“An Ench-ant-ing offering from Marvel”
Written By Jack Bottomley
Years ago, the superhero film (Batman and Superman aside) was not exactly a booming genre. Colossal failures like Supergirl, Steel and Captain America (1990) were but a few of the genre’s offerings that, pun intended, failed to fly. Now fast-forward to modern day and barely a week goes by without hearing that a new superhero is soaring into the multiplex, so what happened? The source material has changed over the years but hardly undergone drastic differences, so why is it that one of cinema’s once hardly distinguished genres is now one of the most financially successful? The easy answer is passion. The modern day passion for source material, for the faith in superhero films as viable big screen go getters and the passion of a crew who…to put it bluntly…know their shit. That being said, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Phase Two and already setting out its jam-packed future and with the DC Universe looking set to emerge in the next few years could we be reaching a super-saturation point?
Perhaps, but just as you think that, here is the cure to hero fatigue…freshness. Originally helmed by Edgar Wright (though he is still credited in script and story and Ant-Man very much feels to have his DNA running throughout), Ant-Man is an adaptation of Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby’s Marvel comic book hero. Armed with an unexciting shrinking ability, ant communication skills and other less showy powers, not to mention Wright’s much publicised (but hardly controversial) departure, this heroic caper did not come with the typical Marvel machine hype that has become the norm with The Avengers team. However, shock can be a wonderful thing because Ant-Man is not only a fun superhero film, it is a vastly different and energised one.
The film centres on Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) a convicted burglar, released from prison and looking to provide for his young estranged daughter. To do that, he ends up getting back into thievery, only to find that he has drawn the eye of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who gives Scott a second chance to be the hero his daughter thinks he is. Pym wants Scott to be the Ant-Man and help save the world from Pym’s obsessed former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who is close to unleashing Pym’s revolutionary technology (that he has hidden for years) and thus endangering the world. It is in many ways a very simple set up and story that is not pre-occupied with expanding Marvel’s universe so much as it is in establishing its title hero first.
Many may have mourned Wright’s absence but where he left and where Director Peyton Reed took over is undistinguishable in a film that might just be the studio’s most enjoyable and accomplished effort yet. Ant-Man boasts an expert balance of humour and action, with terrific casting and ingenious set pieces at every turn. The film features a constant array of dazzling scenes that instead of looking up to the skies zoom down to the ground with an equal sense of wonder. True some of the plots origin elements are by-the-books but the wit and innovation behind the action makes this film a cut above some of Marvel’s other films. As does the fact that this is more of an exciting heist caper, with heroic elements, a genre blended joy that plays like Iron Man meets Mission: Impossible…with ants! Ant-Man often toys with its own ridiculousness for comic effect but never betrays its necessity to have a genuine heart to it. For instance the peril of the ingenious finale is still omnipotent but the script makes space for some laugh out loud sight gags and toying with the idea of big scale action.
Paul Rudd is the perfect choice for Scott, he nails the charm, snappy chat and everyman elements of the character and gives Marvel its most grounded hero in some time. Michael Douglas is outstanding as Pym, unshakably morally driven and determined, with an understated emotional depth. His connection with his onscreen daughter Hope, played with the right balance of humanity and badassery by Evangeline Lilly, is one of the movies unsung triumphs leaving future films groundwork to build on. Michael Peña offers outstanding comic support as Scott’s mate Luis and while Corey Stoll’s villainous turn is not as downright engrossing as Loki, he does darn fine work in the role.
Ant-Man has the same snap in its celery as Iron Man, with the out and out fun of Avengers Assemble and the edge of Guardians of the Galaxy, all blending to make for the most surprising and in turn most accomplished Marvel outings yet. The risk was huge, the hero is small and the results are wonderful, inventive and refreshing. From sailing through drains to train set set chaos, this film is funny, gripping and an absolute joy from beginning to end. The universe advances (stay seated for both Post-credits scenes), a new hero scurries into the spotlight and a dedicated cast and crew breathe life into a story that could have, in lesser hands, been absolutely stupid. There is no other word for it Ant-Man is awesome and perhaps the most fun you will have all summer and perhaps all year!