Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll
Runtime: 117 minutes
From hammer-wielding demi-gods to shield-slinging super soldiers, Marvel Studios has been everywhere and done it all. Hell, we've even seen walking trees and talking raccoons play a part in their rapidly expanding company of heroes.
But in their latest offering, Ant-Man, Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang and his shrinkable suit promise to show us a different kind of hero; a father.
After the cosmic weirdness in Guardians of the Galaxy and the often-messy Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man is a tiny triumph that succeeds on both a micro and macro level. There are no deities promising universal destruction, or floating cities threatening to end the world; just a middle-aged man riding a flying ant and trying protect his daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson) from danger. It’s a refreshing and welcomed shift of focus from the formidable studio that redefined superhero storytelling, with complicated crossovers making way for a holistic back-to-basics approach.
As you can expect, Rudd makes for a charismatic lead right from the get-go. Much like his Marvel co-star Mark Ruffalo, Rudd doesn’t quite fit the mould at first glance, but quickly wins you over with some snappy quips and sly smirks. He doesn’t look out of place in spandex, but he’s more at home out of the suit where he can really let loose that trademark charm.
I suspect this is owing to the messy pre-production phase this film suffered; you’ll notice that there at least four screenwriters credited with having a hand in the script, including English cult heroes Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish.
That being said, things do improve. Where most Marvel films start strong and lose steam towards the end (i.e. Thor: The Dark World or Iron Man 3), Ant-Man actually builds in confidence and momentum as it goes. The set-up is good, the training montages are fun – but it’s not until the thrilling heist actually starts to unfold that Reed and co. really hit their stride.
With all the pulsating tension of Brian De Palma’s original Mission: Impossible and the sci-fi pulpiness of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, this thrilling sequence is torn straight from pages of classic Silver Age comics.
The action itself is wonderfully constructed; Reed ensures that the varying perspectives in each setting don’t disorientate the viewer with a clearly constructed geography afforded to each set piece. Even when Ant-Man and his nemesis Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll) are going toe-to-toe atop a model train set or inside a briefcase, the film never loses sight of how it all fits into the overall narrative.
This being Marvel, there are one or two pieces of connective tissue that tie Ant-Man to the wider narrative. But for the most part, this is a much-needed change of pace that does away with the clutter that plagued Age of Ultron. I won't spoil where the film crosses over with other characters, but it does deliver one of the unlikeliest MCU duels we've seen so far.
The Verdict: 8/10
It’s fast, fresh and funny, and through stripping away the excess fat and keeping things simple, Ant-Man is here to remind us that bigger isn’t always better.