Captain America predated Ant-Man by a little more than 20 years, but you’d be wrong if you said Cap was an original Avengers member.
(We’re talking comics, by the way.)
It was actually Henry Pym that conceived the idea of forming the Avengers team, and Steve Rogers didn’t appear until the third issue.
I bring this up because we’re two phases into Marvel’s cinematic universe, and Ant-Man’s already missed out on two Avengers films. In fact, it took Edgar Wright seven long years to develop the film — only to step away due to creative differences.
Director Peyton Reed stepped in at the last minute, taking the reins with a rewritten script and an ensemble cast ready to prove themselves.
While many bemoaned the departure of Wright, Reed and Marvel have another hit on their hands, proving once again that the studio can take a non-mainstream comic idea like Guardians of the Galaxy and win the box office.
My favorite comic book guy Nicholas Black once told me, “I can’t wait for people to come into the shop and suddenly claim Ant-Man was their favorite hero.”
Because Ant-Man is no one’s favorite hero.
Even Marvel gave up on the character 14 issues after his first appearance. Ant-Man abandoned his moniker and superhero set for a new alter-ego: Giant Man.
Yes, Marvel decided that the best way to make Henry Pym cool in the comics was to make him literally bigger. Unlike Marvel’s first insect-based superhero, Spider-Man, Ant-Man went through various forms which never really stuck (snark!), and Hank Pym was eventually replaced by a younger more anti-heroic successor, the thief Scott Lang.
That brings us up to speed with the film version of Ant-Man, which follows Lang (Paul Rudd) rather than Pym (Michael Douglas) in a heist plot that elevates the character on a mainstream level — we have a certifiable superhero whose talents and super-suit allow him to single-handedly infiltrate the Avengers headquarters.
Lang, fresh off a stint in prison, meets Pym, a contemporary of Howard Stark and Agent Carter. Lang’s reputation as he a Robin Hood-styled thief makes him a prime candidate in Pym’s plan to take back the shrinking technology that Pym Tech — taken over by Pym’s rival and former protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) — has developed for military purposes.
Rudd is solid as a reformed thief who goes back to burgling in order to provide for himself so he can get visitation rights with his daughter. Rudd also co-wrote the film and incorporated many of the heist-genre elements that make Ant-Man familiar and unlike any other Marvel movie. Snappy sequences outline heists, and the can-do confidence is a nice contrast against the mission impossible situations.
The movie moves at lightning speed to a believable finish, but there are a few flaws — emotional scenes are edited like action sequences, causing them to lose much of their effect. Slowing down the pace to give the audience time to reflect would have helped the movie’s emotional core in a very tremendous way.
The imbalance keeps Ant-Man from being a great film, but it’s still much better than about half of Marvel’s other movies. It’s another unexpected hit from a studio that keeps proving the suits wrong — sometimes, big things really do come in small packages.