Ant-Man is one of Marvel's best features so far - our review Review
A film titled Ant-Man was always going to flirt with the ridiculous. The risk was that Marvel would attempt to make it a serious, earnest heroic flick, similar to the Captain America franchise. Worryingly, the Ant-Man trailers seemed to indicate that this is what had been done; and with rumours frantically milling around the departure of Edgar Wright from the director’s chair a year ago, things seemed poised for an-all out flop. Happily, this is very far from the case. Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man is hilarious and self-mocking, well aware, like Guardians of the Galaxy that the absurdity of its plot is something to be embraced, rather than excused. It proves a fantastic, highly entertaining film, packed with genius dialogue and quirky characters.
Paul Rudd stars as Scott Lang, a thief recently released from prison. Intent on becoming a better example to his young daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), he struggles to find honest work because of his criminal record. Enter his flatmate and former prison cellmate, Luis (Michel Peña) who tips him on an easy burglary job, through which he meets Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Here, Rudd concocts just the right mix of self-deprecation and emotional vulnerability. He is genuinely funny, a cheerful and imperturbable force while displaying a convincing concern for his responsibility towards Cassie.
Dr Pym is desperate to prevent Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), his former business associate, from selling a suit to arms vendors, which would allow anyone to reduce their size and increase their body strength. He is also struggling to re-establish a bond with his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), a partner in Cross’ endeavour. The father-daughter theme is unusual in superhero stories, and its parallel iterations here work remarkably well. What’s more, the film’s emotional scenes, most of which revolve around these relationships, never veer into the sappy.
Naturally, Dr Pym recruits Scott to his cause, persuading him to use a size-altering suit of his own creation in order to defeat Cross’ plans. Hank also trains him to communicate with ants - hence giving him the tacky superhero name of Ant-Man. The whole process is shown with a healthy dose of silliness: Rudd is amused by the training and openly admits his limitations, his antics a contrast to Douglas’ weighty concern. Reed is also a genius at juxtaposing cuts for comic effect. Often just a contrast between one shot to the next proves incredibly funny. By that measure he does not hesitate to emphasize the humour of epic battles being fought on an insect-size scale.
Subsequent scenes introduce Avengers characters into the mix, hence providing a much-needed explanation as to why a world containing a team of organised superheroes needs yet another one. The latter part of the film also showcases Stoll’s excellent performance as a villain. Unfortunately, his character is rather two-dimensional, but that doesn’t impede much on the film’s enjoyment. What is more disappointing is that Lilly is not given a bigger share of the action. Marvel has made sweeping steps in introducing strong minded-women in its output (even dedicating a whole series to one - Agent Carter) but female characters are still principally relegated to secondary roles. The fact that Hope does not take part in the action because she needs to be protected is insulting, and thankfully, an after-credits scene shows an intention to remedy to it.
Ant-Man is a tremendous film, so well delivered that there’s hardly room to poke holes in the plot’s occasionally shaky twists. It is delightfully self-referential of the Marvel universe and unabashed at making fun of its own existence. It’s a gleeful, uplifting watch.