Even though no large cities get destroyed in it, “Ant-Man” is a Marvel movie. (You can tell by the stop-the-movie-dead-in-its-tracks Stan Lee cameo.) The perpetually adorable Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, a felon with a master’s degree in electrical engineering who just spent three years in San Quentin, though you will not believe that he spent even five minutes there. He is manipulated by Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a righteous old scientist, into donning a special suit that shrinks him down to the size of an insect, all in the service of getting the shrinkifying serum out of the hands of bad guy industrialist Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Pym’s scientist daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), bitter about her mother’s sketchy death some years back, works for Cross now, but agrees that he’s gotten out of control.
Directed by comedy veteran Peyton Reed (“Bring It On,” TV’s “Upright Citizens Brigade” and “Mr. Show”), “Ant-Man” wears its ridiculousness well, with a screenplay by Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish (“Attack the Block”) AND Paul Rudd and Adam McKay. No surprise that it’s funny, and the action beats work well too. It’s self-aware but not smug about it, and the cast — also including Michael Peña as Scott’s cheerful criminal friend Luis — is all at the top of their game.
“Iron Man” (2008) B
“The Incredible Hulk” (2008) B
“Iron Man 2” (2010) B-
“Thor” (2011) B
“Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011) B
“The Avengers” (2012) B+
“Iron Man 3” (2013) B+
“Thor: The Dark World” (2013) C-
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014) B
“Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) B
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015) B-
“Ant-Man” (2015) B
“Captain America: Civil War” (2016) B
“Doctor Strange” (2016) B+
The story is contrived and rush, though, and it’s a little hard to buy that the guy who discovered how to shrink things also discovered how to use mind-control on ants. Those just seem like two totally different fields of study. Or, more likely, it seems like the conversation went this way:
“We named him Ant-Man. He can shrink to the size of an ant.”
“OK, that makes sense.”
“Oh, and he can control ants’ mind.”
“… Because we named him Ant-Man.”
The villain is a bit weak, and the story feels small in scale, almost inconsequential. But the film, without belaboring the point, establishes connections between this film and the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’ve said before that the Marvel franchise has come to feel like a TV series. So here’s the comedy episode that introduces Ant-Man, whom you can expect to see hanging around in some episodes hereafter.
B (1 hr., 57 min.; )