Marvel recruits its tiniest Avenger…
Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Pena
Directed by: Peyton Reed / Written by: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish & Adam McKay & Paul Rudd / 117 minutes
What’s it about?
Fresh from prison, ex-con Scott Lang is sought out by scientist and inventor Hank Pym to prevent his work from being developed into a dangerous weapon. To do so, Lang must don Pym’s greatest creation, a super-suit that will allow him to shrink to the size of an insect whilst increasing in strength…he must become the ‘Ant-Man’…
Is there anything Marvel Studios cannot achieve? With Ant-Man the answer, at least for now, is an assured and confident “no”. Surprising and delighting audiences last summer with Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel sought to repeat that success once again with another obscure, lesser known property…yet this time facing the unenviable task of following a highly anticipated Avengers sequel.
Despite the exit of original director (and co-screenwriter) Edgar Wright, Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man successfully rises above those early production troubles, delivering an accessible, visually inventive and fun super-hero caper. Not unlike Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy, leading star Paul Rudd brings a healthy dose of comedic talent and likeability to Ant-Man as central hero Scott Lang, a character whose struggles as an ex-con and absent father provide the narrative’s emotional backbone.
It helps that Rudd is surrounded by a great cast with a range of talents. Leading the charge is A-lister Michael Douglas whose largely straight-faced performance as Hank Pym (father of the shrinking ‘Pym Particle’ and the original Ant-Man) provides a neat counter balance against the hilarity of Lang’s heist buddy Luis (Michael Pena), the maniacal pantomime evil of villain Darren Cross (House of Cards’ Corey Stoll) who seeks to ‘weaponise’ Pym’s work and the strength and determination of Pym’s daughter Hope (The Hobbit’s Evangeline Lilly).
It’s probably unsurprising that there’s a great deal of humour in Ant-Man and it feels appropriate given the premise of a shrinking super-hero able to command an army of ants. The incredulity and bewilderment conveyed by Rudd’s performance (melded with some precise comic timing) aides in retaining audience investment and fosters a willingness to accept the outlandish and simply enjoy the ride.
Amongst the humour and occasional moments of drama (primarily played out via Lang’s afore-mentioned troubles and an emotional rift between Hank Pym and his daughter), Ant-Man delivers some wonderfully inventive action sequences, where the ability to shrink and enlarge at will is utilised to great advantage. Coupled with the lavish visual effects that are part and parcel of today’s blockbusters Ant-Man really is visually striking at times and although it can evoke memories of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids it’s well realised, adeptly executed by director Peyton Reed and worth the extra premium of an IMAX 3D ticket.
Although it functions as a standalone film and origin tale, Ant-Man does provide connections to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe which as always are pleasing from a fan perspective yet not as numerous as Avengers: Age of Ultron and don’t feel too extraneous. If anything, what few connections there are would seem entirely necessary given that Rudd’s Ant-Man will be returning in next year’s Captain America: Civil War.
With Ant-Man, Marvel have taken a potentially hokey super-hero concept and via the creative talent employed made it believable, enjoyable and fun with a good measure of heart. Whilst it may not be as solid or complex as Captain America: The Winter Soldier or as huge as the Avengers films it’s a worthy addition to the ever expanding Marvel cinematic pantheon.
The bottom line: Ant-Man is a fun and action packed blockbuster ride with a great cast and bolstered by impressive visuals.
Ant-Man is in cinemas now.