Marvel's phase 2 has officially come to a close. It's the end of a somewhat arbitrary classification system, and I am kinda sad to see this phase go. This phase has brought us to the expanses of space, seen the official introduction of 2 of Marvel's most dangerous villains, and by all respects has gone bigger and better than Phase 1. But, this phase must end, because things are changing in the MCU, and war is coming...
But that is unimportant now. There are bigger things to talk about.
Today sees the official release of Ant-man. A character, that will be pretty much unknown to a large swath of the movie-going public, yet a character that has been an integral part of the Avengers since their inception. ...Well, that's not entirely true. This movie sees the introduction of Hank Pym, the original Ant-man, as well as a founding member of the comic book counterpart of the Avengers. It also introduces us to Scott Lang... A right useless bastard, a screw-up, and a thief. A character that in many ways might be deemed irredeemable. Hopefully, my comics fans out there get what I did there... All the rest of you don't worry, the joke was fairly targeted.
These are two characters that as a comic fan, I have been waiting for eagerly. Notably absent from this grand introduction, was Janet Van Dyne, but... well, what can you do. This is not to say we don't get to hear about Janet. Hell, we even get told why she is absent... still, her absence is a point that makes me kinda sad.
The movie itself, is actually rather a joyful ordeal. If Iron Man 3 was Marvel's answer to the buddy cop genre, this is their answer to the heist flick. At it's heart, that's what this movie is, a heist flick with a superhero origin story mixed in for good measure. In all ways, it works.
One does not often associate thievery as a valid credential for a superhero. Hell, when people think of superheroes and thieves, they would rightly come to the Spider-man association, and think of them catching the thieves. This movie throws that convention on its head, and offers up the story of the thief's redemption, through the act of thievery.
Scott Lang is a criminal. He's the type of ne'er-do-well, that one would not be surprised to see Spider-man tying to a lamp post with a little "Courtesy of your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man" note placed neatly on the web. The movie spends a good amount of time, exploring whether Scott is a victim of circumstance, or truly a bad guy. Simultaneously, it addresses the stigma associated with being an ex-con in society, and the recursive nature of our criminal justice system.
But with laughs... because, dammit this is a happy movie!
That's where this movie shines. It takes some serious subject matter, and presents it in a shiny, happy, easily-digestible package. It plays well to Paul Rudd's comedic strengths, by letting his character be a fast-talking funny man. He plays well, against the entire cast, becoming not only the central character, but also the glue that really binds the whole thing together.
With a dash of writing by Edgar Wright, and some of his influence being seen throughout, despite his absence from the director's chair, gives this a true comedic flair that sets it on par with Guardians of the Galaxy as the MCU's most amusing film.
Visually speaking, the movie is amazing, playing up the diminutive nature of the titular character to great comedic effect, zooming in and out of battle scenes seamlessly. This allows the the viewer to not only feel involved in the action, but to also see what it looks like to the casual observer. The shrinking powers, as well as the ants themselves provide for an extensive use of CGI, that at times looks a little cheesy, but ultimately works within the framework of the story, and is quickly forgiven when the next scene shows up.
This movie has the type of heart that a superhero flick needs, while still managing to keep the audience entertained. Is it the best movie ever? No. Is it the most fun I have had at the theaters since perhaps Kingsmen? Yeah. Most definitely.
RECOMMENDATION: If you like the MCU, and if box office numbers are any indication, you likely do, you need to see this movie. The name recognition for the character isn't there, but the connection to the greater MCU is strong, and this acts as an AMAZING lead in to next year's entries into the Universe. Not to mention, we get the MCU's first reference to a certain radioactive-blooded wall-crawler (in an off-handed remark).
IS IT THEATER WORTHY? Hell yes. I want to see this again immediately, and might do just that tomorrow, so I can see it in 3-D and find out if the 3-D adds anything to the experience. For being such a small character, this is a big film, and most definitely deserves to be seen on a large screen.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Has my effusive praise been unclear? I loved this movie. For me to consider seeing it in theaters a second time opening weekend means a hell of a lot. It's something I have not done since the original Avengers... But I think that is going to change. This movie is a great addition to the Universe, and manages to explain the absence of The Avengers better than any other post-Avengers movie. It's good. It's really really good.
FINAL SCORE: 9 out of 10