Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll
After being forced out of his own company, scientist Hank Pym (Douglas) enlists the help of master thief Scott Lang (Rudd) to use his technology of a suit that allows him to shrink to the size of an ant but maintain super human strength in order to stop this technology falling into the wrong hands and being used for evil.
When the cinematic Juggernaut that is the Marvel cinematic universe was just laying down its foundations and Thor was released everyone posed that as its biggest test due to the need to merge a slightly silly concept in the ‘real world’. Well this is of course a slight exaggeration as all super hero films contain their fair share of silliness and technology that almost seems to be invented to get characters out of tight spots created by the narrative.
However the obsession with superhero films being darker seems to have slightly waned a little and as the Marvel films introduce new characters with increasingly silly powers the films try to go for more tongue-in-cheek and self-aware comedy to match the action. This is of course a risk as the balance of comedy and serious character engagement is hard to get right compared to just going for one consistent tone, but as Guardians of the Galaxy proved, when the combination is done right, it can yield great success and acclaim.
Well, there is no denying that as soon as Edgar Wright was enlisted to direct Ant-Man and Paul Rudd announced as the actor to play the lead role, this was always going to be a film with a lighter tone. Though Edgar Wright was eventually replaced by Peyton Reed, the fact the script was written by Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay and Rudd himself meant that Ant-Man knew from the off exactly what tone it wanted to adopt.
There are way too many films these days almost seem like the visual depiction of an argument between a director, the writers and the studio (this year’s Fantastic Four seems to be hideous example of this). Well, the fact Ant-Man seems to be very much aware of itself and all involved are on the same wavelength (despite the director change – Edgar Wright’s visuals may have been too much of a financial risk) is what lies at the heart of its success as an immensely enjoyable film and welcome addition to the Marvel universe.
Utilising Paul Rudd’s great range as an actor, Ant-Man may ultimately feel like just the prologue to what is to come, but what it lacks in an overall arc it makes up for in laughs, inventive action sequences and genuine heart. As Scott Lang, Paul Rudd is totally convincing in the role, and his great comic timing is used to maximum effect as the script contains some great lines that add needed edge to the usual origin story clichés and montages. Likewise Michael Peña is genuinely hilarious in what could have been a very annoying character as the well-known character of ‘hero’s stupid but well intention best friend’, but his performance and the razor sharp lines he gets help him to elevate himself from this cliché.
The action sequences themselves are great fun, with Reed more than happy to mock the slight ridiculousness of the powers the film’s protagonist and antagonist possess, what happens to a Thomas the Tank Engine toy being the highlight. There is also of course the added extreme danger of what would normally be harmless things being now potentially fatal to our protagonist, and these are done extremely well.
One of the key themes of the narrative is family, and despite the potential schmaltzy clichés these potentially offer the relationship between both Scott Lang and his daughter, and Hank Pym and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilley) provide the emotional backbone of the narrative. Though certain developments are inevitable and predictable, thanks to the writing and performances, they do feel genuinely involving.
Despite all its great elements, there are certain aspects that stop Ant-Man from being a great film; as stated earlier it does feel more like a prologue of what is to come than a film in its own right and so certain elements of the narrative do feel forced. This is unfortunately where the film’s antagonist comes in. Corey Stoll cannot be faulted for his performance, but his antagonist feels like he is there because the film simply needs one, and his motivations seem truly generic and lazily written. Antagonists are of course more difficult to get right than protagonists, but Stoll’s is one of the most forgettable yet of the Marvel films and it is a shame that no effort whatsoever has been put into his character. This doesn’t stop the film’s climactic battle from being both thrilling, hilarious and inventive, but it is just a shame there is a more grounded reason behind the actual battle.
Yet another welcome addition to Marvel cinematic universe; Ant-Man may have a few narrative flaws and problems, but the great performances and self-aware comedy make for a superbly entertaining superhero romp.