‘Ant-Man‘ is an underdog. This is quite the understatement. We have a Marvel superhero whose powers and contributions are belittled by readers and non-readers alike (DC’s Aquaman can relate). His long-gestating film adaptation languished in development hell for decades. He finally gets a chance when a then-fledgling movie studio hires an underappreciated writer-director named Edgar Wright to helm his story. Almost a decade later, Wright leaves the film just as principal photography is about to begin. Oh boy. This has got to be the most fractured superhero film production since Superman II in the 1970’s when Richard Lester replaced Richard Donner.
But somehow, against all odds, the final product isn’t a complete disaster, which is a small miracle in of itself. The charming and likable cast manage to salvage this picture from implosion by injecting it with all the heart they can muster. Paul Rudd is perfectly cast as the misunderstood and down-on-his-luck Scott Lang. Michael Douglas is effortless as his mentor Hank Pym. Corey Stoll and Evangeline Lilly somehow manage to pull off what they can with limited material. However, Michael Peña is the true star of this picture. The well-rounded actor stole every scene he was in.
Of course, what everyone wants to do is to trace the remains of Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish. Peyton Reed makes an excellent decision in this regard by not ignoring their contributions but not aping them either. This allows the viewer to find material from the original script that survived final cut. These are mostly in the forms of scenes involving inanimate objects for characters to use or flashbacks that utilize quick edits. Basically, anything that could have been done this way. Considering the fact that Wright and Cornish started their drafts during the MCU’s infancy, it can be surmised that anything referencing the Avengers, HYDRA, or the events of Age of Ultron are later additions by Adam McKay/Paul Rudd/Kevin Feige post-departure. However, the scenes involving SHIELD’s activities could have originally been from Wright and Cornish. Even Evangeline Lilly has said that Hope’s characterization was radically altered during this time.
As for the direction, not much can be really said. After all, it is difficult for anyone but Edgar Wright to shoot an Edgar Wright film. Peyton Reed does his best to mine hilarious takes out of his gifted actors. He tries to create fluid, but not so original (nor eye-popping), transitions and visual comedy. I salute him for trying to make the picture his own but the specter of Wright is just too great.
Overall, this wasn’t all that bad. We got a fun film filled with breezy bits of superhero action. It’s just haunted by what could have been, the greatness it could have achieved. And yet, it managed to avoid being an unmitigated disaster. That’s the luck of the Feige for you.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars