Given its turbulent production history and hard-to-sell superpowers, the fact that Ant-Man works at all on the big screen is a small triumph. When director Edgar Wright left the project last year over creative differences, many wrote the movie off. However Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man still zings with a zany sensibility and strong comedy performances, with a story that fully benefits from being on a smaller scale than previous Marvel properties.
Scott Lang is a Robin Hood-esque master thief recently released from prison, now looking for a steady job and to reconnect with his daughter. When his friend Luis – played by Michael Pena, on hilarious form – persuades him to break into the home of tech-genius Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), Scott finds nothing to steal but a steampunk-looking suit. With some fresh new threads that shrink his body but increase his strength, Scott becomes Hank’s best chance at taking down corporate megalomaniac Darren Cross AKA Yellow Jacket.
Ant-Man’s a well put together movie with all the right elements; plucky hero who’s looking for redemption? Check! A wise old man to guide him? Check! A schmaltzy sub plot, and plenty of self-deprecating comedy? Check and double check! It’s hard to know who should take credit, Edgar Wright’s prints are all over this film with it’s kinetic comedy and visual gags, but Peyton Reed’s energetic direction does well to complement and enhance a script he had little to do with. At moments the American punchlines don’t sit well next to quirky British humour, and special effects with soft touches such as huge floating air particles versus the much more clunky CGI flying ants, make it a bit of a patchwork picture.
However this approach isn’t a bad thing. Despite being a founding member of the Avengers, for many, Ant-Man’s never been a heavy hitter. And this story makes Scott Lang very much an everyday average normal guy, perfectly cast in the ever-watchable Paul Rudd. The movie also takes a refreshing angle with the third-act climax, which eschews a skyscraper-toppling big battle for a heady fight on a toy train set; a twee set up that pays off with a series of fun and distinctive jokes like a life-size Thomas the Tank Engine crashing into the residential street.
The plot adhere’s closely to the Iron-Man template – the film that kicked off Marvel’s dominance of the box-office – from the technologically advanced suit, to the under-developed villain who can only be stopped when the hero pushes his new suit beyond it’s capabilities. But Scott Lang’s a lot more accessible than Tony Stark, and it’s a subtle move from Marvel to end phase two with the same yet opposite type of superhero to the one they kicked off with. Ant-Man the movie, as much as the character, is small and unassuming with the potential for massive growth.
Cineworld showcase all the biggest and best films in the UK. Find screenings of Ant-Man plus all of this week’s newest releases over at the Cineworld website.