Between Marvel Studios and DC Entertainment, there has been a flood of comic book heroes — big names and lesser-knowns — infiltrating mainstream media in the past few years. It’s a classic case of Hollywood latching on to something that works and beating every ounce of creativity from it. Luckily, Marvel has done a good job of keeping up the entertainment factor in what was once a strictly nerd-culture storyline, with films like The Avengers and the rest of the intertwined Marvel Universe. But the stories have become repetitive and predictable: hero gets origin story, hero faces seemingly unbeatable villain, hero saves the world. So regardless of how well Thor, Iron Man and Captain America do in the box office, it’s hard to ignore that Hollywood is clearly riding a comic book-superhero bubble, and it’s not a matter of if, but when that bubble will burst.
When Ant-Man was announced and it was said Paul Rudd would be the hero, the bubble seemed to be reaching critical mass. Marvel was officially running low on material and digging through the more obscure archives. But, after the Audi sponsored premier on Monday night, by the time the credits rolled (and Marvel’s signature post-credits clip had played) I realized Marvel just pulled a fast one on everybody, including me. For Ant-Man, the generic story arc, which inevitably ends in a city being leveled, was eschewed. With just enough Ant-Man background info to inform the uneducated, the story quickly moved on to the setup of the main event: the heist.
Ant-Man could have easily fallen into the dime-a-dozen comic book superhero abyss, but the Ocean’s Eleven-meets-Mission Impossible take is the fresh shakeup the genre needed. The action is all there, but instead of cities crumbling in a massive alien attack, the climactic fight scene takes place on a speeding train — mind you it’s a toy train, in a child’s bedroom. And where the dull boy-scout seriousness of Captain America or Hawkeye has its place in the larger films, it grows tiring after two hours; Paul Rudd’s signature snark was a natural fit for his “anti-hero” character, Scott Lang, an ex-con who’s certainly not earning any merit badges. The Ant-Man story definitely plays its part in the larger Marvel Universe story arc, but the new delivery and character archetypes are a welcome refresh, certainly not short on entertainment.