Ant-Man may be small in stature, but he is definitely big on action and laughs.
Summer movies can’t come much bigger than Marvel’s comic-book blockbusters so it’s refreshing to see the studio downsize for their latest. Along with a roster that shows no signs of stopping the expansion their superhero cinematic universe Marvel have a lot riding on Ant-Man’s success. Rounding off phase two, Ant-Man proves that Marvel still have the magic formula to make lesser-known superheroes into galactic success stories.
Ant-Man sees Paul Rudd as cat-burglar Scott Lang, who becomes the titular superhero after stealing a suit that is capable of shrinking him to ant-size. Just out of prison after a three year stretch for robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, Lang is looking for a shot at redemption so that he can share custody of his estranged daughter with his ex-wife. His old friend Luis (Michael Pena) lures him into one last job, but when Lang ends up stealing the secret suit of inventor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), he is targeted by the old genius for something bigger and more important than petty crime.
In introducing all these new characters, there is a hell of a lot of back-story to get bogged down in, and some of Ant-Man’s larger stretches of exposition are starchy even if there is a gag on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Douglas’ Pym does most of the filling-in, but at times it feels like every supporting character has a lifetime’s worth of history to get off their chest. Pym has a history of his own adventures while wearing the suit in his younger days, and also a tragic back-story to boot. His relationship with daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) is strained, but she is working with her father to keep tabs on Dr Cross, the man who is trying to recreate the Pym particle and turn the shrinking technology into a weapon for his own gains.
There’s nothing even remotely original about Corey Stoll’s sneering villain Dr Cross, though the House of Cards actor invests the character with a decent dose of gravitas. Crucially, Cross only manages to get his Yellowjacket suit working just in time for the finale, so Ant-Man doesn’t spend most of its running time on a series of increasingly boring face-offs between two CGI characters beating the crap out of each other.
Instead, the majority of Ant-Man resembles more of a heist movie than the typical origin story. Yes, there are training sequences and plenty of scenes of Lang getting to grips with his new abilities, but the purpose is less to kick some super-villain’s ass and more to break in to a super-secure facility and stop him ever becoming a supervillain in the first place.
Marvel’s biggest coup is the casting of Paul Rudd whose easy charm is consistently winning, always ready to crank out a wisecrack and play this whole thing for laughs. The comedy value is upped considerably by Michael Peña as Lang’s loveably dim-witted sidekick. Peña’s a huge talent, just as good goofing off here as he is in more dramatic roles.
Michael Douglas is solid as the grouchy inventor Hank Pym who has his own daddy-daughter issues but there is little surprise in where that relationship is heading. However, in case you don’t know by now, stick around through the credits, as particularly the mid-credits sting promises an exciting future for Lily’s Hope.
There are undoubtedly many Easter Eggs for rabid fans to sift through, but Ant-Man only features of couple of Avengers cameos, even if Lang’s first response when told he has to save the world is to call in the super-group instead.
Even with all its humour, the film lives and dies on its effects and while every effort has been made to get viewers immersed in Lang’s miniature escapades, some scenes really struggle to be convincing. Seeing a tiny little person riding around on a flying ant is always going to require a lot of suspension of disbelief but it’s also something that needs work in future films. Even with macro photography to capture the minute details of Lang’s surroundings, Ant-Man still fails to fit well, particularly when Computer Generated Imagery elements are used to create water.
Still, by the time the final set-piece arrives, none of this matters as the full-size fun of Ant-Man becomes clear. By casting Paul Rudd and filling Ant-Man with wonderfully timed comedy gold, Marvel have ensured another huge success.
About the Author
Peter Turner Senior Reporter & Critic for Tastic Film.