When Paul Rudd was announced as Marvel Studio's latest onscreen superhero, there were a few people who couldn't help but mutter, huh?
It's not that anyone has any ill feelings towards the actor—in fact it's probably not an exaggeration to say that he's one of the most-loved A-listers out there—but he certainly doesn't fit the profile of the typical comic book frontman. Audiences have been conditioned to expect big hulking bodies and chiseled jaws in the role of the superhero. In the realm of Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Mackie, Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner, there's no denying that Rudd stands out.
But that's also what gave Ant-Man the potential to shine. There were a lot of bumps in the flick's road to the big screen, including script rewrites, director shakeups and infinite rumors, but Paul Rudd is one of the few stars who could step in front of the camera and charm his way out of all the movie's problems. So, just how does he measure up?
It's worth starting with the fact that Ant-Man, as a movie, seems to know that people might think Rudd isn't a typical superhero. The story opens with a joke about his size and strength, as Scott Lang (a.k.a. the soon-to-be Ant-Man) gets his a-- handed to him in a prison brawl. (Yes, it's prison, but he was locked up in the first place for hacking into a company's software to return money to its customers.) Rudd also makes a few self-aware jokes about whether he's fit for the job. Most notably? "I think our first move...should be calling The Avengers." Zing!
Paul also seemed to have done a bit of work in preparation for the new role. Yes, that means he got jacked. And yes, he takes his shirt off. And yes, he looks good. Damn good. He took a few fighting lessons, too, and even though a good portion of his action scenes are done with CGI (he plays an ant-sized superhero, after all), he has some live-action brawls in which he really holds his own. He even [spoiler alert] takes on a real live Avenger and doesn't embarrass himself. (And no, we're not telling you which Avenger).
But, even without the newly-acquired washboard abs and left hook, Rudd pretty much nails it. Ant-Man is a different kind of superhero movie, after all. The star of the show is a former electrical engineer who's saving the world not just out of the goodness of his heart but because it will give him a chance to see his estranged daughter again. His superpower is shrinking down to near-microscopic size and commanding a herd of actual ants to do his bidding. The flick's culminating fight scene doesn't happen at the edge of the universe or on a giant fighter ship or in a far-flung eastern European town that's about to be destroyed—it's in a little girl's bedroom and the chief weapon at hand is a Thomas the Tank Engine toy. Ant-Man is quirky, and no one does quirky better than Paul Rudd. He's also damn funny.
The plight of comic book humor isn't a new issue, but Ant-Man's jokes are actually good. Rudd's dry humor serves the classic fight scene one-liner better than most, and his ad-libbing isn't too shabby either. Sure, the movie's script could be a little more put-together, but Rudd is the glue that holds it all together. Not many actors could make two hours of ant humor enjoyable, after all. He may not be as traditionally hunky like the Thors and Captain Americas of the world, but he doesn't need to be and nobody's asking him to. (But, it begs to be mentioned that he can wear a five-o'-clock shadow and an ant helmet like nobody else).
Many Marvel fans will see Ant-Man's purpose as a way to legitimatize the character, and Rudd himself, in the world of the Avengers. Rudd does a great job of proving he's a worthy contender for the crew, and there's no question he succeeds. He might even have fans wishing that some of Marvel's other superheros could pick up some of his humor. But we're not naming names, of course.
Ant-Man is out Friday, July 17.