Caught up with this one a while ago, but never got around to reviewing it. It’s another attempt by Marvel to do a couple of things. The first is to take a beloved, but widely unknown, comic character and make him compelling to a large audience; the second is to add yet another genre to the ever growing bag of Marvelized genres. The genre this time is the heist movie and the odds are in the movie’s favor from the get-go: who wouldn’t watch a heist movie with Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Bobby Cannavale and Michael Pena? The film works well, mostly. The things that could easily feel stupid, such as all the interaction with real ants, come off feeling merely fantastic, instead of ridiculous.
The film has problems. Cannavale is, unfortunately, completely wasted and the film has to send him down a road of increasing stupidity at the climax in order to keep him from effecting the action in a substantial way. And while Michael Pena is, as usual, quite humorous, the rest of the crew is, well, let’s just say it, pretty terrible. These are, unfortunately, problems that the film keeps coming back to, by virtue of its story.
But when the film works, it really works. Rudd is as charismatic as ever. Michael Douglas still has the charisma too; he’s compelling and a pure pleasure to watch (and it’s a load of fun to get some time with young Michael Douglas in that great flashback scene). Lilly is plenty good. And, though he’s gotten some flack along the way, I found Corey Stoll to be really excellent, one of the best “stand-alone” villains in the Marvel universe so far. And, oh, yeah, that cameo by Falcon? Fantastic.
I really loved Yellowjacket as a villain, actually, and I loved that he doesn’t appear until the very end. The climactic battle between Ant-Man & Yellowjacket is both funny and pretty great. The first moment when Yellowjacket looms above Scott in the helicopter was a genuinely chilling moment and then he just kept getting scarier as a villain; when he comes back to life in the bug zapper, it really gave me chills – he’s been crazy and he just keeps getting crazier. The whole sub-atomic or whatever really didn’t do anything for me, though, I have to say.
But what I really loved about the film was its genuine emotional and thematic resonances. This really probably got to me as much as about any of the stand-alone film with its exploration of the father-child dynamic, both literally and symbolically in the picture of mentor-protégé. It’s just all through the film. Hank Pym has wrecked his relationship with both his real child, Hope, and his surrogate child, Darren Cross; now he’s trying to repair the relationship with Hope and, in a weird way, Cross is completely motivated by the way he still feels about Hank and what he views as his betrayal. Cross is far from the simple villain some people are saying he is; he’s driven by a compelling cocktail of emotions: genuine hurt, burning anger and a pervading shame, all related to Hank’s betrayal. And the film is smart enough, and Douglas good enough, to allow Hank to be a deeply flawed character. He really has made mistakes and plenty of them; he really has pushed both Hope and Darren away, purposely. Then there are the other elements related to this theme of father-child; Rudd and Cannavale are essentially in a battle for the affection of their shared daughter, and if this one doesn’t quite reach the emotional levels it was supposed to, it’s more evidence of the film’s reaching for this theme. But the film really soars in the relationship between Hank & Scott, Hank’s third attempt, in many ways, to be the father he should have always been. When Rudd and Douglas are together, their chemistry really elevates the film and their growing relationship feels absolutely real. It’s the first time, in my opinion, since creating the Thor-Loki-Odin dynamic that Marvel has created real dynamic, emotionally compelling character bonds. It really is the relationships here that drive this movie and both keep it grounded and elevate it. There are some problems, like I said, and not exactly small ones; these keep the film from achieving anything like the greatness of the best Marvel films, but it’s darn close. Recommended. 3 ½ stars.
tl;dr – charming twist on the heist movie boasts a wonderful cast and genuinely moving themes of fatherhood; and, of course, there’s plenty of fun to be had. 3 ½ stars.