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“Ant-Man” comes in as a fairly minor entry into the Marvel Universe canon. Some of that is by design, I think, and some of that is a result of its quality. Like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” this film takes place in a different corner of the universe from Captain America and Iron Man– a more obscure, less important corner. At one point, the hero even says, “You know what we should do? Call the Avengers!” and the mastermind says, “They’re probably busy with something important. Like dropping a city from the sky.” The stakes are a lot lower here.

Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, the second iteration of Ant-Man. The first is Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas, but he gave up the suit and antics a long time ago, and buried the technology so that it wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands. Lang is an ex-con trying to go straight so that he can be a good dad for his daughter, but he can’t get a job. Even Baskin-Robbins fires him when his managers finds out he’s a thief. Prospects are limited, until Douglas recruits him (in a ridiculously convoluted way that’s just better if you don’t think about it much) to be the new Ant-Man, and battle the bad guy, who has the same technology, plus lasers, and calls himself Yellow jacket.

The bad guy fails the essential bad guy test – he doesn’t think he’s right or good; he’s just angry and dealing with some serious daddy issues in a seriously unhealthy way. Corey Stoll does his best to chew any scenery he happens to come across, but you can only work with what you’re given, and Darren Cross will go down as one of the more generic, forgettable and occasionally ridiculous villains in the Marvel Universe — right alongside Aldrich Killian or Justin Hammer (Iron Man, apparently has the least interesting rivals.)

Michael Peña plays Lang’s former cellmate and current sidekick. Peña is a funny guy – he’s one of my favorite actors to watch, because he can be funny, and he can be serious, and he can seamlessly switch between the two in the blink of an eye – but “Ant-Man” overuses him, to the point where instead of laughing and a Latino funny man, I felt like I was laughing at a caricature of Latino funnymen. It doesn’t help that (aside from a cameo from the Falcon, and a cop with maybe three lines) the only people of color in “Ant-Man” appear in comic relief.

There are a ton of problems with “Ant-Man,” but really, none of them keep it from being a funny, if slightly dumb, mostly enjoyable movie experience. It’s not going to hold up to intense scrutiny or critique, and it’s no the surprisingly good out-of-left-field entry that “Guardians of the Galaxy was.” But it’s not the worst movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, either. I’d slot it right between “The Incredible Hulk” and “Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier” — which is to say, right in the middle of the pack. For a movie with modest ambitions, that’s not half bad.

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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

2 Responses

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  1. Jeremiah said

    Good review. But Cap 2 needs to be higher on your list. Much higher.

  2. I just really hated the whole “brain in a box” thing. But you’re not the first person to tell me this. I’m hoping to soon re-watch the whole Avengers cycle, so it’ll be a chance to re-evaluate.

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