Avengers: Age of Ultron was a massive movie. There was something like a million robots, upwards of five antagonists and one lavish, sprawling set piece after another, each in its own corner of the globe. What better way to follow up what is quite possibly the biggest superhero movie of all time than with what is most definitely the smallest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet.
Get it? Cause small? Cause ants? Cause I’m talking about Ant-Man?
Ant-Man applies Marvel Studios’ trademark, money-printing charm to the heist movie, a genre that traditionally entails far smaller conflicts than world-ending androids. The marriage of Marvel style and the heist genre winds up delivering what in many ways is the polar opposite of Age of Ultron.
Where Age of Ultron pits a genocidal robot hive mind devising an extinction-level event up against a flying aircraft carrier of speedsters, witches and more benevolent other robots in a city turned into an asteroid, Ant-Man sees a bald guy trying his hand at corporate espionage only to come up against a convict and a van full of his friends in a final battle that plays out on a toy train set. It’s exactly what the doctor order after a movie as dense, and some would argue bloated, as Age of Ultron.
Ant-Man is also great in its own right, largely because it’s hilarious. Whether you’ve heard a thousand times already or not, enough can’t be said about how fantastic Michael Peña is as Luis, one of the aforementioned friends in a van. He manages to steal the show from any and all set pieces, action sequences and Michaels Douglas.
The movie isn’t without its shortcomings, however. It aggravatingly finds its narrative almost completely reliant on the increasingly asinine “don’t tell the entirely capable, grown woman anything because she needs to be protected” trope. But the best special effects any Marvel movie has boasted so far, coupled with Michael Peña’s out-of-the-park comedic performance make Ant-Man the perfect breath of fresh air between the much bleaker Age of Ultron and the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, which is sure to be a dire tale indeed.