“Heroes don’t get any bigger.”
Director: Peyton Reed
Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll
Synopsis: Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.
Once again, we see a corporate organisation plotting to dominate the globe, setting in motion a devious plan to infiltrate every corner of the planet and subject us all to its formula whether we want it or not. No, it’s not Pym Tech, the company founded by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas – King of California, Haywire), but Marvel Studios, the production company behind Ant-Man. That’s right: they’re at it again, unleashing yet another super hero on a not-so unsuspecting world. This time, it’s Ant-Man – a relatively minor member of the superhero canon, which suggests that the Marvel machine might be starting to scoop its content from the hard-to-get-at corners of the well…
There’s no way the studio could have made a viable movie out of their most diminutive hero had they played it straight, and primary writers Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish wisely interweave a heavy dose of humour into the story of a man the size of ant poo leading an army of comparatively gigantic creatures into combat with human antagonists. This focus on humour even extends to the against-type casting of comic actor Paul Rudd (This is the End, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) in the title role. He plays Scott Lang, fresh out of prison, whose previous Robin Hood-style exploits bring him to the attention of Pym, a man who, for the past twenty-odd years, has been jealously guarding the secret behind a suit he invented which can shrink a human to the size of an ant. Pym does this not from a motive of personal gain, but because he has an all-too accurate vision of the damage his invention could wreak in the wrong hands. The day of reckoning is drawing close, though, as Pym’s former mentor, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll – Non-Stop, This is Where I Leave You) is on the verge of perfecting his own suit, and the ageing Pym needs to quickly train someone to become Ant-Man so that they can infiltrate Pym Tech’s headquarters and steal Cross’s suit before he has a chance to use it.
While the plots to Marvel’s movies share approximately the same level of sophistication as the comic books from which they originate, the quality of the writing is usually pretty high, and Ant-Man is no exception. Cornish and Wright somehow manage to incorporate humour into the plot without making the entire concept the butt of their jokes, so we might be asked to laugh at Lang’s clumsy attempts to come to grips with the suit, but never at the idea of the suit itself. While the film is on firm ground when it focuses on the plot to foil Cross’s scheme to sell his suit to the highest bidder, it loses its footing when trying to do grown-up stuff like relationships. The way in which the bond between Lang and Pym’s feisty daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly) undergoes the final phase of its metamorphosis from mutual enmity to attraction occurs not only in the space of one scene, but in the same one which also sees her resolving the issues she has with her father. Fortunately, the romantic sub-plot remains firmly in the background for most of the movie, with Ant-Man’s three hapless comic sidekicks – his old cell-mate, Luis (Michael Pena – American Hustle, Frontera), getaway driver, Dave (T.I. – Get Hard) and identity thief, Kurt (David Dastmalchian – The Dark Knight, Prisoners) – receiving equal, if not ,more, screen time. And for once, the comic sidekick is genuinely funny rather than annoying.
Although a saturation point awaits Marvel’s superheroes some time in the future, the quality of their output currently remains high, and the way the movies interlock, with characters from other Marvel franchises making cameo appearances – in this one, Ant-Man has a dust-up with Falcon (Anthony Mackie – Runner Runner, Captain America, the Winter Soldier) from the Captain America movies – ensures cross-franchise interest and positive returns.
(Reviewed 7th December 2015)