Movie Review: Ant-Man is Small in Scale and Big on Laughs | FanboysInc

Movie Review: Ant-Man is Small in Scale and Big on Laughs

By Mike Sains

Director: Peyton Reed

Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll, Michael Peña, Bobby Canavale, Judy Greer

Available: In theaters everywhere July 17th, 2015


When reviewing Ant-Man it’s tempting to dish on all of the gossip and turmoil that went on behind the scenes during the pre-production phase before the movie got made. All of the directors and writers who had to play musical chairs was well documented. But in the end, none of that mattered much to the audience in the theater last night. Instead, the viewing experience rather felt like it did when I saw Guardians of the Galaxy last summer when, at about the 20 minute mark, I remembered, “Oh, right. Marvel knows what they’re doing” and then immediately asked myself, “When are we as nerds and as fans going to stop looking for the movie that will bring this whole Marvel colossus down”?

From start to finish, Ant-Man is a fun movie. It’s fun, it’s charming, and it’s so endearing that at times it can be a little off-putting. But what makes Ant-Man stand out from the stable of other Marvel movies is the scaled down, small size of the film itself. Similar to the original Thor, this is a simple story about family and retribution that only takes place in a handful of locations. But unlike Thor, there’s no Asgard, there’s no kingdoms or frost giants or anything like that. No, this is the story of two dudes who messed up their lives who need to work together to get one job done. That’s it. And it works, despite a handful of obvious flaws.

The quick pitch of the whole film is: Hank Pym was a genius inventor who created something so amazing it had to be hidden from the world. After nearly 30 years, his former protege his created an off-brand version of his invention and Pym enlists his daughter and a down-on-his-luck cat burglar, Scott Lang, to steal the knock-off before it can cause any real damage. The long answer is a bit more complicated.

Movie Review: Ant-Man is Small in Scale and Big on Laughs

Ant-Man comes to life in a bathroom. For real.

Doctor Hank Pym invented Pym particles, a red liquid substance that allows for the molecular manipulation of size for both organic and inorganic material. He also invented the Ant-Man suit, a technology that allows a person super strength and speed, while also allowing the user to communicate with multiple breeds of ants via electronic brain waves. When combining those two things, you’ve got the makings for the perfect secret weapon; and that’s what Pym was, until the loss of his wife and a falling out with S.H.I.E.L.D. caused him to go into isolation. Now, after all of these years, his former protege hates his guts and wants to rub Pym’s face in the fact that his precious secret is about to be weaponized via the Yellowjacket suit. Knowing this cannot happen, he bands together with a misfit group of criminals to steal this technology at all costs.

It’s a caper film with a comedic twist that exists within the reality of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a first of its kind. It could have very easily been “the one” that finally does Marvel in, but instead, it actually paves the way for more breeds of smaller and quirkier films under the Marvel banner and much of the credit that is due goes to the solid cast of characters, from top to bottom.

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Paul Rudd as Scott Lang is the quintessential ne’er-do-well. He’s a genius (he’s got a masters degree) yet he wastes his intellect on crime. His ex-wife (Judy Greer in one of her more toned-down roles) cant’ stand him and her new husband (Bobby Canavale, charming as ever, even in the role of an antagonist) is a cop that essentially exists to screw him over. Michael Douglas as Hank Pym is the physical manifestation of that guy no one likes because he’s just, well, an ass-hat. (More on that later). He’s driven everyone who sought his approval away from him and now they’ve turned against him. Their stories parallel each other, yet the two characters could not be more different. As an audience member, you want to root for Scott, whereas with Pym, you’re kind of just waiting for him to hit someone, which he does on more than one occasion.

The real casting coup and the absolute clear-cut show stealer comes in the form of Michael Peña as Scott Lang’s criminal best friend, Luis. I feel like every time Luis spoke on screen, the people in the audience laughed. He’s just a funny character with quality dialogue, made all the more hilarious when delivered with the earnestness that Peña embodies. Sure, he’s a criminal talking about committing crimes, but his delivery and tone of voice sounds like he’s talking about his favorite song or how much he likes you as a person.  And when his biggest comedy bit happens – you’ll know it when you see it – things get genuinely goofy. It’s a surprising comedy bit because up until now, Marvel’s brand of humor has felt witty and sarcastic a la Tony Stark. This was downright silly and it was interesting to see that play out on screen.

Now for some if the problems, and there were a few. The biggest issue, for me as an audience member, was the editing and pacing – like the fact that people seem to just hate Hank Pym. As Marvel fans go, we tend to know already from our comic book knowledge that Hank Pym is a dick. We know that he hit his wife and we know that he’s responsible for the creation of Ultron. But according to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we don’t know any of those things. Most of those things don’t even apply anymore, due to several reworkings of the Marvel canon. So it does feel a little weird that from the very start, people are insulting Hank’s relationship with his wife, that people are putting their achievements in his face, and that his own daughter can’t stand him. It’s a little wonky to say the least that with almost no explanation, people just do not like Hank Pym.

Movie Review: Ant-Man is Small in Scale and Big on Laughs

How can you tell that I don’t like you? What gave it away? Is it my face?

The second largest flaw is the villain, one of Marvel’s most consistent problems. The Yellowjacket, AKA Darren Cross, AKA Peter Russo from House of Cards, AKA character actor Corey Stoll definitely comes out looking like the weakest link in the whole movie. There isn’t a single moment in Ant-Man where the he isn’t a Vaudeville-level bad guy, almost stroking his invisible bad guy mustache all while waiting to tie a damsel to the train tracks. That comparison might seem a little over the top, but the climax of the whole movie is an action scene that involves a locomotive. He’s like Obadiah Stane from Iron-Man without the nuance, which is to say, none at all. He might as well have been called Dr. Mac Guffin, as his entire story arc was pretty much just a misdirect that allowed for the introduction of some of the larger concepts at play for Phase Three of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.

Lastly, the one problem with this movie that cannot be ignored is the fact that due to the multiple writers, the story itself moves in and out of a few different tones, which creates a sense of inconsistency. There were a few times where Scott Lang actually seems to point out these tonal issues, which to their credit got laughs in the theater, but it still felt off, particularly during the second act.


Ant-Man, while laden with issues, still manages to deliver a well-cast, crowd-pleasing action-adventure heist comedy with a healthy dose of Marvel Easter eggs. It’s by far the most family friendly entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and adds some welcome levity to a shared universe that was taking a rather dark turn. 

Ant-Man earns 8/10. 



Mike Sains

Mike Sains is a writer, editor, and podcaster for and other outlets online. When he isn't writing, editing, or podcasting, he's collecting comic books, Funko Pop and Hikari Sofubi figures, and vinyl records of all kinds. He also likes free stuff. 😉 Follow him on twitter @MikeSains

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