Ant-Man

Somehow Marvel keeps taking chances on weird titles like Guardians of the Galaxy and now Ant-Man and turning them into weird hits. I'm not sure how they're managing this, exactly, but if anyone ever figures it out then all major Hollywood studios need to be informed immediately so that the secret will hopefully not be lost.

And face it, shrinking down to the size of an ant has never been very high on the list of Most Wished-For Superpowers, despite being basically just as good as invisibility as far as sneaking into the wrong locker room goes, though with invisibility you wouldn't have to worry so much about being stepped on. That can be kind of a serious drawback, as Scott Lang (Paul Rudd, who's been in quite a few things though I've managed to miss almost all of them) quickly discovers.

But I've skipped Michael Douglas (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) as Dr. Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, now retired. He was kind of Tony Stark before Tony Stark, except without the womanizing. Dr. Pym did work with Howard Stark, though, and also worked for SHIELD way back when. In the comics he was a biochemist, but here he's some sort of physicist, which as you may remember makes him incredibly dangerous.

He invented the Pym Particle, or maybe discovered it, I'm not sure. What it does is reduce the amount of space between molecules in any form of matter, which isn't a completely bizarre method of shrinking, at least as far as I can tell. Atomically speaking, there is some room between the molecules in the human body, though it gets much less likely when you start talking about shrinking, say, metal, which is extremely dense already.

Speaking of dense, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll,The Bourne Legacy) is the guy who took over Pym Tech when Hank retired. It's more accurate to call him crazy, since he's at least a decent scientist, but that wouldn't have worked so well for the subject change. He isn't very good at normal human interaction, though. Also still working at Pym Tech is Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly, who used to be an elf), daughter of Janet van Dyne and the aforementioned Henry Pym. Janet, aka the Wasp, was killed when Hope was a child and things have been a bit tense between her and dad ever since.

Meanwhile, Scott Lang is fresh out of prison after pulling a Robin Hood stunt on his former employers -- he broke into their main facility and hacked computer records to refund a bunch of money they scammed from customers. But despite the good intentions and a degree in electrical engineering, he can't find a regular job. This means that his ex (Judy Greer, Carrie)won't let him see his adorable daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), Worse, the ex is dating a cop (Bobby Canavale, The Other Guys) who makes no secret of not liking Scott.

But Scott's friends Luis, Kurt, and Dave (Michael Peña of Fury, David Dastmalchian from Prisoners, and T.I. from Takers, respectively), have just the job for him. There's a rich old retired executive whose house is just begging to be robbed. Guess who the exec is?

Hank has a plan and needs help, and though it isn't at all the sort of job Scott was hoping for, he gets resigned to it as he gets pulled further and further in. Cross, you see, wants to turn the Pym particle into the latest cool weapon, code-named Yellowjacket (of course), and he doesn't much care who he sells it to. With Hydra as the current high bidder, something's got to be done.

About the best thing about these movies is that they all hang together without it seeming really forced. Hayley Atwell appears in a scene as Peggy Carter and John Slattery as Howard Stark, for instance, and of course SHIELD gets mentioned here and there. There are also special appearances by a couple of Avengers, though admittedly one's only in the second teaser scene, and yes, there are two. But with Spider-Man having tried to turn all dark and serious, without success, there was a market for something lighter, and this movie was made to fill that void.

Four and a quarter out of five. Hank does go a bit over the top now and then about the supreme importance of protecting his discovery, but aside from that I never once felt embarrassed about watching a movie called Ant-Man, which you have to admit isn't very heroic sounding. I kept wondering if it had started as a taunting nickname and Hank just decided to embrace it. But the movie plays around a little with the usual tropes -- Luis, for instance, seems like a typical petty crook but has an unexpected cultured side -- and has lots of fun in the process. They even got the ant-related science right, as far as Google and I could tell, which puts it miles above a lot of other movies.

Image: 
The Ant-Man and his trusty steed, the flying ant.

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