One of Marvel’s main characters is one of the harder sells, and while Ant-Man isn’t a game changer it has risen above the criticism and difficulties during its development.
Hank Pym, a scientist for Shield developed a super particle that compresses the space around atoms, allowing objects to be shrunk down. But when Howard Stark and others wanted to use this science, Pym hid it away. Now though, to stop others developing their own weaponised version, Pym needs someone younger to become the Ant-Man.
I will be the first to admit, I had little hope for Ant-Man. Not only does it (to my un-geek-cultured, non-comic-reader mind) sound ridiculous, but a favourite director Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim Vs the World and Hot Fuzz) dropped out of the project midway through to be replaced by Peyton Reed who has a much less credible resume (Yes Man, The Break-Up, Bring it On) and that is isolated from the fact that Ant-Man has also been in development hell since 2006!
There was every reason to believe that Ant-Man would be either laughed off stage or for it to take up the mantle: “When Marvel lost it”.
But while the scope of Ant-Man feels more like the first Iron Man film than recent sprawling Marvel flicks, perhaps in result of its long development time, this retro feel actually works in its favour. Paul Rudd stars as Scott Lang, a father and ex-husband just released from prison for robbery, a man struggling for cash and is approached by the legendary Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to train and become a superhero thief.
That’s right, Ant-Man is Marvel’s heist movie! Scott Lang’s friends are a trio of streetwise thieves, including Michael Pena in a comedic turn, while Pym’s fiery, headstrong daughter Hope is played by Evangeline Lily (redeeming herself completely from the stupidity of Tauriel from The Hobbit) and there’s a great sense of bigger things going on but this story is a slice of life. It has a great moment where Lang, when faced with impossible odds, yells: “Why don’t we just call The Avengers!?”
With a small scale but frankly excellent acting from our heroes (especially Michael Douglas) Marvel hammers home with a lot of fun and humour. There were a couple of real laugh-out-loud moments, and not just that one from the trailer. It is a well known fact now that Marvel makes comedies, but you know what… after the depression that was Terminator Genisys, Ant-Man was great levity!
I will say though, once again Marvel’s formula strikes again with a film that knows how to develop heroes but cannot make a decent villain. Much like Iron Man with Obadiah Stane, Darren Cross is little more than a dark side of Hank Pym’s brilliance. Marvel have had twelve films now, twelve, and Loki is the only one people can argue is memorable.
That and, by its very nature, Ant-Man is extremely CGI heavy, perhaps more than even Guardians of the Galaxy? Not to say it is bad CGI (in fact it is great to see him shrink and grow!) and I cannot suggest an alternative, but it does become a bit of an ocean of computer effects at times.
There’s lots of good performances, a great sense of fun and adventure as well as a little bit more world building for Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. It isn’t a game changer, but it isn’t the train wreck people are afraid it might be.