Another day, another Marvel movie. The Marvel Universe seems to be expanding at an exponential rate, adding new characters, plotlines and complications. ‘Ant-Man’ does all this and more, enriching the world of Marvel with an interesting new direction.
‘Ant-Man’ introduces Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, recently paroled cat-burglar, resisting the temptation to relapse into a life of crime. He has a daughter he can’t see because he hasn’t paid child allowance in a while. Enter Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man from the 1960s. He’s been forced out of his company by Darren Cross (Corey Stoll, ‘House of Cards’) and his estranged daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), and fears his shrinking technology may fall into the wrong hands. Pym recruits Scott to steal back the tech and destroy the research – but in order to do that, must train him to be the new Ant-Man.
This film could have fallen into a big muddy pile of clichés, but somehow resists, with only a smattering here and there. In Hollywood, a man seems to have little motivation other than saving/helping a wife/child, and here Scott is risking his life on the promise of seeing his daughter. Other clichés include the super-rich bald bad guy who’s bad because he can be, though admittedly that’s better than some motivations villains have these days. At least when the bad guy is properly introduced, wearing his bad guy get up, he’s properly scary. I have to hand it to Corey Stoll – he really knows how to do villain. Cross shows very little regard for life, and chases his own success with an abandon that makes him all the more fascinating.
Speaking of performances, Rudd and Douglas are good, but not mind-blowing. As mentioned above, their motivations are clear cut, and there’s very little nuance to their characters. Rudd flexes his comedic muscles and does so very well. Lilly is a little more interesting, but isn’t given as much scope to really play the character as she should be. If you stay for the post-credits scene, you may get a clue as to an increase in that scope.
The writing is pretty darn good, with snappy dialogue, genuine laugh-out-loud moments, and some excellent one-liners. Artfully woven into the main story are rather a lot of Marvel tie-ins, including appearances by Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), and Howard Stark (interestingly played by his ‘Iron Man 2’ alter ego, John Slattery). If you’re not a Marvel Universe fan, you’re going to miss a lot of these references, including mentions of Hydra and SHIELD. Like ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ this film is aimed squarely at the fans, but unlike that film, you’re still going to enjoy it without being up-to-date on the other instalments. You won’t get that little fan thrill of seeing more pieces of the puzzle fall in to place - but really, what’s that matter? There’re plenty of pop culture asides to satisfy comic book virgins, and apart from that, it’s simply good entertainment.
The writing is pretty darn good, with snappy dialogue, genuine laugh-out-loud moments, and some excellent one-liners.
This is a Marvel heist film, and really, melding those two genres had to be a winner. This works by playing into those heist film tropes of montages and voice overs, while adding the right amount of modern and comic book spice. There are more than a few familiar elements that put us in mind of the first Iron Man film, and who didn’t love that? The effects are good, the soundtrack is good, and the 3D is good, without being distracting. Sensing a theme there? Yeah, this film is pretty good. The only thing that stops it from being great is that it's a tad predictable, and doesn’t quite have that special something that some of the other Marvel films have had.