19th July 2015

Ant-Man (Running Time: 117 Minutes)

Small but perfectly formed and with a heart the size of an elephant, it’s Ant-Man!

Small time crook Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has served his time and wants nothing more than to go straight. Despite his engineering background, Scott struggles to find work and his dream of being a worthy role model to his young daughter seems to be slipping further and further away. After being sacked from yet another menial job, Scott finally relinquishes to his dopey ex-con housemates’ plan to do ‘one final job’.

Scott’s luck doesn’t change, however, and he soon finds himself in worse trouble than before until a mysterious benefactor, scientist Hank Pym (played with gleeful joy by Michael Douglas) comes to his aid. With Pym’s promise of redemption, Scott raises his game and involves himself in some high-tech industrial sabotage in order to stop a sinister weapon developer from delivering a super-weapon to the nefarious HYDRA Corporation.

Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is the head of a technological company with aspirations to become the biggest name on the planet with their breakthroughs in atomic particle manipulation (no one wants to use the term ‘shrink-ray’ for some reason). Cross has managed to create a shrinking weapon suit and seems close to perfecting the same technology on living subjects. Motivated by power and money, Cross isn’t too concerned by who owns this potentially lethal technology once it’s ready and only Pym and Lang have the ability to wreck his plans.

For fans of Marvel comics, Scott Lang isn’t known as the best super-hero. Many would argue that he isn’t even the best Ant-Man as Hank Pym’s storylines were much wilder (and often darker) than Scott’s. Marvel seems keenly aware of this and plays on the fact that this is a film where the audience roots for the underdog. Scott is a chancer, a loser and his past shows a lack of morality but for all of his failings he is incredibly likeable. Rudd’s charm and comedic timing work beautifully here and the chemistry between him and the other cast –particularly Douglas and Evangeline Lilly playing Pym’s estranged daughter is one of the films major strengths.

Appropriately, given our hero’s abilities, Marvel keeps things on a smaller scale here in terms of plot. There are no End of Days moments that threaten civilization as we know it and no cosmic interventions from godlike beings. Rather than feeling anticlimactic, however, this is a breath of fresh air as many of the more recent comic book movies have become rather formulaic in their approach to the three act structure. The finale here takes place not on the peak of some Asgardian mountain or atop a skyscraper but on a child’s trainset. Thomas the Tank Engine has never looked more powerful!

This is a movie where Marvel kicks back a little and has fun. The humour is sometimes a little too broad in places - Lang’s criminal sidekicks, for instance, act a bit too much like The Three Stooges from time to time and, although amusing, sometimes feel a little misplaced. This occasionally gives the film a slightly off-balance feel but thanks to the performances of the lead actors, some decent dialogue and a plot which keeps things moving along without lots of scientific exposition, it works. The final act is satisfying, fun and original and leaves you smiling as you leave the cinema.

Regardless of Ant-Man’s smaller stature amongst Marvel’s roster of super powered citizens, here he proves to be every bit as engaging and thrilling as his contemporaries. I embraced the quirky humour and applauded Marvel for not treading the well-worn path and spoon-feeding the audience with just more of the same. Though not as epic as The Avengers or as dramatic as Thor, this is a fun ride with a cast I’d personally like to see much more of.

Written by Smylexx