“If you don’t have Thor’s hammer, Hulk’s bulk, Captain America’s resolve or Iron Man’s know-how, what’s an Avenger to do? The answer provided by Ant-Man is to go small, smaller than Black Widow’s fingernail, and exude a good sense of humor, which is precisely what floats this latest addition to the Marvel firmament,” writes Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy. “The timing might even be fortuitous as far as the fan base is concerned, what with the sense of overkill emanating from the most recent Avengers installment and a mirth quotient in the new outing that, by Marvel standards, ranks behind only that of the disarming Guardians of the Galaxy last summer.

“Although the story dynamics are fundamentally silly and the family stuff, with its parallel father-daughter melodrama, is elemental button-pushing, a good cast led by a winning Paul Rudd puts the nonsense over in reasonably disarming fashion.

“The geek world, even if it approves what has finally emerged onscreen, will still always wonder what Ant-Man would have been like if, as originally intended, Edgar Wright, he of Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World cultish veneration, had directed the screenplay he wrote with Joe Cornish. Would it have been more extreme, irreverent, idiosyncratic and, in the end, less Marvel-like?

“One can surmise that Rudd and his writing partner Adam McKay punched up the script with more humorous banter and character humor, and Peyton Reed (Bring It On) has directed with energy, neatly accommodating the assorted comic styles of Rudd and some of the supporting players, most notably Michael Pena. But it’s usually interesting when an idiosyncratic talent like Wright gets involved with an existing franchise, so the curiosity will always linger.”

Flashback: I’m no Edgar Wright fan, as these excerpts from my 8.12.10 Scott Pilgrim vs. the World review will attest:

Excerpt #1: “Even though it seems to be putting out a kind of aesthetic nerve gas, this is some kind of cool-ass, smarty-pants, richly stylized…uhm, waste of time? It has wit and vigor and smart music, and it gradually makes you want to run outside and take an elevator to the top of a tall building and jump off.”

Excerpt #2: “No, seriously, it’s not too bad. I mean, you know…just kill me.”

Excerpt #3: “I didn’t want to kill myself while watching Scott Pilgrim vs The World. That notion or impulse came later. I know that if movies are in fact going to be moving more and more in the direction of Scott Pilgrim in the coming years — video-game inspirations, glib dialogue, wimpy girlymen in lead roles, bullshit video-game fight scenes, laid-back gay guys engaged in threesomes in shitty basement apartments — then I really would rather die. Because movies as I’ve known them all my life would in fact be dead, and there’d be nothing to live for.”