By Spencer Lee
Marvel’s summer juggernaut Ant-Man poses the question, “When it comes to super heroes, does size really matter?”
In a season filled with giant hulking heroes like the Avengers and the Fantastic Four blowing stuff up, Ant-Man is an oddity. He’s a guy who gets big things done by being little. What makes this film different is that it promises to put the whole superhero paradigm under the microscope by giving the main character the unusual power of smallness.
Here’s the setup: in 1989, a brilliant scientist by the name of Hank Pym (played by a paternal Michael Douglas) quits a peacekeeping organization called S.H.I.E.L.D. after discovering that a top-secret human shrinking suit he has developed has been co-opted for nefarious purposes. Cut to the present. A fresh-out-of-prison ex-con Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) breaks into Hank Pym’s house. Scott hopes to find enough money to maintain joint custody of his eight year-old daughter. Impressed with Scott’s thieving skills, Hank hires the young man to thwart the evil plans of Hank’s former protégée (deftly played by Corey Stoll).
Unfortunately, that’s where the plot veers off into a network of confusing subplots that make Memento look like a walk in the park. At the movie’s very basic core, it’s a heist movie with lots of laughs thrown in for the casual moviegoer. But what should have been a great take on a classic trope becomes muddled and confusing. This may be due in part to the film’s drawn-out development schedule, rounds of rewrites from various scribes and a switch in directors (Edgar Wright of “Hot Fuzz” and Peyton Reed of “Bring it On”).
But Ant-Man is not without merit. I’m a diehard comics fan, and I like exploding cars and all-out superhuman brawls just as much as the next guy.
But it’s the strong character driven stories that get me to buy a movie ticket. What this film lacks in cohesive plot lines it makes up for in character. I found Scott’s transformation from thief to hero to be not only believable but entertaining. There’s a scene where Scott refuses Hank’s job offer because the task seems too big for him. But eventually he realizes that if he wants to be a hero in his daughter’s eyes, he will need to dig deep and find resources that he didn’t believe he had.
If you love character-driven, superhero stories and enjoy a good laugh, this movie is for you. The film may suffer from big plot holes. But it’s a tiny price to pay to see an epic battle in a briefcase, one of the many things that makes Ant-Man a tale that astonishes.