UK Release Date: 17th July 2015
Runtime: 117 minutes
Director: Peyton Reed
Writer: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Peña, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale
Synopsis: A small-time thief is drafted by scientist Hank Pym to become a superhero with the power to shrink his size and harness the power of ants.
With Avengers: Age of Ultron arriving at the very beginning of the summer cinema season, you could be forgiven for having forgotten about Ant-Man. The film, which was a passion project for Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright, had mainly been talked about for its backroom controversies as Wright was replaced in the director’s chair by Peyton Reed. The final result, though, is Marvel’s best film of the year.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is released from prison after serving a sentence for burglary and moves back in with his friend Luis (Michael Pena). Meanwhile, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) learns that the new boss of his company, Cross (Corey Stoll), has almost perfected the Yellowjacket – a suit with shrinking qualities that could be weaponised. Pym enlists Lang, with the help of his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), to stop Cross at all costs with the help of his own suit, becoming the Ant-Man.
Right from the start, Ant-Man feels like a refreshing return to the early Marvel works. Most clearly, it evokes the first Iron Man film, with its evil corporate antagonist who mimics the central character’s technology. It also takes that film’s easy-going sense of humour, embracing the inherently ludicrous premise of its superhero protagonist. As a result, Ant-Man feels a great deal breezier than many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.
| "I didn’t steal anything! I was returning something I stole."
The casting of Paul Rudd is a creative masterstroke as he is very much the symbol of breezy, uncomplicated humour. Rudd takes the frequent comedy, which likely derives from either Wright or the rewrite from Anchorman’s Adam McKay, and gives it his trademark charm and sensitivity. He constantly seems in awe of the superpowers he obtains in the film and feels far more down to earth than other heroes.
Supporting roles are filled by some exciting actors. Douglas does a solid job as the grouchy mentor and Evangeline Lilly is nicely defiant, even though the script gives her very little to do. The same goes for Corey Stoll, who is yet another one-dimensional Marvel villain. Michael Pena, though, walks away with the film as Lang’s fast-talking crook friend. He gets many of the best comedy moments in Ant-Man and lights up the film whenever he appears.
It’s those comedy moments that really light up Ant-Man. The narrative and the action is pretty conventional, excepting an excellent Thomas the Tank Engine beat, but the film is a constant source of wit. It does get a little too bogged down in nodding and winking at other Marvel films, though, with many of the lines feeling like a reminder to the audience that Ant-Man exists in the same world as the rest of those films.
| "Sorry I’m late. I was saving the world. You know how it is."
It seems wrong to pick at Ant-Man much because it feels like a pleasant and free-standing interlude in the midst of a whirlwind of continuity and dangling plot threads. The casting works nicely and the loss of Edgar Wright doesn’t hit the film too hard. It’s not going to shake the foundations of Marvel like Captain America: The Winter Soldier did, but it’s a great night at the movies.
Pop or Poop?
In a world where superhero films are expected to add depth to their universe, it’s great to see a film like Ant-Man that doesn’t seem bothered about that.
Paul Rudd shines and all of the jokes land as one of the weirder Avengers commences his path to the big leagues. There’s encouraging moves for the future of Evangeline Lilly too.
It’s a bit throwaway and there’s the nagging sense that Edgar Wright might have done it better, but Ant-Man is, appropriately enough, no small hit.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.