In 1989, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) created a formula for something called the Pym Particle that can rearrange the spacing between atoms. The resulting humans can be the size of an ant, but retain the strength of a human. Hank has trained a mentor, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) but Darren seems too willing to use Hank’s invention to create chaos, and he’s too willing to sell Hank’s invention to the highest bidder, even if those bidders are of ill repute.
Twenty-six years later, Cross has invented a suit, which he calls a yellowjacket suit, and he’s working on a shrinking ray with decidedly mixed results. Hank still doesn’t want to share the secret of his formula and his suit with Cross, even though Cross is involved with Hank’s daughter, Hope. (Evangeline Lilly) Hank has someone in mind for the suit, a divorced ex-con, who skims from the rich and gives to the poor, named Scott Lang. (Paul Rudd) Scott can’t even hold down a job at the Baskin Robbins ice cream store, so when his friend Luis (Michael Pena) tells Scott that there is an old safe in a mansion, whose owner is away, Scott takes a chance and breaks into the safe, and finds a suit and Hank’s formula. Will he help Hank break into Cross’ lab and steal the Yellowjacket suit before Cross perfects his formula?
I like this movie, primarily because it’s so funny. I couldn’t stop laughing at the jokes in this movie. Non-stop wall to wall jokes. The story is quite a departure from the average superhero saga, the superhero excels here because he is small, not because he’s bigger, or stronger or faster than anyone. The superhero excels because he learns to work with three species of ants, because the species are mentioned by name, it might get kids interested in entomology, but the ant colony is really a metaphor for working together with others to get things done, and sure enough Scott works together with his friends to try to bring Hank’s plan to fruition. The writers do a nice job of working in some of the Marvel Universe characters. There’s a lot of unexpected dramatic tension between Hank and his daughter, and Hank and his mentor.
This is not a perfect movie, the writers underutilized Hope, she really could have been a superhero, but she is denied for sappy sentimental reasons, and because comic book nerds’ heads would explode if the movie strayed from the source material. The relationship between Scott and his daughter is shamelessly manipulative, and there is way too much product placement. But compared to last year’s Marvel blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy, this is Shakespeare.
The acting is superb, Paul Rudd is relentlessly funny, charming and sweet, he really seems like a nice guy who really wants to redeem himself to his daughter. Michael Douglas hits all the right notes in his performance, he can be a tough guy, and a sensitive guy, a scientist and a brawler, and he handles the dramatic scenes with ease. Evangeline Lilly was totally believable as the martial arts trained tough girl, just trying to win the approval of her dad, Corey Stoll of House of Cards is demented evil personified, with a glint in his eye. Michael Pena, David Dastmalgian, and rapper TI, are the comedy relief, and boy do they deliver.
The direction keeps things zipping along, with excellent pacing, including several really interesting fight scenes. It’s not hard to coax great performances from the likes of Michael Douglas. But the director also gets good performances from Michael Pena and rapper TI, and a very good performance from Abby Ryder Fortson. He has not made any movies of note thus far, minor comedies like Yes Man, and The Break Up.
Ant-Man: Success may lead to an Ant-hology