At the end of the year don’t be surprised to see ”Ant-Man,” the latest Marvel superhero franchise starter, take the top spot on the Canadian Entomologist Magazine’s Top Films of the Year but numbers 2 through 10 as well. It not only features a man who can shrink to the size of an insect, but a supporting cast featuring colony after colony of ants. Bugheads are going to love it, and I suspect, so will fans of the Marvel Universe.
The origin story of “Ant-Man” begins with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). He’s not a mad scientist, but he’s certainly angry. At the height of the Cold War his creation, the Pym Particle, was a breakthrough but he refused to allow its miniaturization properties to be used as a weapon. “As long as I am alive,” he says, “nobody will ever get the formula!”
Cut to present day. Pym’s Particle is still a secret from everyone, including his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) and former protégé Darren Cross (“The Strain’s” Corey Stoll). Cross is now in charge of Pym’s company and has worked to develop the technology with an eye toward selling it to the highest bidder, a.k.a., HYDRA.
In the hopes of stopping Cross, Pym and his daughter recruit cat burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to don the incredible shrinking ant suit and use his particular set of skills to break into Cross’s laboratory and destroy the miniaturization technology. If he is successful he can save the world, if he isn’t, he will be crushed like a bug underfoot.
Surely the silliest, and most definitely the smallest of all Marvel superheroes “Ant-Man” nonetheless has the same sort of swagger as the first “Iron Man” movie. It’s an origin story that uses humour to smooth over some of the rough bits of exposition. For instance, it’s self aware enough to follow a revelation of Pym’s complicated plan with a throwaway line from Rudd. “That sounds like a job for the Avengers.” It gets a laugh and stops the film from taking itself far too seriously.
As Lang Rudd has the same off-the-cuff charm that Downey brought to Tony Stark and the movie is the better for it. To pull off the story of a man who flies on the back of winged ants and is small enough to get sucked up by a vacuum cleaner you need someone with a spring in his step and a permanent wink and Rudd has both, finding just the right tone in scene after scene to make this work.
Michael Peña brings full on comic relief as Lang’s motor-mouthed friend, Lily adds strength to a character who could be spun off to her own franchise and Douglas has old school gravitas to burn, but make no mistake, this is Rudd’s movie, whether he is running through the grass with a herd of ants or slyly trying to seduce Hope.
Entomophobics may have nightmares following the film, with memories of a dog-sized ant scurrying around their dreams, but for the rest of us, “Ant-Man” is a fun, larger than life summer diversion.