They say good things come in small packages and true to form Marvel Studios Ant-Man has delivered a small gift that everyone can enjoy. Ant-Man is the story of Scott Lang, an ex-burglar who is released from prison with only one thing in mind; making up for the time away from his nine year old daughter Cassie. But when a criminal record and finding a stable job don’t coincide he’s left with no choice but to return to a life of crime in order to make the child support that will enable him visitation rights. On his first heist he discovers a mysterious old home containing an astonishing suit that enables the wearer to shrink to the size of an ant and control them telepathically with a receiver built in to the helmet.
When its owner, a brilliant scientist named Dr. Henry Pym wants it back the two strike a deal. Pym was once a hero in his own right donning the suit for the government during the Cold War era and taking on the mantle of the Ant-Man. But after losing his wife (and superhero partner Janet Van Dyne aka The Wasp) in an adventure gone wrong he walked away from a life of super heroics and while grief stricken; inadvertently pushed his daughter Hope away in the process. Now his research and development company Pym Tech has been taken over by greedy corporate figure Darren Cross who plans to use the technology Pym deemed too great for the world to responsibly handle to build an army of Ant-Man sized suits and sell them to the highest bidder. It’s now up to Pym, Lang and Hope to work together, break in to the high security facility, destroy the research and pull off the ultimate heist.
Since Iron Man, every following Marvel movie has grown bigger and bigger in scale. From corporate corruption to Nazi world domination to alien invasion to planetary destruction; and with stakes soon to reach a battle to infinity and beyond in the upcoming Avengers Infinity War Part 1 and Part 2 many have wondered where these movies could possibly go from there. Which is why it’s a joy to see them return to a smaller and more personal tale to astonish here once again. The stakes still involve an end of the world type scenario (a must have trope of the genre) but among the action is the story of two fathers trying to reconnect with their estranged daughters and both longing for a sense of redemption.
The tone throughout Ant-Man is undeniably fun and the San Francisco backdrop is presented as bright, vibrant and most importantly Marvel make the world an inviting place which is something that sets it apart from its DC comics contemporaries (and if the Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad trailers are anything to go by, it doesn’t look like changing any time soon). I mean at the end of the day if the world is still gonna be a bleak, depressing, grey , gloomy place then is it really worth saving? But that’s for a future review altogether.
Another great thing on display here is the wonderful sense of humour which isn’t shoe horned in with pop culture references or slapstick injuries but instead comes organically from the unusual situations the characters are faced with. Like Rudd stuck working a dull clerk job in a Baskin and Robbins or every time an epic moment happens to those tiny scale but it appears as mundane to anyone else watching. These moments like a plain old suitcase falling from the sky while a secret battle is happening inside or when our hero heaves a full train carriage with all his might off the track and the toy train softly lands up on a window seal. In fact this entire climatic battle on a children’s Thomas the Tank Engine scale railway track is both awe inspiring and at the same time absolutely hilarious. But comedy timing is nothing without great actors.
Paul Rudd at first seems like an odd choice as the lead of a superhero movie but again, like Robert Downey Jr before him, it has proven to be an inspired choice. He brings in the every man perspective and really is that likeable anchor for the mainstream audience. Rudd has proven himself to be a great team player in movies like Anchorman and will be great in an ensemble when inevitably joining the Avengers future roster.
Michael Douglas brings credibility as Hank Pym and tapping in to his action adventure days of “Jewel of the Nile” and “Romancing the Stone”, it’s easy to believe that he was once the heroic Ant-Man. However outside of mentoring and giving speeches he doesn’t have much else to do. In an absolutely mind blowing opening scene though, a heated board room meeting is brought to a stand still when a young 30 years old Michael Douglas storms in the room with the use of digital de-aging. Technology has come leaps and bounds (even since last months Terminator Genysis gave us a digitally young Arnold Schwarzenegger) where when can have digitally aged actors up close on a Imax sized screen and you wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference. It would be a bold (yet expensive) move to make a Hank Pym focused Ant-Man prequel but one I would be dying to see.
The supporting cast are great too, Corey Stoll as the villainous Darren Cross oozes bottled rage and his deep baritone voice brings great menace. Evangeline Lily is OK as Hope Pym but she has little more to do than pout and stomp her feet mostly used here as plot device in where I’m sure she will get her chance to shine. Michael Pena is used for perfectly for comic effect and his long winded stories are a huge highlight.
The absurdity of a hero who fights villains with ants and being small is quenched once you see him in action. The special effects service the story perfectly but unfortunately don’t blow my mind like I wish they could have but there is plenty of room for future sequels to mine that potential and the one emptiness here more than make up for it. What is really impressive though are the costumes and action set pieces. The Ant Man suit is initially mistaken as a motor cycle helmet and suit which is a cool grounded approach that really works and the yellow jacket armour is both menacing an awe-inspiring like an Iron Man/Robocop/Ant-Man hybrid. The fights move at such a fast pace that multiple viewings are required which I think Marvel are counting on. While Ant-Man has opened to shrinking box office compared to Marvel Studios last effort, the massively hyped Age of Ultron, I’m certain good word of mouth will make this a sleeper hit.
While not the in the top three Marvel movies (which is an incredible standard) it does sit highly and is guaranteed to get a few chuckles from young and old. Coming in at a lean 2 hours the movie flies by at a nice pace that won’t leave you feeling like you’ve got ants in your pants. There are a few tiny issues that bugged me though. Many of the best lines from the trailer do not appear in the finished movie; which might be understandable if it were just in early teasers but great jokes shown in the final trailers are now either alternate takes or completely removed from the final film.
At the end of the day though; if you’ve got even a just tiny interest in seeing this I definitely recommend making the effort to check it out. While the idea of a guy whose super power is talking to ants seems silly, push all doubt aside because it is definitely a movie that will grow on you. Oh, and for those wondering if a certain other insect themed hero makes an appearance let’s just say there was a minuscule name drop, but don’t expect more than that in the Marvel cinematic universe just yet.
Review by Dylan Boaden.
For our more in depth look at Ant-Man check out episode 9 https://rcpcmuda.dreamwp.com/2015/07/marvellous-s01e09/ and episode 10 https://rcpcmuda.dreamwp.com/2015/07/podcast-marvellous-s01e10/ of the Marvellous Podcast on the I-Tunes Novastream channel.