A thief gets selected as the appropriate guy to use a top secret ant-man suit that shrinks him to the size of an ant. He then has to steal stuff with his army of ants to save the world.
Before I start criticizing let me say that I liked this movie. But watching this movie also really feels like Marvel is producing material in a mass-produced way. The film is following some standardized flowchart of the superhero movie. The main character is introduced and is down on his luck; some evil people do bad things and a wise old man goes in search for a hero to save the day. Of course, the movie ends with a showdown between Ant-Man and a villain with a similar ant-like suit, but rather like a wasp because wasps are evil.
You have all seen this story before. Yet it doesn’t matter because the movie is fun. And that is also what saved this movie.
Ant-Man by itself already sounds ridiculous. How can a superhero be super while ants are synonymous with smallness? If this movie had taken itself seriously, it would have been so bad. So bad. The original director attached to this project, Edgar Wright, had been an excellent choice therefore, because as the director of the “cornetto trilogy” (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz & The World’s End) and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, he was known for his excellent comedy. Wright then left Ant-Man because Marvel wanted to make some changes, and what we can see in Ant-Man today is that Wright’s influence is still there in the comedy. Marvel could have screwed this up with Wright’s removal but they still delivered a nice product.
There are two sources of comedy in Ant-Man, which are the jokes related to small size, and Michael Pena. I didn’t like Pena after seeing him in Shooter (2007) but he has excellent comedic timing. With Oceans 11-like background music the camera flips around while he explains his dumb plans with too much detail.
The other stand-out actor is Michael Douglas, who makes a welcome return to mainstream Hollywood cinema. Paul Rudd as Ant-Man is also well cast. Rudd has a sympathetic face that is not too serious or masculine for a superhero like Captain America, but is very fitting for a tiny man doing mischief. Evangeline Lilly is also in this movie in a rather simple role and to me she seems a bit over-cast. But the character of Lilly may return in future Marvel movies for some fleshing-out, that possibility is certainly there.
After Guardians of the Galaxy, this is the second Marvel movie with a strong element of comedy and in my opinion they handle it in a good way. Ant-Man is no Guardians of the Galaxy and does not offer such a rich world. While Guardians is sprawling in its storyline, Ant-Man is a slimmer, smaller movie, and maybe even too simplistic. Here lay a difficult balancing point for the director. By keeping the story simple, the comedy had more room to grow, and if the movie had been integrated further into the Avengers storyline then it would have become too serious and too big. Ant-Man needed to be simple to work as a movie. The simplicity, however, also made the plotline mediocre.
So, in summary, Ant-Man is a fine movie. It is funny and entertaining, but the simple mediocre plotline pulls it down from being great to simply being entertaining.