As movie superheroes go, it took years for Ant-Man to surface.
This summer, Marvel Studios, following its gigantic success with Iron Man, Spider-Man and others, finally gets to the tiny but amazingly effective Ant-Man.
Ant-Man is an original member of Marvel Comics’ superhero collective, The Avengers. In “Ant-Man,” starring Paul Rudd as the title character, the size-shifting hero makes his thrill-filled entrance into Marvel’s movie pantheon.
Maybe the delay in bringing Ant-Man to the screen has something to do with ants. They’re widely viewed as pests. But the stylized ants in the action-packed, meticulously rendered in the latest Marvel movie are beautiful, essential allies in Ant-Man’s quest to save the world.
The film pairs Ant-Man with armies of ants. Various species of the insects — all possessing their particular, impressive skills — are at his command. One particular winged ant, nick named Ant-tony, gives the story’s mini hero exciting flying capability.
In “Ant-Man,” Rudd’s Scott Lang, a Robin Hood-style thief newly sprung from prison, returns to crime out of financial desperation. Acting on a tip, Lang breaks into the San Francisco home of a scientist. To his disappointment, the home’s heavily fortified safe contains only some plans, a vile of red liquid and something that resembles a diving suit. He steals the stuff anyway. Later, having no idea what the suit can do, he tries it on.
Some original Marvel Comics back story, which is reinvented for the “Ant-Man” movie, can clarify Ant-Man’s origins for non-Marvel experts.
In the film, Michael Douglas plays Dr. Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man. Decades before the unsuspecting Rudd dons the Ant-Man suit, Pym discovered a chemical substance which allowed him to simultaneously shrink in size and possess superhuman strength — the Pym Particle.
The movie opens with a scene set in 1989, as Pym walks away fro the technology corporation he founded. His principled act of protest sets a potentially catastrophic series of events in motion.
The story skips to the present day. Time has caught up with Pym and physically, he can no longer handle the demands of being Ant-Man. He needs someone new to wear the suit. So he lets Lang steal it.
Lang’s test run in the Ant-Man suit — a frightening rush of accidents for him and a fun ride for the audience — leads to full-scale Ant-Man boot camp for the thief. Pym and the scientist’s estranged daughter, Hope Van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lilly from “The Hobbit” movies and TV’s “Lost,” are Lang’s instructors.
The storytelling qualities seen in Marvel Studios’ earlier movies show up again in “Ant-Man.” There’s depth of character in Pym, especially. When veteran actor Douglas turns on the earnestness, during a particularly serious moment, the audience as well as the on-screen target for Pym’s sincerity, future Ant-Man Lang, are convinced.
“Damn,” Lang responds. “That was a good speech.”
Alongside Rudd as the movie’s down-to-Earth hero, Corey Stoll smirks and gloats as Pym’s protégé gone bad, the alarming Darren Cross, aka Yellowjacket. It’s a gleefully wicked performance.
The movie adaptation of “Ant-Man,” directed in rapid-fire style by Peyton Reed (“Bring It On,” “Yes Man”) from a lean and solid screenplay by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay and the movie’s leading man, Rudd, earns its place among Marvel’s other superhero movies.