Size matters not when it comes to fun in Ant-Man

Being the hilarious man I am I’ve decided to, in the case of “Ant-Man”, change the phrase “great things come in small packages” to “pretty good things come in varying sizes”. Oh, how witty and astute.

For those of you with an adolescent sense of humor, basically what I’m trying to say is “Ant-Man” is a pretty good, not great, but pretty good summer time flick about a man (Scott Lang, played by Paul Rudd) who can shrink to the size of an ant. He then uses these obviously desirable powers to save the day, while being dashing and charming the whole way.

This is the 12th film by Marvel since 2008’s “Iron Man” and if they know how to do one thing it’s understand the tone of their films. The being said “Ant-Man” lies somewhere in between the grounded but fun origin story of “Iron Man”, and the uber oddballness of the more recent “Guardians of the Galaxy”. The result is something equal parts weird and simple, but also noticeably unique as well.

Unlike most recent Marvel ventures that involve the protagonist(s) fighting an unbelievably sized army by their lonesome, “Ant-Man” operates as if Danny Ocean from “Ocean’s Eleven” inherited superpowers. It’s a heist movie that involves Lang teaming up with a scientist, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who created a shrinking suit and now wants to use it to stop a megalomaniac (Corey Stoll) from using his own version to, I don’t know, make a lot of money I suppose.

The story really isn’t all that fascinating. Lang, a cat-burglar, uses this opportunity to redeem himself in the eyes of his daughter and Pym, as his mentor, makes note to always inform him on the goodness of mankind and Lang himself. There’s also the naysaying female protagonist, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly); the aforementioned corporate tycoon with an evil plan and; a band of goofy sidekicks (most notably the scene-stealing Michael Pena).

But maybe Marvel had no intention of doing anything groundbreaking. There’s something refreshing about the simplicity of taking the normal world and injecting it with a little bit of weird. I mean, it’s hard to take a story about a man who rides into battle with an army of ants—one named Antony acting as his noble steed—terribly serious.

One cannot help but find a little bit of tongue-in-cheek fun when ants attack security guards or when Lang, in microscopic size, takes down a room of henchmen. It’s simply too silly watch as these steroid-ingesting goons fall over after being hit by what looks like nothing at all—like when an infant punches you and you dramatically make it look painful to make them feel strong. This blooms during the climax in numerous, memorable action sequences involving a fight in a plummeting suitcase and on a child’s trainset—wherein it often zooms out to make these epic fights look hilariously ridiculous to the normal eye. It’s one thing for the Avengers to drop a city out of the sky, and another to watch to bug-people throw Thomas the Train at one another.

The crew embraces this self-awareness to spirited results, it’s just a shame they missed the mark when it comes to any sort of depth. Now the pieces of the puzzle are there, what with Pym’s loss of his wife and Lang’s relationship with his daughter. But director Peyton Reed (suddenly replacing Edgar Wright) and Adam McKay and Paul Rudd taking over the script (from Wright and Joe Cornish) there seemed to be a loss of any emotional weight in the scuffle to get everything on track, including what I can assume are the additions of a dozen Easter eggs.

Moments don’t have any time to land. Emotions come and go like a man shrinking from big to small at the push of a button. Instead of reveling in the evil genius of Stoll’s Daren Cross, he has a big breakthrough and then it’s on to the next scene like “Okay we’ve covered that. Cut, print and let’s move on!” You can also note the finale, where Lang decides he must go to the extreme to save his daughter, and then acts on it, on the turn of a dime. The thought processes of all these actions and emotions that drive them are rushed through in such a panic, as if the action sequences they led up were magically gonna disappear if not reached by a certain time. In the end it’s all so rushed you may have to watch it again just to get a full sense of all the character relationships and motivations. Too much time was spent on the fun and humor that the depth that comes with most Marvel movies seems forgotten.

Ultimately, though, I can’t complain. I had a lot of fun watching “Ant-Man”, which is not only undeniably unique in its presentation but also surprisingly hilarious. Most of this is thanks to Pena as the wise-cracking ex-con best friend with the affinity for white wine and abstract art. He has some of the best scenes, involving him how he came to such elaborate information, portrayed in speedy, silly flashbacks that scream Wright-style and wit.

Rudd proves to be well-capable of leading a movie this size (pun!), perfectly cast in a role that capitalizes on his often over-looked charm and suitably heroic demeanor—not to mention his ability to grow the perfect amount of “hero stubble”.

Stoll’s villain, though not terribly interesting, gives him resource to scene-chew his heart out and have fun with this intense man of diabolical ends. It all reminds me of the conversation Colin Firth and Sam Jackson had in this years “Kingsman: The Secret Service”: “Give me a far-fetched theatrical plot any day” fit with a colorful megalomaniac.

It’s not Marvels best movie, but it’s not nearly as unsatisfying as “The Incredible Hulk”, “Thor 2” or even “Iron Man 2”. Its great fun without much depth that manages to sell you on the elaborate premise with a grounded world pimped out with hilarity and spirit. If anything, the lack of complexity will leave room for a sequel to easily raise the stakes with the tone already firmly in place. That, or I would settle for the Avengers having to pull Lang out of retirement as he chops wood in front of his remote ant farm cottage. And the zings keep coming!

 Grade: B

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