Ant-Man (2015) is the final film of Phase Two in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It introduces Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man, and his passing the torch to Scott Lang (Paul Rudd).

What a fun movie! Paul Rudd is absolutely endearing and such a funny guy. His superhero persona channels Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord over the more serious Avengers superheroes in the MCU, but, jokes aside, he does have a serious motivation: his daughter. He’s a hero in her eyes, and he wants to prove to her and every one else that he isn’t a lost cause. Pym isn’t as messed up as he is in the comics, but there is a huge rift between him and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly). She is a strong and focused woman, an expert in everything her father mastered — everything from fighting skills to communicating with ants. Lilly, as always, puts on a superb performance, transcending the script more than was perhaps imagined. Similarly, Judy Greer’s few scenes as Lang’s ex-wife are scene-stealers. Every thing she does looks perfectly natural and effortless. (Someone write a leading role for Judy Greer, please.)

I still have trouble grasping the idea of Ant-Man. It’s hard for me to accept a shrunken superhero who fights with normal-sized superheroes. I concede that I have seen giants fighting with normal-sized superheroes, like Juggernaut in X-Men and I suppose the Hulk, but going the other way is strange. Half the time I was laughing at how funny it is to watch tiny superheroes fighting, like on the train set. As fun as it is to watch, and as fun as it makes a movie night out, it’s hard for me to take seriously, which I get isn’t the point — but at some point Ant-Man (and Wasp!) will join up with the Avengers and I can’t even imagine how that will work out. But that’s my own issue. I look forward to Phase Three of the MCU, which starts with Captain America: Civil War where Ant-Man will make his next appearance. It’s also weird watching ants doing strategic missions. It’s both absurd and frightening — I might have ant army nightmares.

Ant-Man is a lot of fun, what with Rudd’s funny and sometimes awkward jokes and Michael Peña’s excellent storytelling; however, it is a pretty generic superhero film: origin, training, execution. Luckily, there are all the fun elements to make it not so pedantic, largely coming from the solid cast. When Iron Man came out, his was a character that was not very familiar outside of the comic books world, but now he is a household name. I like that Marvel is including less known characters, like Ant-Man and The Guardians of the Galaxy. Enjoy a summer night with Ant-Man, and make sure that you stay until the very end of the end credits hint hint nudge nudge.

X-Men: First Class

Quote of the movie: “Mutant and proud!”

X-Men: First Class (2011) is a reboot of the X-Men franchise, directed by Matthew Vaughan. The film chronicles the lives of Charles Xavier/Professor X (James McAvoy) and Eric Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Both are young boys who have a gift, but they have discovered and developed them in very different ways. Charles, with the subtle gift of telepathy, grew up in a secure household, very open to learning and understanding his ability. Eric, at a German concentration camp during WWII, discovers his ability trying to save his parents, and it’s only by the murder of his mother when he can begin to understand how to tap into his power. From the very get-go, Charles has a safe and peaceful association with his ability — and mutants in general. Eric, on the other hand, associates his gift with anger and pain — and with the concept of power.

To further establish Charles’ open-mindedness, he catches “his mother” in his kitchen once. She looks and sounds like his mother, but she doesn’t act anything like her. Attempting to steal some food, Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) transforms from Charles’ mother to her real self: a scaly blue creature with red hair. Charles invites her to his home, promising her companionship and food. While this movie primarily focuses on Charles and Eric, Raven is a very important third character. Charles doesn’t mind her appearance, but he encourages her to hide her real self from society. It’s this society conformity that Raven struggles with throughout the entire movie. She wants to be “beautiful”, but human society would never accept her as such. She takes on a beautiful guise, but that’s not *really* her. It’s not until Eric works together with Charles and Raven where she finally feels some acceptance from another person; he encourages her to be her true self.

Whether or not this follows X-Men comic lore, I really enjoyed the backstory in this movie. From my vague memory of X-Men cartoons, I knew that Professor X and the X-Men constantly battle against Magneto and his group of mutants. I’m sure it had been implied that they were friends at some point, and I really enjoyed seeing their friendship in this movie. Charles, through his gift of telepathy, can truly understand the experiences and feelings of anybody he reads, which makes his guidance and concern extremely sincere. He really wants to find the best inside of everyone.

Eric has a fervent hatred towards Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), the man who killed his mother. While working with Charles, he internally always wanted to get revenge against Shaw. When the moment finally comes, he shuts out Charles, who would convince him to act otherwise. He murders Shaw and he exhibits his true feelings about mutants and humans — mutants are the better beings and humans must be destroyed, or else they will destroy the mutants. Charles doesn’t feel that way at all; he truly believes that there can be coexistence. Charles and Eric fight and Eric accidentally deflects a bullet into Charles’ spine, causing his paralysis. Eric truly cares for him, but, realizing their differences, he leaves. Before he leaves, he calls for the other mutants to join him. Raven joins him. She also cares for Charles — they have an almost brother/sister bond — but he understands that she needs to follow Eric.  It’s an interesting take on back history that evolved from friendship and brotherhood into animosity and hostility.

The film flaunts a mantra similar to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” — promoting an attitude of self-acceptance. The film’s use of “Mutant and proud” makes the message a little too blunt, but the message is still appreciated. The message even shines light on Charles’ character. As a supporter of mutant-kind, he tries to keep mutant powers discreet — a reality that is quite convenient for him since his ability is undetectable. It shows two sides of his character: one of which is incredibly caring and helpful to the cause while the other promotes a sense of shame.

The reboot is a great success, with a great script and cast. The sequel is set to be released on May 23, 2014, bridging together the new and old cast.