Throughout the weeks leading up to the release of Marvel’s Ant-Man, I often found myself wondering where all the promotion and fanfare that typically accompanies Marvel movies was hiding. Sure there was the occasional TV spot, but where were the cereal boxes, the action figures, the bags of Doritos with Ant-Man emblazoned across them? The lack of commitment Marvel showed in terms of promoting their most recent film made me do something I typically never do – approach a Marvel movie with reservation. After all, they even put the full force of their hype machine behind Guardians of the Galaxy, a property most outside of the die-hard comics fans had probably never heard of. So why not Ant-Man? Did they not believe in the project? And if they didn’t believe in it, why should I?
Still, I couldn’t help being there on opening night, cautiously optimistic to devour the latest offering in Marvel’s slate of superhero cinema. Ant-Man, however, is not your typical superhero fare. In parts, it feels more akin to Ocean’s Eleven than Avengers, focusing more on the heist than on epic battles between hero and villain. That’s not to say, however, that fans of superhero movies will be disappointed, as Ant-Man ticks almost all the boxes one would expect – a witty hero, a sleek costume, a cool set of abilities, and the security of the earth hanging in the balance.
One of the highlights of the film is Paul Rudd’s portrayal of Scott Lang. Rudd, known most for his roles in comedies, perfectly fits the bill of the wise-cracking thief with a heart of gold whose main objective is rebuilding a relationship with his daughter after a stint in prison. Rudd’s delivery of the one-liners that have become a staple of Marvel films makes him a perfect addition to a universe that already contains Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord. Overall, the rest of the cast turn in quality performances as well, most notable among them Michael Douglas as the tortured genius Hank Pym, the man responsible for the technology upon which the crisis in the film turns, and Michael Pena as Lang’s friend and former cellmate Luis, who delivers consistent laughs throughout the film.
The film is not perfect, however, and one of its primary weaknesses lies in its main antagonist. While Corey Stoll does a fine job of portraying Darren Cross as someone that viewers will hate, he didn’t present the sort of ominous, seemingly insurmountable threat that many of his predecessors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe did. Perhaps this was a conscious choice on the part of the writers, as Scott Lang is just finding his footing as Ant-Man, and Yellowjacket presents a capable but not impossible for the fledgling hero. Still, I don’t think that fans will look back and count Yellowjacket among memorable villains such as Loki, Thanos, or Red Skull.