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First Reviews of ‘Ant-Man’: Marvel Goes Small

First Reviews of 'Ant-Man': Marvel Goes Small

In Marvel’s “Ant-Man,” it’s not just the hero that got small; it’s the movie. Bereft of world-saving derring-do, Peyton Reed’s scaled-down adventure — taken from the hands of original director Edgar Wright, who shares story-by and screenplay credit with his collaborator Joe Cornish and new writer Adam McKay — is either a refreshing change of pace or a letdown, depending on the critic. The first reviews divide evenly between those who welcome the more humorous, lower-stakes approach, and those who feel like Marvel’s removed what makes their other movies work and hasn’t replaced it with much of anything. Paul Rudd gets relatively high marks as the petty thief-turned-science experiment, and Michael Peña, as in the first round of social-media reactions, is proclaimed a scene-stealer. (Much of Corey Stoll’s part, sadly, appears to have been cut, and Judy Greer suffers through another thankless roll. Fix this, Hollywood.) The jury is still out, and likely to remain so, on how much this is Reed and McKay’s (and Marvel’s) movie, and how much of Wright and Cornish remains; some claim you can feel Wright’s heart beating underneath, others see shadows of a better movie that might have been. As for the rest, it’s a big ol’ YMMV, and a long wait until the Marvel Machine kicks into Phase III next summer.

Reviews of “Ant-Man”

Justin Chang, Variety

The Marvel Cinematic Universe can be an awfully big, noisy and repetitive place to spend your time and money, but at its best, it can also allow for humor, whimsy and lightness of spirit — all qualities that come into play in “Ant-Man,” a winningly modest addition to the ever-expanding Disney/Marvel family. Though we can mourn the more stylish and inventive stand-alone caper we might have gotten from director Edgar Wright (who left the project over creative differences and was replaced by Peyton Reed), this enjoyably off-the-cuff franchise starter takes a cue from its incredible shrinking protagonist (played by a game Paul Rudd) and emerges with a smaller-scaled, bigger-hearted origin story than most comicbook heroes are typically granted.

Tim Grierson, Screen Daily

The best Marvel films balance action spectacle, irreverent humour and more than a smidgeon of heart, their execution so effortless that a viewer can take that tricky alchemy for granted. “Ant-Man” serves as a cautionary reminder that sometimes the mixture isn’t so cohesive, this mediocre action-adventure only intermittently proving to be exciting, hilarious or touching — and never at the same time. Transitioning somewhat from the broad comedies that have made his name, Paul Rudd gives the reluctant titular hero a cheeky charm, but director Peyton Reed and a fleet of credited writers struggle to escape the shadow of Marvel’s bigger, bolder, better comic book movies.

Robbie Collin, Telegraph

In its very best moments, the film zings with an Aardman-esque zaniness that feels like pure Wright, even if his replacement as director, Peyton Reed, wisely resists the temptation to mimic his predecessor’s hyper-caffeinated visual style. But Ant-Man’s troubled genesis barely registers in the finished product. What we’ve seen since the beginnings of the Marvel serial in 2008 is an ongoing stretching: bigger casts, grander set-pieces and more intricate interplay between characters, with no clear end in sight. Ant-Man scuttles off in the other direction. Brisk humor, keenly felt dramatic stakes, and invention over scale. You know: small pleasures.

Bryan Bishop, The Verge

Self-aware blockbusters certainly aren’t new; Phil Lord and Chris Miller have built their career with projects likeThe Lego Movie, and Jurassic World is using its anti-blockbuster sentiment to beat every record in the book. But unlike those movies, there’s nothing callous or cynical in “Ant-Man.” Like most Paul Rudd comedies, it’s powered by his goofy, good-guy sentimentality, and whether he was facing off against a surprise guest star or gawking as Peña nailed yet another punchline, I found myself filled with something that’s become a rather rare commodity in superhero movies: joy.

Jordan Hoffman, Popular Mechanics

“Ant-Man” began as a film project for Edgar Wright, who directed “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” Even a casual fan of his work will be able to sniff out elements from the script that would have made sense for his highly choreographed aesthetic. Somewhere in a parallel universe his movie exists, and I bet certain scenes are just perfection. The “Ant-Man” we get may be a little more straightforward, and a lesser entry in the Marvel series, but it’s hardly microscopic. Peyton Reed’s best work, including the 1960s-set “Down With Love” and cheerleader the epic “Bring It On”, has a knack for walking the line between kitschy and earnest. That’s true here, too.

Scott Mendelson, Forbes

“Ant-Man” is such a small-scale picture that it’s easy to take for granted what a technical marvel it actually is. The film is at heart a pretty basic comic heist caper, with all of the clichés involved therein. It also features some rather dazzling special effects work in the service of its central super heroic gimmick, and said effects are presented in an offhanded way that suggests that no expense was spared in the pursuit of its sci-fi vision. The heist structure proves to be an advantage in terms of trimming costs, since so much of the middle of the film takes place in a single house as our three heroic leads plan their caper that it threatens to become a Blumhouse production. But when Scott Lang puts on that suit and shrinks to the size of an ant, the film turns into a visual wonderland of perspective and invention. The surrounding film is pretty good, with some strong comic beats and a generally enjoyable story. But with the obvious caveat that this isn’t intended to be a major Marvel event like The Winter Soldier, this is perhaps Marvel’s thinnest story in terms of character work. It is, by default perhaps, the closest that the studio has come to crafting a somewhat generic superhero story. 

