Had Ant-Man been a Marvel superhero version of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids with visual wit and a healthy sense of microcosmic wonder, it would have been a great movie. If it had been a bittersweet examination of father-daughter relationships in a contemporary comic-book context paralleling Michael Douglas as outcast genius with seemingly diffident daughter played by Evangeline (Lost, The Hobbit) Lilly in contrast to Paul Rudd as a cat-burglar jailbird with a worshipful little daughter, this might have been a pretty good movie. If it had been a Marvel origin story wound up in the warp and woof of Captain America and The Avengers, it might have been a boring film.
Problem is, it’s all of the above. And the mixture of these strands isn’t graceful or mutually enriching. It feels more like someone restlessly turning channels on a television set, jumping between similar stories. Fanboys will grouse about how the Ant-Man story changed from comic to script (though their biggest legitimate complaint is all the fuss applied to proving that woman can be strong, too. Comic fans already know that, America). The emotional discussions here are stiffer than cardboard. There are psychedelic moments, but the best parts feature Rudd as Ant-Man running into trouble on a disco dance floor, on a spinning LP, and up against Thomas the Train. Little things do count.
This seemed a lively prospect to follow up Guardians of the Galaxy, a film also based on an obscure comic book mixing special-effects marvels with a brilliant sense of humor. Marvel originally picked Edgar (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim) Wright to helm Ant-Man, but a falling-out left behind a film doomed to hodgepodge — multiple writers and a director whose earlier credits aren’t stellar. What should have been fun ended up overinflated with too much awkward Disney moralizing. Ant-Man’s miniscule mission first got expanded, and then it shrunk.