Rating: 4 Stars
The following review contains spoilers.
Hank Pym invented a shrinking serum, but it was too dangerous to let anyone else use, so he kept it a secret and mostly used it to go on spy missions. Years later, Pym is now retired, and his insane former protégé, Darren Cross, has created a similar serum, with plans to sell it to the highest (and most evil) bidder. Pym recruits a virtuous ex-con, Scott Lang, and tasks him with breaking into CrossTech and destroying this new shrinking serum before it gets out into the world.
Though in the comics he’s a founding member of the Avengers, Ant-Man has never been one of the top heroes, and has been unable to even sustain his own solo comic for any significant period of time. And yet, Marvel Studios has managed to take this guy and make him cool. The costume has been updated brilliantly, the macro photography makes the view from the floor look amazing, the ants themselves are given personality, and the fight scenes make the ability to shrink and grow appear to provide a real tactical benefit. Structuring the movie as a heist provides another good reason to shrink to ant-size, and making it a comedy takes the relative absurdity of the Ant-Man premise and turns it to their advantage.
And the movie is legitimately funny, even on re-watch.
“Baskin-Robbins always finds out.”
“You know he was arrested for stealing a smoothie machine, right?”
“Two smoothie machines.”
“This is awesome. It’s awesome. You know, you guys are breaking down walls, you’re healing, it’s important … I ruined the moment, didn’t I?”
I loved when Scott had to fight the Falcon. Most of the time having a “shared universe” just means someone might make a jokey reference to another character or you’ll see someone’s name on a newscast in the background, but they really take advantage of the shared universe idea in this movie. A practice heist is something you might expect as part of the heist-movie formula, but playing on our knowledge of the Avengers and the Falcon saves a lot of time from having to explain what’s happening, and makes the whole scene more impactful. It also shows us that Scott has what it takes to actually be Ant-Man. I loved the small detail of Scott using a takedown move that Hope taught him earlier, and seeing her impressed reaction. Her disdain for him had already begun to thaw, but this is the scene where her feelings for Scott move from neutral to positive, and you can see that, and you can understand why.
Marvel has been criticized for ending all of their movies the same way, but you can’t say that about Ant-Man. Putting the final battle in a little girl’s bedroom is not only funny, but it provides great set pieces like the fight on the toy train. And then Scott shrinks into the “quantum realm”, which is a trippy nonsense kaleidoscope and an absurd contrast to the straightforward nature of the movie so far, and yet it totally works because we already see this movie as taking place in a small corner of a bigger universe.
“It’s about damn time.”
Darren Cross as the villain has some issues. His best moment is sincerely not understanding the difference between experimenting on a mouse and an adorable baby goat, but that’s really the only time he stands out. The suggestion by Hope that working too closely with the particles has driven him insane doesn’t work at all. They do such a great job of comparing Scott’s relationship with his daughter and Hank’s relationship with Hope, and a little more effort could possibly have made Hank’s surrogate father relationship with Cross have more punch as part of that, but it’s not there.
Hank’s choosing of Scott to be Ant-Man and then manipulating everything that happens in the first third of the movie to make this happen is a little ridiculous when viewed from a distance.
I don’t like simply pulling a scene from a different movie as a post-credits stinger. Film something special for this or if you can’t then maybe just include one stinger.