Believe it or not Ant-Man is a real film based on a real superhero (well of course, fictional). He was created in 1962 by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby and has been a B-List Marvel character ever since. In 2006 Edgar Wright started to attempt to bring the shrinking superhero to the big screen when he wrote a script for the project. Wright then went on to develop the film for 8 years, with his other projects causing delays. Finally in 2014, he was set to direct Ant-Man for the now successful Marvel Studios. To cut a long story short (and believe me I’m trying) , a month before filming was set to begin, he then mutually agreed with Marvel to leave the project due to create differences. Yes Man director Peyton Reed then took over. As Wright was adored by critics, many have wondered whether Ant-Man would turn out to be Marvel’s first failure due to his absence. Now, with history lesson over, we can start the review.
I bet that when you first heard about an Ant-Man film there’s a good chance you thought, “Ant-Man?!? WTF, they’re scraping the barrel for superheroes now.” Even as a comic book movie connoisseur myself I was a bit sceptical of how Ant-Man would work in his own standalone film. But after the success of last year’s box office smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy (which grossed $774.2 million worldwide), Marvel have proved that they know what they’re doing when it comes to their kookier and lesser-known characters work.
And Ant-Man does indeed work as the shrinking superhero is a welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe which already has an array of larger than life characters. Not only do Ant-Man’s powers make him very different to the other Marvel heroes, but so too does his alter ego, Scott Lang.
When we first meet Lang (Paul Rudd) he’s fresh out of jail and struggling to keep a job due to his criminal past. Baby-mama drama means that he’s banned from seeing his adorable young daughter Cassie until he can pay child support. His expert skills for stealing make him the perfect man for Hank Pym’s (Michael Douglas) plans so he is enlisted by the retired scientist/superhero to help stop his Pym particle technology being weaponised.
Two years ago when funny-man Paul Rudd was initially cast as the titular hero there was a collective view among fanboys of “Eh?” But Rudd completely proves that he was made for the part as his self-depreciating sense of humour along with his effortless likeability make him a leading man you instantly root for. The concept of a shrinking superhero who can talk to ants could have easily appeared as being extremely ridiculous but it’s a testament to Rudd’s charm that we laugh with Ant-Man and not at him.
Rudd’s co-stars are all equally on fine form as Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly both deliver great performances as Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne. Oscar award winner Douglas fully commits to the role as the secretive ex scientist Pym while Lilly’s ice queen van Dyne is as serious as her bob haircut. The film’s most dramatic scenes arise from the strained father-daughter relationship between the two which plays out very well.
Credit must also be given to Michael Pena who plays Lang’s motor mouthed best bud Luis and steals almost every scene he’s in. The flashback scenes where he narrates the lines of others in his own wild words produce some of the films biggest laughs.
And as expected from a Marvel movie, Ant-Man is a blend of action and comedy. When Ant-Man shrinks for the first time, he has to avoid death by bathwater, clubbers, a hoover and a rat in a visually stunning sequence.
After the huge city smashing destruction earlier in the year from Avengers: Age of Ultron (which is snarkily referenced by Hank Pym) there was a need for Marvel to scale back the stakes in order to keep things fresh. Ant-Man certainly brings something new to the table as, on the whole, it feels very different to anything else in the crowded comic-book movie market.
However, the film does suffer from one of the major setbacks which many Marvel films are guilty of having which is a weak villain. While Corey Stoll is excellent as the villainous Darren Cross, when he becomes the evil version of Ant-Man, Yellow Jacket, he falls a bit flat. Yellow Jacket does look cool and can do some impressive things, but he isn’t given enough screen time to become a memorable baddie and feels like he was shoved in for the mandatory climatic fight scene.
Another slight flaw of Ant-Man is the amount of action in the film. By nature, superhero flicks are supposed to be action-packed and while the action scenes Ant-Man does have offer thrilling, impressive and immersive visuals, it could have done with a couple more scenes of Ant-Man kicking somebody’s ass. To be fair to Marvel, they did try to market Ant-Man as a more of a heist film but I you expect a certain level of hero vs villain clashes in these types of things.
Still Ant-Man is an incredibly enjoyable film which is almost two hours of pure entertainment. There are numerous references to the Marvel Cinematic which will satisfy comic book genre fans (look out for a cameo from a New Avenger and two important post credit scenes) while those who aren’t particularly superhero savvy should still have a very good time with this origin story. Ant-Man scores a: