Feige and Co. ever wanted to make. Years ago, even before the first Iron Man was actually released and they were laying the groundwork for what could and would ultimately become the MCU, they wanted Baby Driver and Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright to make an Ant-Man movie. And until dangerously near the movie's production date, Wright was going to make his Ant-Man movie. While we may never know all of the details, that's likely the biggest problem. Wright wanted to make his movie, He's a man with distinct vision and playing in someone else's sandbox just doesn't suit him. Enter Peyton Reed.
Yes, the guy who directed Bring It On was, to the surprise of pretty much everyone, the guy Marvel hired to come in at the last minute and direct their version of Ant-Man, which was given a rewrite by Adam McKay before going into production. As an enormous fan of Edgar Wright, he was the only reason I was ever interested in an Ant-Man movie. I talked about it three years ago and it's worth saying again now; I'll never be able to watch this movie and not wonder what could have been. I still want to see Wright's version of this flick. That said, Peyton Reed does an admirable job filling in those shoes and coming in last minute. It's clear he wasn't just a puppet that was brought in to shephard this movie to the finish line. He made Ant-Man, a character who literally shrinks down to the size of an ant and controls insects, work for the masses. That's no small feat.
There's no denying that, for the most part, this movie works. But that's perhaps my personal issue with it, if you can call it an issue. It just works, with some fun and memorable touches along the way. But it, to me, doesn't ever achieve that something special that makes the great Marvel movies great.
However, there's a lot to love here. There's that really amazing cold open with a de-aged Michael Douglas, to go along with some aging but still awesome Peggy Carter and Howard Stark. It also introduces Hank Pym, an incredibly important character in the world of Marvel Comics, into the MCU. The Pym version of Ant-Man actually founded The Avengers and created Ultron in the comics. He doesn't do that in the MCU, but one of the best things this movie does is use Pym as a legacy character. He was Ant-Man years before Tony Stark ever put on his Mark I Iron Man suit. The decision to use Pym as the original version of the character who operated years before the MCU as we know it actually came to exist adds a depth and history to the legacy of superheroes in this universe. Also, come on. Michael Douglas is playing Hank Pym. How cool is that?
Instead of Hank Pym, we get the Scott Lang version of Marvel's shrinking, insect-whispering man, played by the charismatic Paul Rudd. While I may not love the character on a personal level, Rudd serves as a great addition to the MCU and, as we'll discuss next week, he's fantastic as part of an ensemble, as seen in Captain America: Civil War. Evangeline Lilly, as Hope Van Dyne, is also great for her part. But really, we're all just ready to see her suit up in Ant-Man and the Wasp later this year, as teased in the very nice post-credits scene in this movie. There's also Scott Lang's Scooby Gang, so to speak, led by the awesome Michael Pena. His recaps are some of the most memorable bits in this movie and we would love to see more of Luis in the future. There's also the fact that this is a new type of movie within the MCU. It's a heist movie, which creates a lot of fun. Ant-Man is at its best when it's doing an impersonation of Ocean's Eleven wrapped in a comic book movie.
But with the good, comes the bad. Primarily, in a universe filled with bad villains, we have a truly unremarkable stinker with Darren Cross/Yellowjacket. Granted, Darren Cross is a damn fine actor and does his best, but he's just given nothing remotely interesting to do here. That aside, Yellowjacket actually looks awesome, visually speaking. If only the character worked as well as that suit looks. Another somewhat minor gripe, but Judy Greer, a terrific actress, is somewhat wasted as Scott Lang's ex-wife here. There are also perhaps too many of these cute little sight gags that come as a result of the fact that our hero shrinks down to the size of an insect. But that comes with the territory, I suppose. I also can't help but wonder if they needed to use the whole mind-controlled ants bit. Even for a comic book movie, that's pretty bizarre. It doesn't totally work for some people, myself included. Then again, the movie is called Ant-Man.
Not to pile on as I try to but a nice little bow on this thing, but there's also that Falcon fight at The Avengers base, which just feels so forced. All of that aside, the fact that Ant-Man, a troubled movie about a strange superhero, actually managed to succeed and, despite its shortcomings, actually mostly works, is a minor miracle. Because of that success, it adds to the future of the MCU in indirect ways. This further proved that the studio could take risks, further paving the way for movies like Doctor Strange that Marvel would soon unleash on the world. So even if you don't love Ant-Man, it deserves some respect.