Marvel's Ant-Man, their latest attempt to kickstart one of the lesser known comic book properties, is a movie so light and airy it may well not even exist, and it wooshes past you so fast it's tempting to forget you saw it five minutes after it's over. On some level, a certain lightness of touch in the material is to be admired and even sought after (what I've often complained about over on the DC side of things is their misbegotten strides to take inherently ridiculous premises way too seriously), but on the other hand, go too casual with it and the impression it leaves is that nothing here matters an ounce, and the film was simply rolled off the assembly line as fast as possible in order to move on to the next one.
The subject matter in Ant-Man is simple and preposterous- a guy inherits a mysteriously powered suit that shrinks him to the size of an ant with the strength of a superhuman. On its face this could be a wacky concept that should be treated with wild creativity and a sense of humor, something that director Edgar Wright (original writer of the story and script and who'd been attached to the project for years) would have no doubt brought to the material, having directed such idiosyncratic comedies as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. But after creative conflict with the Marvel showrunners behind the scenes, Wright left the film to be completed by studio hire Peyton Reed, with some script rewrites by star Paul Rudd and Adam McKay to keep the humor intact. From what we get on the screen, I take it Marvel simply wanted the idea to remain as conventional and accessible to as wide an audience as humanly possible, and so therefore the story follows a through line so unoriginal it could have easily been written by committee.
Paul Rudd, always an amiable and genial everyguy, is Scott Lang, a recent ex-con whose inability to see his daughter thanks to his unemployed, formerly convicted status, spars his return to thievery with his trusty gang of friendly ex-cons (seriously, these guys are some G-rated felons), but falls into the trap of Michael Douglas's Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, who's looking for someone to step into his former suit. Pym is the head of a company that's being taken over by Corey Stoll, the requisite bad guy trying to steal Pym's technology, and it's up to Pym and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) to train Scott to use the suit and pull off a heist in order to stop Stoll from becoming the Yellow Jacket. The movie's small scope and purposely tiny reach, comparatively speaking when faced with the world ending plans of the villains in The Avengers movies, could be considered a refreshingly modest approach, but there's nothing much to care about in this by the numbers, unremarkable origin story. Even Paul Rudd plays it as if he knows the whole thing is lame, and the movie races through Scott's inevitable training montage and Hope's daddy-daughter conflict as though it can't wait to get it all over with. We know where it's going from the very beginning and it never deviates one second from the predictable outcome- there's a heist pulled by the good guys and Ant-Man and Yellow Jacket get in a fight, there's lots of punching, toys get knocked over, and for some humor we get occasional breakaway from the POV shots to show us how funny it is that Ant-Man's really tiny, as if we'd forgotten.
Even his smallness doesn't amount to much, as he learns how to speak to the ants with no real marveling (sorry for the pun) at the micro-universe as it exists, which we barely see. Frankly, there were more emotional stakes involved in in 1989's Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. At this point Marvel knows how to tune these movies out like clockwork, tossing in the required emotional beats at all the right moments for its films to qualify as correctly formed and properly structured entertainments, but I can see the cogs churning. This one especially felt like it only barely hung together enough to make the cut. It left my thoughts the moment is was over, and I doubt I'll give it another one past the end of this sentence.