Ant-Man largely succeeds as a Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 2 installment because of the ever-delightful Paul Rudd.
By opening the film in 1989 with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) resigning from SHIELD in protest, Ant-Man declares its position within the MCU. Outraged by SHIELD’s attempt to replicate the Pym Particle, Pym declares they will never get his formula as long as he lives. The scene features an on-screen union between Howard Stark (John Slattery) and Peggy Carter (Haley Atwell) during the Cold War era. Unbeknownst to all involved, the Head of Defense at SHIELD, Mitchell Carson (Martin Donovan), is really an undercover HYDRA operative. It’s fun moments like these that remind you just how large the MCU is.
In the present day, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is now in charge of Pym Technologies with Pym’s estranged daughter, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). Cross is closing in on perfecting the technology that would make the Yellowjacket suit fully operational. If you’re Hank Pym, you don’t want this to happen so you do what you can to bring Ant-Man back into the picture.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) finds himself free from jail and wanting to do right by his daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). It’s because of this that Scott takes a job at Baskin-Robbins. It’s a scene that ultimately goes for laughs when the manager fires Scott upon learning his history. Moving into an apartment with Luis (Michael Peña), Lang decides against his best interests to join the crew. He ends up cracking a safe and steals a random suit only to go back home and shrink himself into the size of an insect.
It turns out that Hank Pym was looking out for Scott Lang’s best interest all along. It’s Pym who meets Lang and recruits the con man into being the new Ant-Man. Both Hank and Hope know what the Yellowjacket is capable of so they train Scott into being the best hero that he can be. This isn’t to say he’ll be Captain America or Iron Man but he needs to get the job done. One can’t help but read into Hope’s resentment for her father and how she still blames him for her mom’s death. Hank is forced to tell her the truth: Janet van Dyne went subatomic in order to stop a bomb. It’s not only the resentment but she knows that she should be wearing the suit. With the father-daughter talk out of the way, it’s business as usual.
Lang is sent to an abandoned Stark warehouse only to discover that it’s now an Avengers facility. The fight between Lang and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) serves as a prelude of Captain America: Civil War. The scene also sets up how Scott Lang becomes Captain America’s secret weapon. Lang has a way of surprising Hank and Hope when they believe the mission to be a failure.
A lot of fighting happens and Cross decides to take it out on Lang by going after who else but Cassie. Bad idea! With both full-size and small-size fighting, it’s fun to watch them tackle the two. They go for laughs when the camera pans back to watch what appears to be minimal damage at best. It’s during the fight when Lang realizes that the only way to save the day is to give it all up by going subatomic. It’s a risk but one that he’s willing to take in order to defeat Cross.
With the romantic subplot between Scott and Hope, one can only wonder what’s in store for the future. We spend the entire movie waiting for the Wasp suit that it’s not even a surprise during the credits. The only question is what took so long! It’s great to see that Hank and Hope are on the same page by the end of the film. The tension is somewhat removed when he tells her the truth about her mom.
Cross comes off as a villain along the same lines as Justin Hammer, only he’s more of a maniac. The MCU trick with introducing new villains in each film is to have them be different from the others. Or maybe a comparison to Iron Man‘s Obidiah Stane makes more sense given that he was a company manager who went all-villain on Stark. In any event, it’s a good idea to change up the villains so that they don’t come across as being so similar.
While Edgar Wright was originally signed on to direct Ant-Man, the director would part ways with the studio over creative differences. While his footprint is all over the film, the scripted changes help make it a Marvel movie. It’s still a wonder how they were able to turn Ant-Man around so quickly following Peyton Reed taking the helm. The cameos from Slattery, Atwell, and Mackie help tie in the film to the MCU. Without them, it very well could have been a stand-alone film as Wright intended.
Led by a solid ensemble, Ant-Man brings a lot of fun into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
DIRECTOR: Peyton Reed
SCREENWRITERS: Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish, and Adam McKay & Paul Rudd
CAST: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Peña, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Anthony Mackie, Wood Harris, Judy Greer, David Dastmalchian, and Michael Douglas
Marvel Studios released Ant-Man in theaters on July 17, 2015.