Marvel Studio’s latest film, Ant-Man, rolled out in theaters on July 17, 2015. This film is a big gamble by Marvel Studios. Now, I am a long-time comic book fan. And I have always been a fan of Hank Pym’s character. But, I fully acknowledge and realize that I am in the extreme minority. The fact is that Ant-Man is a total C-list character. Ant-Man is also a character that is a complete unknown to the general public. And on top of that Ant-Man has a bit of a silly name and some less than impressive powers when compared to the other super heroes that we have gotten in Marvel’s other movies.
Despite me being a huge Hank Pym fan, even I was shocked and surprised that Disney would bother rolling out an Ant-Man movie. Yes, Iron Man was a B-list character and a virtual unknown to the general public before Marvel Studios decided to make him a movie franchise. Fast forward past three Iron Man movies and the character can now claim to beating the previous undisputed super hero genre champion in Batman in terms of box office numbers.
But, let’s be honest, Iron Man was still a far easier sell to the general public even if he was a virtual unknown. Iron Man’s cool armor, wide array of badass weapons and tech gimmicks plus Tony Stark’s playboy persona made Iron Man a James Bond franchise with even cooler gadgets. That is a pretty easy sell. Ant-Man? A dude who is an ex-felon and can shrink and talk to ants? That is a far harder sell.
I know that Guardians of the Galaxy probably boosted Marvel Studio’s confidence to the point where they figured any movie with their name on it would automatically mean huge box office numbers. I am not so sure that confidence was warranted. Guardians of the Galaxy, while also an unknown bunch of C-list characters, still had several advantages over Ant-Man. First, being a team movie it meant that the writers and director could lean on numerous characters to power the story instead of just one character. Also, the Sci-Fi setting helps to increase the appeal of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. There is also the fact that the Guardians had some cooler powers than Ant-Man. To me, Ant-Man was an even bigger risk than Guardians of the Galaxy.
Because of all of this, I never expected Ant-Man to do particularly well in the theaters. I thought Marvel Studios had finally gone too far out on a limb and had too much confidence in their brand power. Well, I was wrong. Now, no, Ant-Man is not a box office juggernaut. However, it still has enjoyed some nice success in the box office. It absolutely is not a failure. Ant-Man hauled in $58 million in its opening weekend domestically. That was enough to give it the number one spot for the weekend and the 12th Marvel Studios movie out of 12 to open in the #1 spot. Worldwide, Ant-Man brought in $114 million. In just the weekend, Ant-Man nearly made back its entire $130 million budget. No shame in that game.
The reviews have been largely positive. Ant-Man received a CinemaScore of an A. By comparison, Man of Steel received a CinemaScore of an A-. Ant-Man has a 79% Freshness Rating and a 92% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes. For comparison, Ant-Man trounced Man of Steel which has a 56% Freshness Rating and a 76% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes. Think about that for a second. A complete unknown C-list Marvel character completely demolished the most iconic super hero character in the history of comics in both Freshness rating and audience score and even earned a higher CinemaScore. That is stunning.
If 8 years ago, when Marvel Studios first started their super hero movies with Iron Man, you told me that an Ant-Man movie would outperform a Superman movie in CinemaScore, Freshness Rating and Audience Score I would have laughed in your face. Then called you an idiot. Then laughed in your face again. Well, that is the world we live in. That is a testament to the power of the Marvel Studios brand.
So, no, Ant-Man is not going to be the box office monster like the more well known franchises like Avengers, Iron Man or Captain America. To think so seems foolish to me. I was simply hoping that Ant-Man would not be a bomb and would actually deliver solid box office numbers and deliver some serviceable entertainment for a two hour period. To be sure, Ant-Man has exceeded my expectations.
Ant-Man succeeds in several critical areas. First, this movie allows Marvel Studios to continue to introduce their deep roster of B-list and C-list characters into the general public. Depth is needed if Disney is to make Marvel a strong and powerful brand that has some longevity to it.
Second, this movie brings an original Avenger into the mix for the upcoming Captain America: Civil War movie and for the third Avengers movie. This continues Marvel Studios’ efforts to create interconnectivity between all of their movies. This is important since Marvel Studios wants movie goers to view all Marvel Studios movies as required viewing where all of the smaller stories all fit together to tell a much grander tale.
