It’s an undisputed fact that Paul Rudd is a human treasure that we all don’t deserve. His first entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as Ant-Man was a revelation, and he brought his signature Paul-Ruddness to the role that worked so well.
Ant-Man veered away from the traditional superhero genre by being a heist film within a superhero franchise. In the tradition of the best films including Reservoir Dogs, The Killing, and Ocean’s 11 among so many others, a team of misfits assemble for a job, and chaos ensues. Scott Lang is a Robin Hood-esque figure who is serving a prison sentence for stealing from billionaires. Rather than being a film noir, however, Ant-Man focuses on the comedic relationships between the lovable thieves including Michael Peña, T.I., and David Dastmalchian who all play characters who fell in with the wrong people and have to rely on each other.
In a franchise known for giving us horrible fathers, Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang is a refreshing exception. In spite of everything he’s done in his life, he always tries to do right by his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). He even works on the relationship with his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her new spouse Jim Paxton (Bobby Cannavale), all for Cassie’s benefit. That is the true mark of good parents, that anything they do is for their child’s benefit, even if it’s something they’d rather not do. All three of Cassie’s parents are aspirational examples, and she deserves nothing less.
Evangeline Lilly starred as the sidekick/love interest, Hope Van Dyne. She’s kick-ass, and has a lot of heart, but we all know Marvel’s history with female characters. She’s unfortunately no exception, and is only shown in relation to her father, Ant-man, or her male boss. It was an unfortunate waste of someone with Lilly’s talent. Lilly and Rudd also had decent chemistry, but definitely not of the romantic kind. It’s a shame Marvel didn’t focus on this relationship as a friendship and felt the need to lead up to a romantic reveal.
Michael Douglas played former SHIELD scientist Hank Pym, forced out of SHIELD years before the events of the movie. His Pym-particle technology has had far-reaching implications within the context of the MCU, even though the actual science doesn’t exactly make sense all of the time. Douglas is hilarious throughout the entire movie, and it’s clear that he doesn’t have the time of day for the gargantuan likes of Marvel and is simply playing himself. It works spectacularly and only a man of his experience could pull this off.
The cameo by Garrett Morris as a taxi driver, who played Ant-Man in a 1970s SNL skit was a sweet nod to the character’s past. Fans also got to see Anthony Mackie reprise his role as The Falcon, which was great considering fans had seen precious little of this newest Avenger since his introduction in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Finally, actress Anna Akana stole the show in her brief role at the movie’s end scene. Her videos and music are amazing and it was so great to see her in a major blockbuster like this.
Unfortunately, as much of a stand-alone movie as Ant-Man was, it couldn’t escape Marvel’s classic villain problem. Corey Stoll starred as Darren Cross/Yellowjacket. There was a lot of potential in this character, to tell a story of unchecked scientific development backed by shadowy businesses. It could have been very topical and a meditation on the ethics of scientific advancements. There was no such luck however, and it was another example of a compelling villain dispatched immediately after being introduced.
Ant-Man is a heist movie in the middle of the MCU. Although not every aspect will work for everyone, it was an overall enjoyable romp featuring a lot of lovable characters. Paul Rudd brings the entire story together in just the right way, and he has only added to the MCU during his tenure. It was a movie that knew exactly what its assignment was, and makes for a very enjoyable re-watch every time.
Ant-Man is currently available to stream on Disney+.