Ant-Man (2015)

When announced, this was about on par with folks hearing that DC was pushing an Aquaman movie. Only worse. At least most people have heard of Aquaman. Ant-Man isn’t even well-known enough to make it into most comedians’ stand-up routines. Frankly, I took it as a sign of Marvel being somewhat arrogant, along the lines of “Yeah, we’re just that good. We can make money on anything. Just watch this.” Of course, we know where pride stands in relation to the fall.

It wasn’t just an odd pick for a hero that made this movie a dicey proposition. The production was, shall we say, not the smoothest job in the world. Consider the final choice as director. Before Ant-Man (2015, PG-13) the most action-packed film in Peyton Reed’s catalog was Bring It On. As in, the cheerleader movie. And just who did they get to play Ant-Man? Paul Rudd, a guy with decent comedy chops but hardly someone that you can readily imagine saving the day for anybody.

Here’s the weirdest thing of all. It actually worked.

I’m as surprised as anybody. First off, I’ll admit that the direction was good but not something that made me take note or jump out of my chair. However, it also didn’t get in the way. Rudd was more than pretty good as the cynical ex-Robin Hoodesque thief, called on to engage in more thievery for the sake of the world as we know it. Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, and Corey Stoll rounded out an exceptional supporting cast that took snappy, charming dialogue and amplified it in every scene.

For anyone who didn’t like the film, I think it was probably the plot that got in their way. It’s a shame because that isn’t the plot’s fault. The plot was great. It’s an ex-super-hero (Hank Pym/Old Ant-Man/Michael Douglas) hires ex-thief (Scott Lang/New Ant-Man/Rudd) to steal technology from a madman (Darren Cross/Yellowjacket/Corey Stoll) who is going to use said tech to plummet the world into a nanotechnology arms race and certain destruction. How could that be bad (unless Michael Bay is involved)? The “problem” here is that most of the people in the theaters probably saw the other Marvel movies. This means they were most likely expecting a super-hero movie. Ant-Man is not, I repeat, IS NOT, a super-hero movie. It’s a caper movie with super-hero trappings. Like any caper film, there’s a lot of planning and not as much action. Don’t expect Avengers 2 here. Enjoy it for what it is.

For Catholics, there is a fairly standard redemption theme that runs through the whole plot, to be sure. For me, though, the sub-plot about Lang’s family made it much more interesting, with Lang’s wife now married to a police officer, while his young daughter clung to the image of her father as a hero. Hank Pym and his daughter portray an inversion of the Langs’ relationship. In an age where fatherhood seems to have been watered down to “a guy who makes sure his kids have fun all the time,” I thought it was very striking how they played up the theme of fatherhood as a heroic undertaking of itself and how vital fathers are in the lives of their children.

There isn’t any terribly objectionable content. Naturally, there are some violent action sequences. Sexual content is minimal, with some mild to moderate innuendo. The language is mild overall, although one guy insults another with a reference to female genitalia. Even with that comment, my wife pointed out how it’s amazing that movies rated PG-13 actually have less vile content than what is typically seen on primetime network television.

Lining it all out, Ant-Man is a clever and entertaining movie. It’s funny, even goofy at times, but that doesn’t make it bad. It’s all in the context, and the context here is perfect for a comedic action/heist production. I give it two tiaras, with a cautionary note to everyone that there are TWO post-credit sequences that you will want to wait and see.