By Bill Arceneaux
After years in development hell and a dramatic last minute change in the director’s chair, Marvel’s Ant-Man has finally come out. The movie represents the conclusion of Phase 2—Marvel’s second slate of hero flicks in the shared continuity—which says a lot about the direction of future stories. When Age of Ultron isn’t your concluding feature, that’s a statement worth making.
It’s safe to say that, for me at least, Ant-Man was a major surprise. I didn’t doubt the producers or even Bring It On director Peyton Reed, but rather the behind the scenes scramble to make sense out of pre-production. The shift in control spelled (Doctor) Doom at first, but proved to be unfounded in the end. Was it the strength of the screenplay? Years of creative work? Maybe all of the above.
Please don’t be on the fence with Ant-Man—it really is delightful and, dare I say, better than Age of Ultron, at least from a purely satisfying standpoint. Here are three things you should keep in mind when heading out to buy a ticket.
Scum and Villainy
A good friend of mine has said that a superhero film is more defined by the villain. If this is true, then Ant-Man might be the more unwieldy of the Marvel canon. Corey Stoll plays Darren Cross, a tech mogul/scientist on the edge. Really far out on the edge, actually. From his introduction, we know that he’s completely cuckoo and unhinged to the point of firing goo inducing laser rays at anyone with the slightest bit of apprehension to his plans. His eyes are wide and his face stone cold dramatic. Snidely Whiplash he is not, but cartoonish he most assuredly is. And, for a comic book film, that’s perfect. No grey area, just 100% nut job.
Michael Pena can do no wrong
In maybe the best supporting performance these movies have produced, the ever versatile and underappreciated Michael Pena pulls off some kind of wonderful. He’s a happy go lucky ex-con friend of our ex-con thief hero, whose major trait is expounding at length on oddball stories where the original purpose gets easily lost. He’s rather worldly, attending wine tastings and the like, despite driving a La Cucaracha horned van. His appearance belies his behavior and vice versa, giving us a character that is such an individual, he almost belongs in Guardians of the Galaxy than anything.
Big Universe, Small World
The one element of Ant-Man that connected with me was its confined environment. Sure, there are cameos from far reaching characters and brief mentions of other adventures, but this is a small pocket of a larger tale.
Where Marvel’s Daredevil is in a contained and brutal New York, this is in a contained and whimsical San Francisco. The plot doesn’t involve an Earth shattering catastrophe or invasion, but rather corporate dealings and inventions. At one point, Ant-Man himself suggests their first plan of action should be to “call in The Avengers.” But, thankfully, his mentor convinces him and us that (literally) smaller scale heroics is more called for.
It’s an integral part in the overall arc of Marvel’s grand plan, showcasing what more obscure and alternative stories can offer. Prepare for Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel to be in a similar vein, existing within this universe without being the center of it.
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