‘Ant-Man’ fights to find its own voice in Marvel universe

By Bob Bloom
“Ant-Man” is a conflicted feature that tries to be its own movie, while constrained by the dictates and expectations of the Marvel universe.
With the likable Paul Rudd buffed up to portray Scott Lang, former cat burglar-turned-superhero, “Ant-Man” has a self-deprecating and witty edge.
On the other hand, it goes to great lengths to remind viewers that it is just one part of a massive whole — cameos by other Marvel characters, as well as the iconic Stan Lee and teaser cookies during the closing credits that are supposed to whet your appetite for future projects.
Don’t misunderstand my criticisms: “Ant-Man” is a fun movie, but not Ant-Man Ruddbecause of the plot. It’s the performances and interactions between Rudd, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym — the original Ant-Man — and Evangeline Lilly as Pym’s daughter, Hope.
The special effects of a miniaturized Lang commanding armies of ants are captivating and distinctive.
But the movie suffers some of the same flaws as many of today’s action features — too much quick cutting during fight sequences that makes it difficult them to follow and determine who is doing what to whom, plus the familiar montage showing our hero adapting to his new powers.
These have been used so much of late that they have become tiresome clichés that need to be mothballed or — at the least — trimmed.
Character actor Corey Stoll as Darren Cross, a k a Yellowjacket, gives a one-note performance. You can follow his path with your eyes shut and know where he’s headed.
Despite its acquiescence to Marvel’s preferred format, “Ant-Man” tries hard to be its own man. The wit and humor are engaging and create laughs in most of the right places.
Rudd is the heart of the movie. His low-key performance as a good man wanting nothing more than to make his young daughter proud of him is touching and real.
He is not your typical gung-ho superhero. He is, at first, a reluctant participant. But his sense of justice and decency convince him to don the suit and shrink in order to grow as a man.
“Ant-Man” originally was to be directed by Edgar Wright, the British filmmaker who has worked with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost on such action-comedy features as “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End.”
His fingerprints still are found on the movie, despite revisions by, among others, Adam McKay and Rudd. Wright left the project because of the familiar “creative differences” with the Marvel brass. It would have been fascinating to see how his vision of the character would have unfolded.
Still, “Ant-Man” is a solid addition to the Marvel movie stable. It’s fast paced, entertaining and humorous. More importantly, it does heighten curiosity to see where Rudd takes “Ant-Man” down the road.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.

3 stars out of 4
(PG-13), science-fiction violence and action, language

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