Third, this movie brings an every increasing diversity into the different sub-genres of the Marvel Studios brand. This third point is an important one. Marvel Studio’s approach of creating sub-genres is a brilliant one. The biggest worry that Disney has is that the general audience gets burned out and sick and tired of the super hero genre. It is going to happen at some point. It is inevitable. This has happened to other genres in the past such as Westerns. And, to be sure, Disney and WB are set to flood the general public with a tidal wave of super hero genre movies over the next several years.
Marvel Studios seems to understand this potential problem and is trying to avoid it as much as possible by creating super hero movies that really belong to a strong definable sub-genre rather than to the overall super hero genre. Captain America’s movies are really espionage adventure movies. Guardians of the Galaxy was really a Sci Fi adventure movie. Dr. Strange is probably going to be an occult/horror movie.
Ant-Man follows this trend. This is not really a super hero movie. Ant-Man is a heist caper movie. The strong identifiable sub-genres for many of Marvel Studio’s movies prevent the general public from thinking that they just saw yet another super hero genre movie and begin to feel burned out. Instead, the viewer watches Ant-Man and the move feels exciting and fresh because it is a heist movie offering a different experience than Marvel Studios other super hero movies. Having strong and distinct sub-genres to their super hero movies is what is going to keep Marvel Studios being a hit maker and will also help prevent the general public from becoming exhausted and burned out on the super hero genre.
Of course, all of what I have touched on is well and good. But, what matters is do you want to see the movie. My answer? Yes! I am going to avoid spoilers concerning the movie in my take on the Ant-Man movie. At the end of this review, I am going to touch on the mid-credit scene and the post-credit scene. I’ll put in another spoiler alert before tackling those two scenes so you can avoid them being spoiled.
I loved the Ant-Man movie. I went to see it with my 11 year-old son and my 8 year-old son. I also brought along four of their friends. Yeah, this was an expensive trip to the theater. The boys act as good barometers for what kids find as cool. Needless to say, all of the boys thought Ant-Man was awesome. They found the movie to be funny with enough action to keep their attention. And they all thought Ant-Man himself was a cool character. So, if your kid is anything like the six boys I had with me then they should be more than happy with the Ant-Man movie.
I will say that there is some strong language at several points. Nothing too horrible but the word “shit” is used several times in the movie. Other than that, there is nothing too objectionable. There is an experiment that fails and a lamb is shrunk into a blob of goo about the size of a quarter. The same thing happens to a person as well. Both transformations are instantaneous and not graphic at all. The violence is very tame. There is no gore or objectionable violence at all. And there are no sexual situations, either.
All in all, this is probably the most family friendly Marvel Studios movie that we have gotten up to this point. In fact, the Ant-Man movie is the first Marvel Studios movie that had a Disney vibe to it. And, since I like Disney movies in general, I am fine with that. Super hero movies should be primarily family movies first and foremost. I have zero problem with any movie studio trying to target kids and families first and the 30-50 year old comic book nerd second.
The Ant-Man movie was a blast. I had a smile on my face from start to finish. Ant-Man moved along with a purpose. The movie never meandered or lost my interest. Ant-Man was well balanced between action scenes and dialogue heavy character building scenes. All in all, this movie was fun. Pure unadulterated fun. This is exactly the type of popcorn for the brain that I want in my summer blockbuster movies.
The action scenes were great. The plans for the various heists were all creative and spectacular. I was particularly impressed with the creative uses of the different types of ants. These scenes certainly made the viewer realize that the ability to control ants is one seriously impressive and powerful ability.
The strength the Ant-Man movie comes down to the thee H’s: Humor, Heart and Heroes. To me, the three H’s are the magic formula for any super hero movie. Ant-Man shines in all three categories. First, the humor. Ant-Man is chock full of some hilarious dialogue and some excellent comedic acting from Paul Rudd, Michael Peña, T.I. David Dastmalchian. Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly mainly play the straight men to the antics of the other characters. However, both Douglas and Lilly get some quality dry humor thrown into the movie at certain times as well. Ant-Man is definitely a movie that has the crowd laughing from start to finish.
Second is heart. Heart is huge in any super hero movie. And certain characters simply are easier to portray with big hearts. Ant-Man is one of those types of characters. Scott Lang is unlike just about all of the other Marvel characters that we have gotten from Marvel Studios up to this point. Scott is not rich. Scott is not powerful. Scott is not unbelievably powerful. Scott is not incredibly good looking. Scott does not have the world’s best weapons and tech at his disposal.
