Ant-Man. Directed by Peyton Reed. Starring Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly.
Rating: 7 (out of 10)
We are used to our superheroes being larger than life, not teeny-weeny, so Marvel and Disney's decision to bring Ant-Man to the big screen comes as something of a surprise.
Against type, too, is the casting of 46-year-old Paul Rudd in the title role. The actor was previously known for his comedic turns (This Is 40, I Love You Man) but will now also be remembered for rocking some serious dad-aged abs.
But after the success of last year's Guardians of the Galaxy, it's no coincidence that Ant-Man mines a fair amount of humour for its screenplay. Chris Pratt hung out with a talking raccoon and a grunting tree, so maybe it's not so weird that Rudd plays a guy whose best friends are ants. (His insect pal is Ant-ony, get it?)
A flashback to 1989, and to an almost unlined Michael Douglas, sets the stage: a revolutionary suit created by Hank Pym (Douglas) is on the verge of being weaponized; to prevent that from happening, Pym leaves his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) in charge of the company along with his protege/evil genius Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) and quietly retires.
Present day, a cat burglar named Scott Lang (Rudd) leaves prison after committing a Robin Hood-style tech heist. That's how Lang, with a masters of engineering, ends up as an ice cream scooper, working for a guy named Dale. Desperate to get visitation rights with his daughter, Lang agrees to team up with his criminal pal Luis (a scene-stealing Michael Pena) for one last job. The complicated heist yields a weird-looking suit instead of cash or gems, which is when the real trouble starts.
"Become the hero (your daughter) already thinks you are," is Pym's Hallmark-card-parental-blackmail proposition to Lang, who finds himself working to save the world with Pym and a skeptical Hope. Lang sets about learning to shrink and enlarge at will in his "Pym Particle" suit and to command various armies of ants. Early perils include water, rave turntables, dinosaur-sized rats and vacuums. Advantages: being able to sneak in and see his daughter and avoiding closed-circuit security cameras.
A break-in at Avengers HQ leads to some nice Marvel cross-pollination, as well as an encounter with the Falcon (Anthony Mackie). "I need it to save the world. . . you know how it is," Lang deadpans.
Lang is an ethical thief, so we don't mind his criminal past quite so much. The other guys in his gang eat nothing but waffles; Luis insists on whistling "It's A Small World." (Because Marvel is now Disney, duh.) This is tame bad-guy stuff.
Fans are upset about some of the omissions in the screenplay - the barely mentioned Janet Van Dyne, founding member of The Avengers - in particular. Writers decided to skip some of the controversy surrounding the Hank Pym character and focus on Lang, his successor.
And the movie is two-thirds done before the much-talked-about plan is executed, which might be too long for some viewers to wait. Few epic fight scenes until one memorable battle on a Thomas the Tank train table - hilarious when viewed from a nine-year-old's perspective - and complete with the line "why don't you pick on someone your own size?" (You knew that one was coming.)
Despite the suit and the Lilliputian size, Rudd manages to be his likeable self, which compensates when the action lags.