Friday, June 10, 2016

Ant-Man (2015) ***

The title of this installment in the Marvel universe almost seems like a joke to me, like, “We've got Batman, Spiderman, and every other kind of “Man” there is. What's left? How about 'Ant Man'?” But Ant Man has been around for a while, dating back to 1962. The original Ant-Man was scientist Hank Pym, who invented the suit that allowed him to shrink to the size of an ant and communicate with ants. This 2015 film, part of the Avengers Universe, shows Dr. Pym passing the suit to ex-con cat burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd.) Pym has kept the Pym Particle, which is the secret to his shrinking ability, under wraps for decades. Now his old protege, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) has cracked the code, developing a shrinking suit that he calls the Yellow Jacket. Cross is marketing the Yellow Jacket as a weapon, and Pym recruits Scott to steal the new suit and destroy the research data behind it. Pym is reluctantly aided by his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lily), who feels that she should really be the one wearing the ant suit.

“Ant Man” is, in some ways, one of the better of the Marvel Comics movies, but it also feels the least substantial. Iron-Man Tony Stark is a recovering alcoholic who invents powerful weapons and struggles to make sure they don't wind up being used for evil. Captain America Steve Rogers is a man severed from his own era, trying to dutifully serve his country, but ever on guard against authoritarianism. Ant Man Scott Lang, though, is just an unemployed ex-con who wants to get to see his daughter. The movie doesn't expend much energy convincing us that this sad sack would accept Pym's mission or that Pym would select him in the first place.

If the heroes are a bit under-developed in these movies, you can usually count on the villain to be memorable, but Corey Stoll's Cross is like a cardboard cutout of a villain. Evangeline Lily isn't much better in her black bob and wafer-thin emotional armor.

Fortunately, what a movie lacks in depth, it can make up in humor and charm, and Paul Rudd has both in abundance. It's simply impossible not to like him in a film. He gets an assist from a funny supporting cast, including Bobby Canavale as his ex-wife's new man. Michael Douglas and his iron jaw are also excellent, providing just enough gravitas to hold the film together.

At the end of the day, I'm not really sure what “Ant Man” is supposed to be about, but the movie provides enough laughs and action to make up for its lack of plot. Now that the character is established, I hope Paul Rudd will get to do something more interesting with him in a future movie.

3 stars out of 5

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