Scott is a hard luck character who always seems to take two steps forward and one step back. But, it is Scott’s determination to be a hero. His determination to do right. His determination to succeed despite the long odds. All of this makes Ant-Man the lovable underdog who has to rely on his big heart in order to win the day. That is the type of character that is easy to get movie goers to support. The Ant-Man movie has tons of heart and it is great to see Scott and his trio of lovable losers win the day at the end of this movie.
Paul Rudd absolutely nails the character of Scott Lang. Just perfect. He has a kind heart and a quick smile and wit that makes Ant-Man a true hero. The type of hero that kids can admire. The type of hero that inspires people.
As a long time Hank Pym fan, I will openly admit my initial disappointment with Pym not being the Ant-Man in this movie. Pym is an original Avengers and a great character. But, Pym also carries a lot of unnecessary and unfortunate baggage. Also, Hank Pym as Ant-Man would have made the character too similar to Tony Stark.
By using Scott Lang, Marvel Studios has a hero who is vastly different from Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow and Bruce Banner. After seeing Ant-Man twice, I now fully understand why Marvel Studios went with Scott Lang instead of Hank Pym. Scott Lang offers the Ant-Man franchise a style of hero that is far different from the ones we have gotten over in the Avengers movies.
Michael Douglas is fantastic as Hank Pym. Douglas bring a level of legitimacy to the movie. He has instant respect and credibility with the audience. Douglas also gave Pym’s character some necessary gravitas and some fire in his belly as well. Honestly, Douglas nails how an older Pym would act and behave.
Evangeline Lilly does a nice job as Hope van Dyne. I do wish that they had not bothered to make Lilly look like Janet van Dyne. The haircut looks dated and is not flattering at all to Lilly’s shape face. It also served to make her look much older. Still, Hope was a good character and will serve as an acceptable stand-in for Janet’s character. I also liked the chemistry between the straight laced Lilly and the wisecracking Rudd. I am definitely excited to see these two in action together in future Marvel Studios movies.
All right, time for some small spoilers. If you do not want to know about the mid credit scene or the post credit scene then turn back now. Seriously. Below this fine picture of Ant-Man we are going to discuss those end of credit scenes.
Still here? Good. The mid credit scene in the Ant-Man movie is set at Pym’s home. Hank Pym takes Hope to a secret room. There he unveils a new Wasp uniform that Hank and Janet had started working on together before Janet’s death. Hank tells Hope that maybe it is time they finished the costume. Hank says that it now seems obvious to him that they were building this Wasp suit for Hope. Hope says “About damn time.” End of mid credit scene.
This was a cool teaser for Lilly as the Wasp in either Captain America: Civil War or the next Avengers movie. I love it. Ant-Man and Wasp go together like peanut butter and jelly. You just cannot have one without the other.
There is a second scene after the credits to the Ant-Man movie finish. This scene is set in what looks like a hidden warehouse. We see that Bucky has been captured and has his metal arm trapped in a magnetic vice of some type. Sam (The Falcon) asks Captain America what they are going to do next. Sam asks if they should call Tony Stark. Steve says something about Tony not being able to help them because “the accords” won’t let him. Steve says that they are alone. Sam says maybe not. Sam says that he “knows a guy.” The screen goes black and the words “Ant-Man Will Return” appear. End of post credit scene.
This second scene sets the stage for Ant-Man’s involvement in Captain America: Civil War. The Accords are possibly the pro-Super Hero Registration Act supports. And Tony is likely under their influence or control. Bucky in this scene appears to still be under some sort of mind control or amnesia. He is not his normal angry assassin self. He is more confused and tortured looking.
Scott Lang is the perfect character to side with Captain America’s band of underdog rebels. Lang’s rebellious side and his tendency to side with the common man against the mighty large corporations of the world was made clear during the Ant-Man movie. Plus, a good thief who can sneak into government facilities is probably going to be highly helpful to Cap during Civil War. It definitely will be entertaining to see Scott Lang working with characters like Captain America.
All in all, the Ant-Man movie was an entertaining and fun ride that was well worth the price of admission. Ant-Man exceeds expectations and delivers a movie that has certainly been embraced by many movie goers. I’m glad that Scott Lang is a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His character adds some diversity to the type of heroes that we have gotten so far. I am looking forward to Ant-Man in the upcoming Marvel Studios films.