We are now twelve films into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the franchise has certainly run itself into a groove. We now know what to expect from a Marvel Cinematic Universe film and until now that hasn’t stopped these films from being anywhere between a solid film to a great blockbuster (with the exception of Thor: The Dark World, which saw its predecessor’s flaws come to the forefront). With Ant-Man though, the Marvel Cinematic Universe clichés are beginning to become a negative. The predictable third act structure, the Avengers connections, and the overuse of a McGuffin all come back to haunt Ant-Man. Fortunately, though Ant-Man also happens to be one of the more unique entries in the franchise. With a lot of comedy, a strong female character, visually inventive scenes, and a smaller scale, Ant-Man is more than able to overcome its clichés.
Ant-Man follows inventor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas bringing some much needed gravitas to the film) as he seeks out burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd doing his usual shtick to decent effect) in order to steal Pym’s former protégé and rival’s (Corey Stoll doing good work in an underwritten role) size changing suit, the Yellewjacket. Pym soon reveals that the Yellowjacket is born from rumors of one of Pym’s own creations, which happens to be much more real than the rumors suggest.
For a film that featured such a tumultuous pre-production period, you would hardly realize there was any trouble with the film at all in the finished product. I haven’t seen any of director Peyton Reed’s previous works, but he certainly proves that he can bring visual flair to the film without overburdening the plot. The film also has some visual inventiveness that is very reminiscent of an Edgar Wright film (for his fans who are disappointed that he wasn’t allowed to carry this film through to the end) such as with scenes in the “Quantum Realm” or with flashbacks narrated by the scene-stealing Michael Pena. The long pre-production process also definitely did not hurt the performances from the cast as they are all-around the board great. Special note has to be given to Evangeline Lilly who once again finds herself giving a performance that is much better than her one note performance on Lost years ago suggested she was capable of giving.
The real problem with this film stems from the fact the more Marvel-ly elements feel forced and boring. You know where this film is going to end so none of the major events of this film are hardly surprising no matter how twisty this film thinks it is. It just follows your typical Marvel film structure. Additionally, a sequence involving a visit to Avengers headquarters feels completely half-baked and ultimately makes the appearance of one of the more interesting MCU supporting characters rather dull.
Marvel fatigue may finally be setting in but Ant-Man is inventive and different enough on its own to still continue Marvel’s winning streak.