In the interest of being short and sweet, like Ant-Man himself: The movie is good.
Ant-Man, a movie about a man whose superpower is talking to ants, shouldn’t work. Not for the premise alone — the visionary director who had championed it for over a decade, Edgar Wright, dropped out months before production was slated to begin, with a number of supporting cast members departing in his wake. Marvel quickly set about finding a last-minute replacement and landed on...Peyton Reed, the director of Bring It On and Yes Man.
But it does work. It’s good. So good, it makes all the fanboy hysteria and the Internet comment sections promising this would be Marvel’s first “flop” look foolish in retrospect. (Then again, don’t they always?) That said, it is different from any Marvel movie we’ve seen so far.
There’s something quaint about Ant-Man. It's basically the center slice in a Venn diagram of Ocean’s Eleven (or The Inside Job, or The Bank Job, or any heist movie with “job” in the title) and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. And Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) isn’t a super soldier or a billionaire playboy philanthropist or an assassin or a god. He’s just a regular guy, with a young daughter and an ex-wife. It’s practically old-fashioned.
The front half of the movie at times can feel a bit like a television pilot, where everyone is working out the kinks and trying to figure out what exactly Ant-Man is. It’s not as goofy as Guardians of the Galaxy (though Rudd is charming as ever, and Michael Peña steals every scene he’s in). It’s not as serious as a Captain America film. Here’s what Ant-Man is, and what it always should be: Weird.
The action-packed set pieces don’t deviate too much from Marvel precedent, at least in content: There are the necessary punches, the obligatory explosions, etcetera, so on and so forth. This time around, though, they are infinitely more interesting to watch. Reed shoot scenes using micro photography, so action sequences that take place in a bathtub, or a briefcase, or, in the most unique finale of any MCU film yet, in a little girl’s bedroom, have a uniqueness you don’t find watching yet another city gets blown to bits — or in any movie in recent history. When’s the last time you saw Thomas the Tank Engine play a crucial part in a summer tentpole blockbuster?
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. This feels weirder than Guardians, because Guardians was always supposed to be weird. That’s an epic space opera with a talking raccoon who shoots a rocket launcher and a dancing tree. This is set on Earth with real people, but you still fall in love with an ant named Antony. Like, actually care about what happens to him, even when he’s all but indistinguishable from the millions of other CGI ants around him.
And then the movie goes subatomic. Fans of the Ant-Man comics will already be familiar with the Quantum Realm, but even the most die-hard likely never expected to see it materialize onscreen. (Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige has previously said it pays homage to the Disneyland attraction Adventures Through Inner Space, and boy does it.) It’s baffling. Baffling in so much as you’re completely invested and having the ride of your life, but you still can’t help thinking, “This got so much weirder than I expected.”
Ant-Man’s success — and we trust it will succeed. It may be more of a word of mouth movie, something Marvel hasn’t had since Samuel L. Jackson first started assembling the Avengers Initiative, but it won’t be a misstep — should come as a relief to the directors of the Phase 3 films. It should also be carte blanche to go balls to the wall. Doctor Strange starts filming soon for a 2016 release, which will introduce us to parallel dimensions and mystical powers. Black Panther might be a return to a darker and grittier and Batman-ier take on comics, but then it’s back to the weird, with Captain Marvel, Inhumans and Infinity Wars.
If Ant-Man feels like a pilot episode, you know the second time around will be brilliantly bonkers. Either way, it’s given us our first taste of the off-kilter oddness that the MCU can tap into and we want more. So much so that by the time the second post-credit sequence rolls around — yes, there are two. Without spoiling too much, one is Ant-Man related and the other is...not — as exciting as it might be, you’re almost hoping for something stranger.
Now, find out what Rudd revealed to ET about Captain America: Civil War: