Raise your hands if, when you heard Marvel was doing an Ant-Man movie, you shrugged your shoulders.
How about when the first trailer was released. Anyone think “Oh boy, this may be Marvel Studios’ first big flop”?
Yeah, I had those same reservations and really didn’t expect much either.
And let’s face it, with Paul Rudd as the star, the movie was written off by most before anyone even saw it. So, with that said, and my own low expectations, I can say that Ant-Man didn’t turn out as I expected. In fact, the film is a pleasant surprise that has both the Marvel charm and wit that they have shown us since Iron Man first hit the big screen. While not as good as Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel manages to take a character that is not familiar to the general public (and actually makes no sense) and make him fun and worth seeing.
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang embodies the comic book character well and delivers a fun and, at times, heartwarming performance. Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly are perfect in their roles as Hanky Pym and Hope Van Dyne. Michael Peña provides a few good laughs while Corey Stoll plays out the villain role equally to that of Jeff Bridges’ Obadiah Stane in the first Iron Man film. Though not looked at favorably going in, the cast brings great chemistry and really work well together. (For the Edgar Wright fans who were sad to see him leave, there is still plenty of his “touch” on the film.) It was a good origin story film that tied into the Marvel Cinematic Universe very well with things that happened in Age of Ultron while also featuring an Avenger in the film (one of my favorite scenes). There are also those Easter eggs we look for with mentions of other heroes and also paying homage to classic Marvel Comics titles like Tales to Astonish. (And I must add that the action sequences are probably some of the best visually and most entertaining we’ve seen from Marvel yet.)
So let’s talk synopsis without spoiling the film. If you don’t know the comic book history of Ant-Man, you don’t necessarily need it for the film. However, let’s look back at the comics for a second. Hank Pym in the Marvel Comics rivals Tony Stark when it comes to pushing forward technology. He is most famous for his Pym Particles, a scientific and technological breakthrough that allows him to shrink to the size of an ant (Ant-Man) or reverse it and grow large (his other persona Giant Man). In the comics, he’s one of the founding members of the Avengers (hence why it doesn’t match up with the movies) and is married to his super heroine wife Janet Van Dyne (also known as the Wasp).
In the film, however, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is currently well into his years. (Although, at one point he was the Ant-Man.) After something happened, Pym put the suit down and quit S.H.I.E.L.D vowing to not let anyone know how to produce his Pym Particles. Fast forward to the present where we have Scott Lang (Paul Rudd); a guy who never makes the right choices. Famously known for being a “Robin Hood” type of thief, he gets out of prison vowing to do right so that he has the opportunity to see and spend time with his daughter. She means everything to him and is all he thinks about. Still, reality finally sets in and he quickly realizes that a Master’s Degree in Engineering means nothing if you are an ex-con. With not much going for him, and the threat of never having the opportunity to be with his daughter so high, he turns back to what he knows. This time though, the job paid more than he was expecting. Hank Pym asks him to be the Ant-Man in order to utilize Scott’s skills. From here, the film becomes a roller coaster ride of laughter, action, heart and thrills. It is a movie that captures what Marvel Studios has been able to do since 2008: give fans heroes worth cheering for while entertaining them as well.
The recurring theme in the film is second chances or, more clearly, redemption. The truth of the matter is that most people aren’t offered a second chance. We live in a society that has grown to be one of unforgiveness. When a person makes a mistake, we think that they should be thrown away forever. For some reason, we’ve lost the ability to forgive. We’ve even lost the ability to believe that a person can change and be good. That’s all Scott wants to do. He wanted to be the hero that his daughter already believed he was. Oh, to be like a child and have that childlike spirit again! Scott just needed someone to give him a chance; to invite him to put aside the past, and focus on the present and the future. He got that chance and made the best out of it.
What is also interesting also is that the person offering that redemption was in need of redemption and forgiveness himself. This moment provided one of the best moments on screen in the film and showed why characters are more important than just great action scenes. It may seem odd how someone can see us just as we are in our worst moments and still offer us forgiveness and redemption. They say, “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, yet we do that all the time with God’s free gift to man. It cost us nothing yet it came at very high cost. Redemption and forgiveness is given to us by God when we least deserve it. I am first to stand up and say that I am not worthy and fall short of it every single day, yet He still forgives. That is a gift that shouldn’t be refused. It is a gift that we get more out of than we ever could have expected.
Ant-Man in my humble opinion is a film that will pleasantly surprise you. It’s what we’ve come to expect from Marvel Studios while introducing a new hero to their ever-expanding universe. (As always, stay for the after credits as there are two scenes, one at the mid and one at the end.)