Wednesday, 15 July 2015


Walt Disney Studios Films

After the excesses of Age of Ultron -- including a platoon of superheroes and a European city dropping from the sky -- Marvel Studios have decided to dial it back, and down, for their next outing. And although Ant-Man doesn't always live up to the adage that good things come in small packages, there's enough action and humour in Peyton Reed's film to ensure it's not the smallest contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

A prologue set in 1989 introduces us to scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who has succeeded in producing a serum and a super suit that can reduce humans to the size of ants whilst retaining their human-size strength. But falling out with Howard Stark (John Slattery), father of future Iron-man, and still mourning the loss of his wife, Pym hides his research away.

But the so-called Ant-man project needs to be dusted off when, in present day San Francisco, Pym's one-time protege and now owner of his company, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), comes ever closer to producing his own shrinking super suit; Cross prepared to sell to the highest bidder rather than aid a higher cause. Hank needs a hero, and much to the chagrin of his one-time estranged daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), he decides upon Scott Lang (Paul Rudd).

A cat burglar recently released from prison, Scott is determined to go straight for the sake of his young daughter. But unable to hold on to a steady job, and with the constant nudging of his former cellmate cum housemate, Luis (Michael Pena), Scott is soon falling back on his old ways.

That brings him into possession of the Ant-man suit and eventually Hank Pym -- the scientist using a robbery as an audition to prove Scott's mettle -- and not before long the Pyms and the crim are in training for a heist to steal the rival suit from Cross. Cue a montage of Scott mastering the ins and outs of the suit, how to wrangle a selection of ants, how to throw a punch (and take one), and how to navigate the fraught relationship between father and daughter.

This latter theme adds a dollop of schmaltz to proceedings, making Ant-Man the most noticeably 'Disney' of the Marvel films to date. And while Reed (with thanks to original helmer, Edgar Wright, and co-writer Joe Cornish) manages to make it something different to the Iron-man, Thor and Captain America films, Ant-Man is by no means a Guardians of the Galaxy breakout. And Paul Rudd (with all due respect) is no Chris Pratt.

Indeed, Rudd's charisma, along with Scott's body, seems to have been reduced; reined in perhaps by the film's PG rating? An always affable, charming and warm screen presence, it's somewhat of a surprise that Rudd (who apparently had extensive input into the character and script) doesn't register in the same way that Pratt did in Guardians (and subsequently with Pena getting the majority of the laughs).

Signalling the end of MCU's Phase Two (for those keeping count), Ant-Man doesn't go out with a whimper but more a less-than-expected bang. The film is not so much sub-par as sub-atomic, if you will.

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