At The Movies: Ant-Man

One of these days Marvel Studios is going to bomb.

They’ve had a stellar track record since “Iron Man” way back in 2008. Like many people I figured their first big misstep would be “Guardians of the Galaxy.” I mean, a wise-cracking raccoon and a talking tree? How could that be a hit?

Like many people, I was wrong. And glad to be wrong. So next the bomb-o-meter pointed to “Ant-Man.” The movie had been in development hell for years, the director who championed it bailed out, and it was about — you know — Ant-Man.

While the box office numbers aren’t in, I can at least say that from a quality standpoint that “Ant-Man” can stand tall right alongside “Iron Man,” “Thor” and “Captain America.”

Well, maybe not literally.

Director Peyton Reed picked up the pieces left behind by Edgar Wright and collaborated with the Marvel Studios brain-trust to put together a fun, funny and entertaining little superhero movie. No, it doesn’t have the broad strokes and maximum carnage of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” but it doesn’t need it.

It’s a smaller story. Literally.

ant-man-posterMichael Douglas stars as Hank Pym, a scientist who developed a method of growing and shrinking people and things, as well as a way to communicate with ants. He used these talents during the Cold War working for S.H.I.E.L.D. as the Ant-Man.

After his wife’s death, Pym decides his technology is too dangerous and locks it away in a safe in his home. He starts his own business and brings in Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) as his protegé.  Cross becomes obsessed with recreating the “Pym Particle,” despite his mentor’s wishes.

Meanwhile across town, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has just got out of prison. He wants to tread the straight and narrow for the sake of his young daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) but it’s hard for an ex-con to find a job. It doesn’t help that he’s living with Luis (Michael Pena), a former cellmate who already has a new crew lined up waiting for Scott to give the OK to a new heist.

Unable to catch a break, Scott agrees to Luis’ latest scheme: Break into an old man’s house and steal whatever valuables are in his near-impregnable safe.

The old man, of course, is Pym. Inside the safe — the Ant-Man suit.

Needless to say, this isn’t what Scott or his crew were expecting. With no one around, Scott tries on the suit and accidentally “gets small.” Turns out this was all Pym’s plan, as he wants to use Scott to stop Cross before he unlocks the secret of shrinkage. Assisting in this endeavor is Pym’s frequently estranged daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly).

“Ant-Man” follows the “Guardians of the Galaxy” method of telling a comic book tale with heavy doses of comedy and irreverence. The humor doesn’t overwhelm the story but it’s a key ingredient. Michael Pena manages to be a comic relief character that’s actually more entertaining than annoying.

Paul Rudd, like Chris Pine before him, does a good job walking the fine line between serious hero and wise-cracking buffoon. Michael Douglas is fine playing the tortured mentor. Evangeline Lilly does as well with the standard female supporting character role as anyone could.

The weak link is the villain. Cross has little charisma and is motivated by pettiness. To be fair, Ant-Man’s rogues gallery leaves a lot to be desired.

Special effects are first-rate. The ants are adorable — for ants. The action bits, while not a big focus of the film, are well done.

This is all part of the shared Marvel movie universe, so expect references to the Avengers and call backs to previous films. You’ll also want to stick around for the mid-credits scene and the after-credits tease.

“Dr. Strange” is so going to bomb.

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