Ant-Man - Review: Hugely entertaining! (2024)

People say that size matters.... I mean, not to me personally they don’t,but most metaphors seem to agree that bigger is better, go big or go home. However, some of you know the truth; that it’s not the size that counts, its how you use it. Marvel’s Ant-Man is not just the smallest character in the MCU, it’s also the smallest film. Despite being a long-running comic bookcharacter, his lesser known status will leave many casual fans thinking, “Seriously...this is actually a thing?”. Then throw in all the development problems including the last minute departure (3 months before production after working on the project since 2003!) that made Ant-Man the film everyone was keen to write off.... and how wrong they were. For the second year running, Marvel finds its biggest success from pushing into new territory. Ant-Man is a Marvel film like no other but most importantly, it’s an absolute blast with a cast you'd want to see more(and something tells me we will).

The retired scientist, Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas – Wall Street, Last Vegas) has long kept his Pym particle shrinking technology safe from the rest of the world. However, when his protégé Alex Cross (Corey Stoll – House of Cards, The Strain) makes the breakthrough, Hank recruits thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd – Role Models, Anchorman 2) to help steal back the secrets in a daring heist. To do this he’ll need to adopt Hank’s former shrinking superhero persona, the Ant Man, with the help of Hank’s daughter, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly – Lost, The Hobbit trilogy).

Ant-Man is the perfect alternative for anybody that found Age of Ultron too dark and serious. Yes, it has purpose, important stakes, and character peril, but from start to finish, it never stops being predominantly upbeat in a way that only the first Iron Man film hadmanaged previously. Any serious moments are flanked by good,and in some cases, brilliant laughs to keep the overall mood positive. Some would have said that incorporating the ant communication/control aspect of the character was suicide, but instead the film embraces it so fully and even wondrouslythat it becomes the best feature as this six legged army wreak havoc. The script is light and cleverly witty, finding ways to deliver even from required exposition sections. It doesn’t preoccupy itself with trying to deliver a visual spectacle. Although it still achieves it in places (one particular flight through electrified servers is quite stunning) but the main effort is on telling a good character-driven story. It packs many of the same enjoyable qualities that made Guardians of the Galaxy so out of this world, including outstanding chemistry from its leading characters. Rudd, Douglas, and Lilly don’t naturally feel like they should belong together yet they’re a balanced on an atomic level. Although on a couple of occasions, they come close to being eclipsed by Scott’s unlikely criminal pals equivalent of Thor’s Warrior’s Three in Michael Peña (Fury), Tip “T.I.” Harris (Identity Thief) and David Dastmalchian (Prisoners). It also delivers no shortage of comic relief as it introducesthis trio into the Oceans 6 of the heist (or Ocean’s 794ish if you count the ants) and gives some vital grounding to the more out there final act.

Behind the obvious traits, Ant-Man also has the power to dodge many of the pitfalls recent Marvel films have encountered. The biggest being the out of place big action CG finale. From very early on, Ant-Man is clearly heading towards its central heist event which means that reaching it feels natural to the story rather than forced, and doesn’t take the focus away from the characters. Next up, there’s the elaborate MCU connections to traverse and create. Having too much setup work notably dragged down Age of Ultron. Ant-Man has been talked up as a standalone film and for the most part, it is which not only avoids many problems but is immensely refreshing, harking back to the Phase One years. Director Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Yes Man) concentrates on showing us what his characters mean to each other rather than setting up a revolving door of cameos and name checking. Yet neither does it abandon the existing cannon entirely and still feels like an MCU film. When Hank first tells Scott the plan his immediate joke is to go tell the Avengers and the film actually follows on from Age of Ultron in several satisfying ways. Blink and you’ll miss a big Spider-Man reference, “We got a guy that crawls up walls now”, and of course make sure you stay until the VERY END of the credits for a rewarding look ahead.

In terms of cracks for the Ants to fall through, it does start slow.That does plat to one of the film’s best aspects:its escalation.It genuinely gets better and better as it progresses,but not all early the exposition on Scott hits home. We feel like we’re being told/lectured about his benevolent burglar history too much, making it a tough sell (maybe an archive news report would have served better). There’s also a real lacking of good female characters. Lilly's Hope aside, all we get is a couple scenes with Scott’s ex-wife and daughter who serve as little more than his motivational props (even if the kid is a good laugh).

Paul Rudd was a controversial casting choice, but now the vision becomes clear as Marvel has done full blown Chris Pratt with him. Take a talented comedic actor and make him into a convincing action star with nice abs. His easy-going joking nature makes him immediately likable and holds together the central theme of fun. Hank Pym die-hards will also be very happy with Douglas’s honoring of the character and that this film is by no means Scott Lang Vs The World. Hank is given a very meaningful role and Douglas does him considerable justice, especially over the relationship daughter Hope, for whom Lilly is a surprising powerhouse. She shines as Scott’s fighting teacher delivering plenty of shots that sting like a “bee”. Throughout the whole film, she feels endearing without overly trying. Stoll’s Cross suffers the common Marvel problem of being a weaker link villain. He’s sufficiently menacing, and at all points,feels like a bad guy butthe film loses us when it's trying to sell him as a brilliant scientist. On a couple of occasions, Michael Peña pulls the real big heist and steels the entire film! When he starts telling a story, be ready for your face to explode.

When Kevin Feige announced Marvel’s long stretching film slate with no mention of any further Ant-Man titles, this was taken as lack of faith in the upcoming filmor maybe it was there all along, just too small to see as last month there was talk of seeing an Ant-Man sequel squeezed into the roster before 2018's Infinity Wars. Quite simply, that needs to happen as against all the odds, Ant-Man now stands equally alongside his bigger rivals. Phase 2 finishes with a flourish rather than a fizzle and once again, Marvel makes people feel idiots for doubting them (and their anty hero).

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Ant-Man - Review: Hugely entertaining! (2024)

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