The smallest superhero on the block finally crawls onto the big screen – but is it an import-ant addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe or just p-ants?
The knives were being sharpened by many for Marvel’s latest when Edgar Wright, who had been attached to the project before The Avengers was a glimmer in head honcho Kevin Feige’s eye, left the project due to reported ‘creative differences’ and garnered plenty of sympathy in the process.
As is Marvel’s wont, the studio again went against convention by hiring the little known Peyton Reed, whose biggest hit until now had been the forgettable Jim Carrey vehicle Yes Man (2008) (he also helmed 2006’s The Break-Up; another one of Vince Vaughn’s painful ‘comedies’).
Bearing in mind the tight schedule Reed inherited to meet the film’s summer release date – as well as the fact its star Paul Rudd and Anchorman‘s Adam McKay weighed in on Wright and Joe Cornish’s initial script – it’s pleasantly surprising how well Ant-Man holds up.
The story itself is relatively lean. Newly released prisoner Scott Lang (Rudd) finds himself unwittingly recruited by former S.H.I.E.L.D super-scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to inherit the mantle of the Ant-Man. Lang dons the suit and is trained by Pym and his estranged daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) to properly use the powers inherent in the Ant-Man suit in order to stop Pym’s former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from perfecting his own miniaturizing suit – the Yellowjacket – and using it to revolutionise warfare.
After the excessive bombast of Avengers: Age Of Ultron, it’s refreshing to watch a Marvel movie that manages to avoid its now familiar epic final act with something that, logically in this case, is much smaller in scale. Instead of duking it out on a giant airship or throwing a nondescript foreign city up in the air, Ant-Man‘s final battle takes place in the far more modest surroundings of a suburban house (involving a genuinely inventive and amusing train sequence).
The film also manages maintain a light and breezy tone in spite of the studio’s usual shenanigans; poking fun at the concept of a man being able to zap himself down to the size of an insect whilst avoiding the pitfall of descending into lame farce.
The casting of Rudd certainly signalled the direction the studio was going in for Ant-Man, although the transition from comic actor (with the occasional dramatic role) to superhero was never going to be a given and it’s to Rudd’s credit that he just about sells the action alongside the comedy.
This knowing self-deprecation comes to the fore when Lang comes up against an Avenger and can’t help apologising to his opponent when he somehow manages to get the better of him.
He’s lent great support from the ever-versatile Michael Peña, who plays Lang’s former cellmate and is part of the crew who gets dragged into the plan to steal the Yellowjacket. Peña’s comic timing is first-rate, while his character’s decision to save a security guard he knocked out earlier is a nice touch.
Douglas is given the heavy lifting script-wise with exposition-aplenty, but if there’s one actor you can rely on to deliver reams of dialogue with effortless charisma it’s Mr Gordon Gekko. Douglas’ presence adds heft to what is ultimately a light and frothy blockbuster and his scenes with Rudd are among the film’s highlights.
Lilly, on the other hand, struggles to make much of the movie’s sole female part. Sporting a harsh black bobbed haircut which lazily exemplifies her cool exterior, Hope is clearly far more qualified than Lang to don the Ant-(Wo)Man suit, but is instead there to merely roll her eyes and serve the plot. Pity.
It will be interesting to see how the Ant-Man fits into the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it moves into its latest globe-swallowing phase. There’s enough potential here for a fun and unpretentious franchise; Ant-Man proves that good things can come in small packages.
Nice review, nicely picking up on the deprived female role
Cheers James. I feel bad that I’ve barely had time to spend on my own blog and check other blogs out this past month or so; hopefully I’ll be able to get more time on it during August. Thanks again mate.
I know how that feels, you’ll find time eventually
Nice review Mark. I haven’t seen this, but can’t help but imagine what Edgar Wright would have done with this material. It’s always going to be a big “what-if” that will continue to haunt this movie no longer how long the Marvel series persists.
Thank you buddy. It’s one of those ‘what ifs’ that we’ll probably never discover but I wonder the same thing. Maybe we’ll see it as a graphic novel one day; who knows!
This a very nice surprise among the tentpole franchises this summer. Fine review, Mark.
Thanks as always mate; twas a nice surprise indeed 🙂
Solid review. I liked this movie but it doesn’t seem like one that will stick with me. I just can’t get over the flimsy villain and run-of-the-mill origin and redemption story. And I think I’m still wishing they would have told the Janet and Hank story from the comics instead of Scott Lang. But that’s really a quibble based on my love for those comic characters.
Thank you Keith, most kind. Stoll’s villain doesn’t particularly stand out as he’s not given enough to do but Stoll does his best with it. I’ll be honest, I know very little about the Ant-Man comic, but I’m hoping Ant-Man 2 gets greenlit.
Ah, I see you have managed to work in a few insect-related puns here as well. Clever bugger. 😉 I can’t argue with Lilly’s underwritten role but I think she did actually quite well with what she was handed. It was clearly the weakest part of them all. Except maybe Yellowjacket itself. I LOVE Corey Stoll and it’s a shame his transformation was into a really insignificant villain. As Darren Cross though I was smelling hints of Congressmen Russo from House of Cards.
Couldn’t resist Tom! I was thinking about how I could crowbar them into the review! I thought Lilly was fine, but she had very little to work with. Stoll is a solid actor (quite why he’s starring in The Strain I don’t know…) but again he had little to work with. As I say in the review, there’s definite potential here and I am hoping for a stand-alone sequel.
I wasn’t planning on seeing this, but saw a promo with the director and cast and crew and they were so into it. The reviews have been really positive too.
Yeah, I’d definitely say it’s worth it Alex. Thanks for the feedback 🙂
I’ll probably give this a look when it comes out on VOD : )
Glad you enjoyed this one Mark. Your last line sums it up perfectly. I like the lean, more focused story and the fact that it’s more of a heist flick than a straight superhero movie. I think Lily would get more play in the sequel, at least I hope so as she didn’t get to do much here.
I’m sure Marvel will get a sequel off the ground even if it somewhat underwhelms at the box office. If that’s the case, then I hope too that Lilly gets more to do. She’s a fine actor and I hope the part has more meat on it next time around. Thanks Ruth!
I think that train sequence was the highlight for me. In fact I was entertained throughout the final act. The Marvelness of it all is something I found a bit depressing, but I’ve certainly seen worse!
I heard today that Ant-Man is the 12th MCU movie. It’s hard to remember a time when Marvel wasn’t making movies isn’t it??
It is…I keep thinking public tastes will change and it’ll all grind to a halt but there doesn’t seem to be much sign of that at the moment.
I like this movie a lot, I thought it’s narrow focus was an asset for sure. But I’m wary about seeing him in any kind of Avengers lineup.
Yeah, I strongly suspect Ant-Man will end up, funilly enough, being like Anthony Mackie’s Falcon, ie someonw who’s there on the fringes but never gets that much to do. Hope not though.
I found this to be a rather undistinguished entry in the Marvel canon. It’s average. not bad, not good, it just exists.
Fair points Mark. I don’t think it has ambitions to be anything more than what it is. I enjoyed it, but suspect it will slip away from the memory fairly quickly.
Great review. I went in with low expectations and had a lot of fun. Very entertaining and actually funny, without trying too hard.
Pretty much. Well said Fernando and thanks for the kind words 🙂