Rodrgio Perez, The Playlist

More modest by design next to the epic scale of recent Marvel efforts like  “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” much of “Ant-Man” still feels like the screenplay lacks confidence in the diminutive character. There are myriad references and nods the Marvel Cinematic Universe— past, present, and future — including an enervating prologue set in 1989 before the movie even begins, emphasizing just how connected Hank Pym is to the greater Marvel universe. The caper also shoehorns-in one action set-piece involving one of “The Avengers” heroes that basically acts as a Marvel Universe intermission from the story and of course sets up the next episode (“Captain America: Civil War”). On its own, maybe as a viral clip, the scene is enjoyable. But in the greater context, its intention feels far too premeditated.

Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

If you don’t have Thor’s hammer, Hulk’s bulk, Captain America’s resolve or Iron Man’s know-how, what’s an Avenger to do? The answer provided by “Ant-Man” is to go small, smaller than Black Widow’s fingernail, and exude a good sense of humor, which is precisely what floats this latest addition to the Marvel cinematic firmament. The timing might even be fortuitous as far as the fan base is concerned, what with the sense of overkill emanating from the most recent Avengers installment and a mirth quotient in the new outing that, by Marvel standards, ranks behind only that of the disarmingGuardians of the Galaxy last summer. Although the story dynamics are fundamentally silly and the family stuff, with its parallel father-daughter melodrama, is elemental button-pushing, a good cast led by a winning Paul Rudd puts the nonsense over in reasonably disarming fashion.

David Ehrlich, Time Out New York

Rudd’s affable wit makes him a perfect choice for the part. But his performance is uncharacteristically inhibited, as if he felt there was too much at stake to try something new. Even the jokes that do work leave some laughs on the table, and the impulse to play things safe proves emblematic of a film that shrinks in the face of a challenge. While Ant-Man borrows from the likes of “Inception” and “Ocean’s Eleven,” its heist elements are reduced to window-dressing. Director Peyton Reed — who replaced “Shaun of the Dead’s” Edgar Wright just weeks before shooting began — deserves credit for jumping aboard a speeding train, but his inoffensive finished product proves that Marvel is more interested in protecting the house style than making great movies. 

Roth Cornet, IGN

The foundation of the film’s success is in the spot-on casting. Rudd is naturally likable and though he’s been a movie star for the bulk of his adult life, he still reads as “one of the guys” on screen. Michael Douglas brings a necessary gravitas to the film as Hank Pym, the man responsible for the “Ant-Man” suit and who now would charge Scott with wearing it. Yet there’s a lightness and playfulness to Douglas’ portrayal that is in sync with the tone of the film. This is a snappy, quirky comedy that fits nicely within the tradition of Hollywood heist movies… with a comic book twist. If you’re a MCU aficionado, there are certainly connections to the larger unfolding story present, as well as the groundwork for things to come. Yet this is a self-contained tale that is effective and entertaining whether you’ve seen every preceding Marvel offering or not. In a world in which comic book movie plots have become increasingly complex and reliant on an enormous amount of pre-existing knowledge, this script is refreshingly straightforward and clear. Stylistically one does feel the presence of Edgar Wright’s original concept. Yet – if one is familiar with his work – “Ant-Man” clearly has Peyton Reed’s stamp on it as well.

Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

This is an “Ant-Man” whose rough edges have all been sanded down for maximum inoffensiveness. It’s entirely pleasant and totally inconsequential. There’s not a ton wrong with Ant-Man, but there’s not a ton right about it either. Marvel’s kept Wright and Cornish’s original script under wraps, so it’s tough to say exactly what their “Ant-Man” would have looked like (and unfair to compare Reed’s actual production to their theoretical one). Still, it’s hard not to watch idealistic visionaries Scott Lang and Hang Pym battle the malevolent influence of big business and not think of them as stand-ins of a sort for the film’s original creative team. The difference is that Lang and Pym win their battle. Wright and Cornish did not. There’s nothing bigger about “Ant-Man” than the sense of disappointment around that fact.

Jordan Raup, The Film Stage

As origin stories go, “Ant-Man” checks off most of the formulaic boxes — self-discovery, redemption, conniving villain, obligatory romantic subplot (Evangeline Lilly taking the burden here), and the promise of something greater to come — but Reed moves things along at a fast, often unique clip that shouldn’t leave one too upset at the lack of any lasting impression. Despite jettisoning exterior plot devices (the few Avengers tie-ins feel fresh, and there’s not a single reference to an Infinity Stone) as some sort of required center, “Ant-Man” doesn’t break as much new ground as it could have. What remains is nevertheless a light-enough affair aware of its own inherent silliness to make for one of the more humorous superhero births in the Marvel series.

Kavita Daswani, South China Morning Post

It’s not often that a superhero film will make you laugh out loud, but this one does — and frequently at that.  Rudd’s natural ease with throwaway quips and his cohorts’ general incompetence elevate what could have been another grim and gritty contribution to the genre into something altogether more lighthearted and entertaining.

Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

“Ant-Man” ends with a James Bond–style tease that “Ant-Man” will return, and I’m sure he’ll pop up in “Captain America: Civil War” or “Avengers: Infinity War Part 1” or “Thor: Blond Space Orgy” or whatever else is coming down the pipeline. (Really hoping for that space-orgy one.) But I don’t think he’ll be suiting up again in his own sequel. You can see, esthpecially in that final, hilarious mêlée scene, where “Ant-Man” could have gone right. (Where it could have gone Wright?) But the film is too timid to fully take the wilder turns, to become its own distinct creature. Instead, it’s just like the other Marvel movies, only smaller. I’m afraid it’s apt to get squished.

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