- RatedPG /GenreAction, Adventure, Comedy
Another year, another Marvel superhero movie.
But this one – ‘Ant-Man’ – is a strange tiny beast that if some people had their way, wouldn’t even be made.
Even before the first reel was shot, contentious production issues emerged. Edgar Wright, he of ‘The World’s End’ and ‘Scott Pilgrim vs The World’, was initially intended to direct this film, with a screenplay he co-wrote with Joe Cornish.
But of course, studio synergy triumphs personal artistic vision. Wright walked out, Peyton Reed (‘Yes Man’) took over directorial duties and the script was given the once over by Adam McKay and Paul Rudd.
PAUL RUDD PLAYS SUPERHERO
And then there’s Rudd, a familiar face in comedies and rom-coms. As a superhero? It is hard to imagine Rudd in anything other than oddball comedies but the 46-year-old actor’s every-man charm nails it as Scott Lang.
We first meet Rudd’s Scott (Rudd), a high-tech burglar who’s just spent three years in prison reconnecting with his old cellmate Luis (a very funny Michael Pena), who tries to coax him back into a life of crime with his current associates (Tip “T.I.” Harris and David Dastmalchian), but Scott is determined to go straight and reconnect with his young daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson).
Paul Rudd as Ant-Man
That means paying child support to his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer), whose cop fiance, Paxton (Bobby Cannavale), doesn’t think much of Scott’s ability to turn over a new leaf.
The hapless Scott then returns to buglary and is soon rewarded with a strange suit and the attention of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a billionaire technologist who has devised shrinking technology years ago as a powerful military weapon (as we see advertised in a mock-propaganda film from decades earlier) but ultimately shelved it, for fear of it falling into enemy hands.
It turns out that Hank’s former protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is on the verge of replicating his technology and needs someone with the skills of McGyver to help break in and destroy it, and that someone is Scott.
What makes ‘Ant-Man’ so different from the rest of Marvel’s previous offerings is perhaps the scale of it.
From personal and familial conflicts to external clashes, everything in ‘Ant-Man’ is localizsed and contained. There are no geopolitical crises, bickering Asgardians or invading aliens here, just a man, a suit that makes him shrink, and his quest for redemption.
In fact, ‘Ant-Man’ feels like a classic heist movie in the vein of ‘Hudson Hawk’ (1991) and ‘A Fish Called Wanda’ (1988)disguised as a superhero film.
Paul Rudd as Ant-Man
‘Ant-Man’ is also the most family-friendly of them all too. It's charming, clever and loaded with humour; a far cry from the lugubriosity of many superhero films we have seen before.
Some of the funniest and clever action scenes in the movies involves a Thomas The Tank Engine railroad sequence ripped out from a classic Western. And not to mention, the movie's centerpiece heist sequence with his six-legged hench-ants (which he has the ability to communicate with).
For a film that features the smallest superhero of the stable, it has a big heart, since Scott's motivating factor is to become a better father.
Eagle-eyed comic book fans will relish the sequence when Ant-Man shrinks down further and enters the quantum realm, which effectively plants the seeds for Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, particularly Benedict Cumberbatch’s ‘Dr Strange’ in 2016, with its parallel dimensions and mysticisms.
GREAT CAST, CARDBOARD CUT-OUT VILLAIN
Corey Stoll and Evangeline Lilly in 'Ant-Man'
There’s no question that Rudd is made for this role. He is likeable and his humour is infectious. Scott is perhaps a reflection of the real-life Rudd who’s playing a character playing the most unlikely of superheroes who refuses to take his job seriously.
It also helps that Rudd’s supporting cast, particularly Harris, Dastmalchian and especially Pena’s motormouthed Luis who kept the funny quotient high.
Douglas provides ample gravitas as a Marvel elder statesman and a fitting father figure and mentor to both Scott and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly).
Stoll, on the other hand, camps it up as the villain in the movie, but his Darren Cross/Yellowjacket performance is disappointingly one-note and flat.
Although it doesn’t have the sobriety of ‘The Winter Soldier’ or the madcap antics of ‘Guardians of The Galaxy’, ‘Ant-Man’ stands tall and is in a league of its own.
What it does really is expand on the scope of Marvel’s movie universe with original stories that synergise.
And as has been the case with most Marvel movies so far, you’ll want to stay through the very end of the credits as there are two teaser tags, both about the future of ‘Ant-Man’ in the Marvel Universe.
‘Ant-Man’ opens 16 July 2015