Director: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Peña
As Apple keep on saying, small is the new big, and Ant-Man is certainly Marvel’s smallest superhero yet. But do not take this amazing shrinking man lightly, as Ant-Man packs one heck of a punch. It’s one of Marvel’s most grounded films, which is a nice break from the over-the-top blockbusters we have seen from them in recent years.
Paul Rudd is Scott Lang, a thief and loveable rogue, recently released from prison. He wants to make amends for his past crimes and reconnect with his young daughter, however old habits die hard and he finds himself breaking into the house of a wealthy old man called Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Yet this break in seems to have been a ruse instigated by none other than Pym himself, who ends up recruiting Lang to don the fabled Ant-Man suit in order to fight what used to be Pym’s old tech company.
It’s hard to talk about Ant-Man without mentioning Edgar Wright and his writing partner Joe Cornish. Their split with Marvel after having worked on the script for so many years was much talked about in the press. It came as a bit of a surprise and was very disappointing, mainly because we will never get to know what Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man would have been like. However, bringing in Peyton Reed to direct and getting Rudd and Adam McKay to tweak the script a little, putting their own spin on it, was a stroke of genius on Marvel’s part, because this film could have so easily been a complete mess.
One question… Is it too late to change the name?
Ant-Man is far from being a mess; it’s actually one of Marvel’s most grounded films yet. Consistently funny, Michael Peña steals all of the scenes he is in (he’s a comedic revelation in this film), Rudd adds himself to the already long list of Marvel’s charismatic leading men and even Michael Douglas looks like he’s having more fun than he has done in years. Ant-Man serves as a fantastic ant-idote for the action-heavy and slightly messy Avengers: Age of Ultron.
If anything, Ant-Man is reminiscent of the early films in the first phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (as they like to call it), such as the original Iron-Man and Kenneth Branagh’s Thor. It has a simple plot and remains largely self-contained. As their cinematic universe has expanded, Marvel’s films have become more convoluted as they try to tie each film with one another. Ant-Man is still part of this universe, and includes an excellent cameo from a new Avenger, yet it doesn’t let itself get bogged down with stuff from the other films.
Much like Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man takes on another film genre: in this case it’s a heist movie. It may not be Ocean’s Eleven or Heat, but it serves as an interesting break from what we have come to expect from superhero movies, giving the film a lighter tone and more room for Rudd and McKay’s brand of humour. It could be described as Ocean’s Eleven meets Honey I Shrunk the Kids, just with better jokes and more superhero action.
Sorry I’m late, I was saving the world. You know how it is.
Ant-Man’s special abilities allow for some pretty innovative scenes involving small areas, toys and other more mundane objects becoming epic environments for some even more epic fights. The Thomas the Tank Engine scene is hands down one of the very best fight scenes in any Marvel film, and has Wright’s and Cornish’s fingerprints all over it. Who else would think of putting Thomas the Tank Engine in a Marvel film? You can’t help but be overcome by an almost childish sense of glee when watching Ant-Man shrink in size, ride ants, jump through key holes and basically do anything which the 10-year-old you would have given everything to be able to do when playing in the garden or with your toy cars.
However, Ant-Man’s main problem is its villain. Once again, Marvel have delivered yet another uninteresting bad guy, their strongest and most engaging villain being Loki by some distance. Corey Stoll is a talented actor and does everything he can with the character of Darren Cross who eventually becomes Ant-Man’s nemesis Yellowjacket, yet the character’s story arch is a tad weak, and his motives are slightly old-hat. Cross was Pym’s prodigy and got upset when Hank failed to divulge the secrets behind his formula that lets you shrink in size without turning into red goo. It’s that old student versus teacher story which has been done so many times in the past.
Despite its ant-sized flaws, Ant-Man manages to be one of the most fun experiences of the year so far. The Wright and Cornish debacle was a shame, yet their ideas are still there; they have still been credited with the story, and get top billing on the script. It would be interesting to know the elements they would have changed or done differently, yet we will just have to let that go. Ant-Man is still a fine Marvel film and keeps up the high standard we have come to expect from the comic book-turned-filmmaking company.