Review: Ant-Man (2015)

Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Peña, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Anthony Mackie, Wood Harris, Judy Greer, David Dastmalchian and Michael Douglas.

Directed by Peyton Reed

Rating = 3/5

After the success of “Guardians of the Galaxy”, Marvel reaches back into its lesser known works and brings out a new hero to begin the MCU phase 3.

Ant-Man, much like the main protagonist, is on much smaller scale than almost all of the other marvel properties. Indeed, it almost feels like an extended episode of a TV series, as opposed to a summer action movie. At the beginning, we find ourselves in the late eighties, in the bowels of the mid-construction Triskelion (S.H.I.E.L.D HQ, as destroyed in the Winter Soldier). An angry Dr. Hank Pym (a much CGI’d youthful Michael Douglas), incensed by S.H.I.E.L.D.’s attempts to recreate his miniaturisation formula which allows Pym to become the titular Ant-Man, resigns his position with S.H.I.E.L.D. and vows to bury his technology forever. Flash-forward to present day, the now aged Pym has been exiled from his own company by his protégé Dr. Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). He finds out from his semi-estranged daughter, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), that Cross is close to not only re-discovering, but perfecting and weaponising the miniaturisation technology that Pym buried all those years ago. Still believing that this technology is too dangerous to be let out into the world, he enlists recently released and down on his luck cat-burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to take up the Ant-Man mantle and help him steal Cross’s Technology, known as the “Yellowjacket”, and prevent catastrophe.

Ostensibly, what we find here is a heist movie, albeit one crossed with 1989 comedy “Honey, I shrunk the kids” and set in the MCU. Rather than the grand scale of Thor, Cap, Ironman and the Avengers, where global catastrophe and cities falling form the sky are common place, Ant-Man is much more compact in its scope – as Lang and Pym put it, it’s about “breaking into a place and stealing some shit”.

This more compact story however, does allow for the film to explore the relationships between the main characters and their loved ones. However, this is for better in some places and worse in others, as it seems to revolve around the relationships between both Pym and Lang and their respective “children”. Indeed, what we find ourselves with in relation to Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross is yet another villain in the MCU driven by massive “father issues”, this time in respect to his mentor/protégé relationship with Pym.

One thing that does stand out about the movie though, is the visual effects. From Lang’s first foray into the miniature world to the “Thomas the Tank Engine fight” (yes that is a thing) towards the end of the movie, the way the film deals with the small and large scale world is very well done. The film manages to make you believe that things that are completely harmless to regular sized folk become almost certain death traps to the miniaturised Ant-Man.  The fight scenes between Ant-Man and his regular-sized adversaries are shot with style, and more than a healthy dose of humour.

Performances are pretty good across the board. Rudd is exceedingly charming as the underdog Lang, who stumbles and wisecracks his way to becoming a marvel hero, and who towards the end we really are truly rooting for. Douglas shows us some of the fire and swagger that he showed in his early career. Lilly gives a well nuanced performance as Pym’s daughter conflicted between the anger she has at her father and the necessity of the task at hand. As for Corey Stoll’s villain, he does give a very believable and at points highly intimidating performance, despite there being obvious plot holes around his characters development.

Indeed, this is my major problem with the film. While Stoll’s performance is engaging and believable, he does at points have to work with some clunk. The script seems occasionally to contradict itself, and for some reason, while Lang had to go through at least some training to master his abilities as Ant-Man, Cross appears to have full use of all his skills mere seconds after donning the significantly more complex Yellowjacket.

This script problem could be put down to the obvious rewrites after director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) left the project in its early days and was replaced by Peyton Reed (The Break Up, Yes Man). You can still see definite flashes of Wright and writing partner Joe Cornish’s script on screen, and they are still credited as the story writers and co-script writers. It does lead me to wonder what could have been had this been an Edgar Wright movie.

Outside of the main characters, the supporting cast handle their roles well, with Michael Pena (End of Watch) being the stand out as the comic relief. As you would expect there are a number of cameos, from existing marvel characters, including Hayley Atwell’s Agent Carter, John Slattery’s Howard Stark and, of course, Stan Lee Himself. There is also a smaller role for Anthony Mackie’s Falcon, which will undoubtedly lead into future Ant-Man and MCU Movies.

I must admit that I went to see Ant-Man with more of a view to being a Marvel completest rather than with my usual overwhelming desire to see a film. Unlike the other movies (barring Guardians of the Galaxy), I was unfamiliar with the central characters and therefore had no preconceptions as to what I wanted the movie to be or to achieve. So in certain ways I was free to enjoy it as it couldn’t really let me down, other than by being of a standard below the other movies. However, unlike the other movies, it never really left me with a jaw-drop or fist pump moment, but this could be a symptom of once again not being invested as much. So despite its holes, by no stretch is Ant-Man a bad movie, it just needed to be … more. So, while I did enjoy it, I really do wish I could have seen the Edgar Wright version.

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