If someone had told me five years ago I would see Michael Douglas and Paul Rudd star in a superhero movie, I would say, “Yeah right,” to Douglas and, “Okay, that would be pretty cool, but I doubt it,” to Rudd.
But now I get to eat my words and shrink my doubts down to the subatomic. Not only are they in Marvel’s “Ant-Man,” they give it some heart and a whole horde of humor.
The heart: the film touches on how hard it is for even one of the most professionally qualified ex-cons to get a job post-clink. This also fuels Scott Lang’s (Rudd) struggle to secure a healthy father-daughter relationship, a dynamic mirrored by Dr. Hank Pym (Douglas) with his — by the way, total bad-ass — daughter Hope (Evangeline Lily).
The humor — oh, sweet Jesus, the humor: Marvel and DC have intelligently and intentionally diverged in tone to help differentiate themselves to make competition as minimized as possible when both are making comic book superhero movie adaptations.
DC has decided to go the gritty route as evidenced by the post-9/11, not-your-grand-pappy’s Superman who breaks his famous no-killing rule and the Batman trilogy starring an actor with domestic violence allegations against him.
Marvel toyed with the humor route with the first “X-Men” and then fully committed to it with “Iron Man.” “Ant-Man” is no exception to this rule. Marvel united a team of super-powered comedy experts who would make S.H.E.I.L.D. officials envious.
I was really pleased to see apparent instances of the stylized comedic directing and camera work we’ve come to love and expect from Edgar Wright, the initial director.
Peyton Reed was an apt replacement after Wright left with a comedy directing repertoire of his own (“Yes Man,” “Bring it On” and TV dabblings with “New Girl,” Weird Al and the Upright Citizens Brigade).
The screenplay team included Rudd, Wright, Joe Cornish and Adam McKay, the Funny or Die co-founder who wrote “Step Brothers,” “Talladega Nights” and both of the “Anchorman” movies.
That is to say this movie is truly fun and funny from dialogue to training montage. The minds behind this movie also took full advantage of the adjustable scale offered by a hero whose power is a shrinking suit, creating the funniest fight sequences I will see until maybe the next “Ant-Man” film.
I also cannot ignore incorrigible ex-con pal Luis (Michael Peña) who is an absolute riot save for some moments when he breaches the border between funny buddy and ethnic stereotype.
Overall, I got what I wanted and more from a Marvel superhero flick. There’s action, laughs, some romance, a Stan Lee cameo and some intersecting with the greater Marvel world to solidify that future “Avengers” battle royale — probably against Thanos armed with all of the infinity stones — that will feature basically every non-X-Men character in the Marvel cinematic universe.
Until that daunting matchup comes, we can keep laughing.