There is no denying that Marvel Studios is on a winning streak at the moment with their franchise being both critical and commercial successes. Their previous film Avengers: Age of Ultron is currently the sixth biggest movie of all time. But Ant-Man has had a troubled start with the original director Edgar Wright leaving the project after being involved with the development for 10 years (although he and writing partner Joe Cornish still having writing credit alongside Adam McKay and Ant-Man star Paul Rudd). Can new director Peyton Reed rescue the movie from a troubled production?
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has just been released from prison for theft. When Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) recruits Scott to help him steal technology from his evil protegé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). To do this he will have to wear a special suit and become Ant-Man.
While perhaps not as offbeat casting as when Marvel picked Robert Downey Jnr as Iron Man back in 2006, Paul Rudd still seemed like an odd choice for Scott Lang at first, known more for his comedies like This is 40 than any action/heroic lead roles. However Ant-Man is very funny and it helps to have an actor with known comedic timing and delivery. He also makes Scott, a criminal-in a Robin Hood kind of way-more likeable and sympathetic than he might have been otherwise. His characters arc is satisfying and his parallels with Douglas’s Hank Pym are not over egged.
It may start off a little slow as we get Scott’s back-story and the obligatory scene with his ex-wife and her new husband who are predictably not thrilled to see Scott back in their lives. The film soon picks up though once Scott finds the Ant-Man costume. I also found Scott’s heist team hilarious especially Michael Pena as Scott’s former cellmate Luis. It was also great to have the climax of a Marvel film that doesn’t end with the destruction of a whole city! There is also a few cameos to keep Marvel fans happy and a random, but great use of Thomas the Tank Engine.
The film is able to juggle its subplot well. We go from heist film to comedy to emotional father/daughter and back again. Luckily the film is able to handle these shifts in tone so it does not feel jarring and humour underlies most of the scenes.
Evangeline Lily is also a welcome addition to the Marvel Universe as Pym’s daughter Hope. A good three-dimensional character that’s flawed and complex, but also able to kick ass. The only problem is that the film makes her so capable you can’t help but see her point when she says she should be wearing the suit not Scott. The film does try to come up with a reasonable explanation as to why her father chose Scott over her but it’s still a niggling fact, though not one to stop my enjoyment of the movie.
Some critics may be trying to dismiss Ant-Man due to it having grossed lower than most of the Marvel movies but it was always going o be a more difficult sell compared to the big scale spectacle of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ant-Man also had a lower budget compared to the other movies in the franchise. Besides it still managed to be Marvel’s 12th consecutive number 1 opening film even with all the behind the scenes trouble. Hopefully this will leave the door open for Ant-Man 2.
Rating 4/5 – proof that moving things to a smaller scale is sometimes a good idea