“Ant-Man” may not have had an “Avengers”-esque opening, but Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios always knew the miniature hero would be a tough sell. What the Peyton Reed directed flick can easily lay claim to is that its absolutely the funniest Marvel movie to date. That's right, it's even funnier than “Guardians of the Galaxy” or the first “Iron Man.”
That claim might be blasphemy to Chris Pratt fans, but watch “Guardians” again. It's a great movie, but not as consistently funny as “Ant-Man.” The Scott Lang origin story benefits from a screenplay by four of the most talented screenwriters and comedy talents working today: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay and Paul Rudd. Moreover, the comedy hits you in the most surprising ways. The “she heard” riff was completely unexpected (more on that later) and the banter between Henry Pym (Michael Douglas), Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Lang (Rudd) has more crackle than even “Iron Man's” machine gun of Tony Stark zingers. And, boy, are those laughs needed because when you start to talk about the worst aspects of the film…well…
Let's begin shall we?
Best and Worst: Corey Stoll as Yellowjacket
This is a tough one. On the one hand, Stoll takes a role that could be a complete cliche (the spurned business partner turned villain) and gives him more depth than the script ever indicates. Unfortunately the Darren Cross/Yellowjacket storyline is embarrassingly familiar to the Obadiah Stane plot line from “Iron Man.” It's so similar we find it hard to believe even original director Edgar Wright was willing to go down this road (say it isn't so Edgar?).
Best: Michael Peña and the 'she told him' riff
Peña is an actor who has shown incredible versatility whether as comic relief in “Observe and Report” and “American Hustle” or with serious dramatic work in films such as “End of Watch” an “Fury.” As Luis he's playing a character we've seen him easily pull off before, but the film's collective screenwriters (it's unclear who contributed this portion of the script) let him steal the movie with the “and then he told and then she told” bit. This is something that would be funny in any movie, but the fact he can do this in a Marvel movie? A fantastic surprise that he knocks out of the park.
Best: Evangeline Lilly will be the Wasp very, very soon
Spoiler alert: The Wasp is coming. We got a great tease featuring the original Wasp during the movie itself (was anyone else hoping Catherine-Zeta Jones played her in the flashback?), but one of the film's credit scenes found Lilly discovering an unfinished (and updated) Wasp uniform ready for use. For fans who have been dying for one of the original Avengers (and longtime Chairperson) to enter the MCU her line “It's about time” spoke volumes
Worst: Why is Judy Greer everyone's mom this summer?
Listen, we're glad Ms. Greer is getting work, but could Hollywood possibly cast her in a role where she's not playing a mom? Some have argued that there are better roles for women over 30 (we're not even going to go with 40) over the past decade, but this is the perfect example of that not being the case. Greer as the mom of kids in mortal danger in both “Jurassic World” and “Ant-Man”? Geez, give Greer something to work with guys.
Best: Cranky Michael Douglas
It wasn't as juicy a role as his Golden Globe, SAG Award and Emmy winning turn as Liberace in 2013's “Beyond the Candelabra,” but it was nice to see Douglas having fun on screen again. He may not be the Hank Pym many longtime Marvel readers were hoping for, but this Pym brings a nice moral compass that hints at what's to come in “Captain America: Civil War.” Plus, the idea of Douglas going toe to toe in a scene with Robert Downey, Jr. down the road? Popcorn please!
Best: Paul Rudd
This was not an easy gig for Paul Rudd and we're not even going to take into account the change in directors he had to deal with a few weeks before filming began. Rudd had to play both the comic foil, straight man and a believable superhero in a “Marvel” movie that is as much a comedy as a traditional action flick. The problem? If his performance was too broad you'd never buy Scott Lang as a real hero. If Rudd was too sarcastic (something he's proven to be quite good at) it would feel as though he was ripping off Downey, Jr.'s Tony Stark (without the billions, of course). Somehow, and perhaps with the help of co-screenwriter Adam McKay, Rudd helped re-write the script to give Lang a voice that is wonderfully his own.
Worst: Was T.I. in this movie because it shot in Georgia?
OK, why exactly was T.I. cast in this movie? He certainly wasn't used dramatically in the film's marketing efforts. For a movie to earn significant tax credits in Georgia they have to hire local actors and/or crew members as part of the production. Was the hip-hop star (who has dabbled in acting) partially brought on because he's an Atlanta native and resident? It couldn't have been for his acting skills.
Worst: Shooting Atlanta for San Francisco
“Ant-Man” was able to film a significant amount of exteriors in San Francisco, but there were some exterior scenes that it was hard to believe took place anywhere in the state of California. Understand the need for a state tax credit to keep costs down (hey, “Ant-Man” was never a slam dunk), but audiences are smarter than you think.
Best: Visual Effects
The effects wizards who worked on “Ant-Man” not only did a killer job making the shrinking hero actually look cool, but they found a way to not gross out the audience when Lang is hanging around giant ants. They are a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination for that alone.
What did you think of “Ant-Man”? Did we miss any best or worsts? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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