— by Alan Yudman

ANT-MAN had all the earmarks of a potential disaster for Marvel. Edgar Wright wanted to make this movie. It was his passion project, but “creative differences” and scheduling conflicts forced him out. Several others were rumored before Peyton Reed was chosen. Then there are the multiple screenwriting and story credits. Those are rarely good signs. Well, ignore all that because ANT-MAN is great. Michael Douglas plays Dr. Hank Pym the man who created the Pym particle, the thing that allows Ant-Man to shrink. But, disillusioned with S.H.I.E.L.D. he quits and hides his invention (great cameos from Hayley Atwell and John Slattery in the opening scene). Rumors persist that the particle exists, and the new head of Pym’s company (the great Corey Stoll) is trying to recreate it with disastrous results (at least if you’re a lamb). Pym discovers what’s going on with the help of his daughter (Evangeline Lilly) and he realizes he has to steal his invention. That’s where Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) comes in. The engineer and former burglar is just out of prison and in need of a job. Pym sets Lang up to steal the Ant-Man suit and and persuade him to help carry out his plan. The casting here is great. Douglass plays the mentor very well, using his calming voice and patrician nature to teach Scott to be Ant-Man. Rudd brings charm, heart and sense of humor to the role and makes it sing. Lilly is cool and sexy and tough as nails. Stoll is no longer the victim you saw in HOUSE OF CARDS. He smirks and channels menace with the best villains. MIchael Pena is also great as Lang’s friend and fellow thief. The only thing keeping this from being an all-time super hero movie is its Marvel-ness. Sometimes the comic book giant is too impressed with its own narrative and that gets in the way of cohesive storytelling. For example having to break into the new Avengers HQ to steal something, but the only one there to defend it is the Falcon. Really? Couldn’t at least get Captain America for a cameo? But that fault is minor here. Peyton Reed picks up Edgar Wright’s torch and runs with it with thrilling and hilarious results. The balance is perfect. This is better than either Iron Man sequel. Here’s hoping ANT-MAN doesn’t go that route.

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