Obligatory Size Pun

Enter the Ant-Man. With this character, Marvel continues its quest to prove that heroes can be born from nearly any concept. They don’t need to be rich men in custom suits or caped warriors with otherworldly origins. Sometimes, heroes can just be…a guy.

Paul Rudd stars as Scott Lang, a recently released convict who, despite the nobility surrounding his crime, cannot find work post-prison. But after proving his worth in an elaborate test, Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas, takes on Scott as a sort of protégé, helping him learn the ins and outs of his shrinking suit before embarking on an ambitious heist. Oh, and they can all talk to ants.

It’s an out-there premise, to say the least, and many moviegoers were hesitant that film could continue Marvel’s string of successes. Compounding this fear was the departure of Edgar Wright, the original writer-director of the film, who left in pre-production over “creative differences.” For a less focused team, this could have spelled “doom” for the production. But then again, if there is one word to describe Marvel, it’s “focused.”

The result is one of the most unique and engaging films in the MCU. With endless action and laughs, the film only gets better as it continues on. Yes, it is a Marvel movie, so it does hit many of same beats with which audiences are familiar, but there are enough twists and turns along the way to keep you surprised and guessing. Kudos need to be given to the team who marketed the film, as many of the movie’s biggest moments were left out the trailers and TV spots. I was incredibly pleased to see that there was an entire reservoir of jokes and action shots left untapped.

The story is full of nuance, but it’s ultimately simple and, more importantly, stands on its own two feet. The preceding eleven films are not required viewing in order to enjoy Ant-Man. Yes, there are references here and there to the greater Marvel Universe, and even one extensive scene featuring a returning character. However, these references are small and the scene in question doesn’t require any explanation other than “Oh, and that guy is a superhero, too.”

The action, likewise, is incredibly noteworthy. Watching the early footage on a computer screen or TV simply did not do the film justice. It was a visual masterpiece, with scale and perspective giving us some of the most dazzling sequences in a superhero movie to date. I should add, too, that I am not a fan of 3D…I find it distracting and feel it rarely adds anything to the film. But Ant-Man is the exception. This is the first time the 3D has been used to its full potential, augmenting the size-changing sequences in breathtaking ways. The first time Scott shrinks down, the 3D adds to the distortion of the experience, pulling us deeper into the film, rather than drawing attention to it as a gimmick. This creative use of 3D, as well as CGI, demonstrates a respectable degree of restraint on the part of the filmmakers. All effects in the film exist to serve Scott and his mission.  Ant-Man proves that a busy mise-en-scene is no substitute for a compelling character and an engrossing story.

That’s not to say there isn’t CGI…there’s plenty of it. But it serves the characters, not the other way around. There is no point in the film that your mind is not on Scott, Hank, or Hope, Pym’s daughter, played by Evangeline Lilly. These characters feel real and their actions are believable and consistent throughout the film. Scott’s friends, likewise, are welcomed additions to cast, with Michael Peña’s character, Luis, dominating the screen on many occasions. While villain Darren Cross, played by Corey Stoll, isn’t given as rich a backstory as the other characters in the film, his character is still enjoyable to watch and poses as excellent threat to the heroes. The overall chemistry of the cast is on par with Marvel’s other ensembles, providing the film with more than a few memorable scenes and quotes.

At its core, Ant-Man is about love. Not romance, mind you, but love…a love that inspires protection, responsibility, and honor. It’s a double-decker father-daughter story that explores the idea of parental roles. Scott and Hank are alike in many regards; both are compelled to be heroes for their daughters, but hit roadblock after roadblock along the way. Scott and Cassie will remind parents of their duties within a family, while Hank and Hope stress the importance of trust and individuality.

What’s great, though, is these morals never become too heavy-hearted…the movie is still a ton of fun! Rudd and Douglas bring their characters to life, every piece of the puzzle falls perfectly into place, and the visuals are a blast from start to finish. It’s wonderful Marvel fare, and proof of what the genre can ultimately achieve. The film gives us jokes to laugh at, characters to care about, exciting action, and enough Marvel Easter Eggs to remind us that from cosmic realms to your own back yard, anyone can be a hero.


Alex Russo likes to talk. A lot. You can read more of his insane ramblings on Twitter.

Alex Russo

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