Having already given us ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ to satiate our mainstream superhero needs, Marvel opted to end the second phase of their cinematic universe with ‘Ant-Man’, an oddball concept that has been in development for a long time. It has finally seen the light of day after a tumultuous development process that saw Edgar Wright leave the project after many years of work on it, right before it was due to start filming. With Peyton Reed hastily brought in to direct and ‘Anchorman’ mastermind Adam McKay signed up to touch up the script it seemed like the release was going to bear the hallmarks of a hasty patch-up job, and those rarely ever turn out well.
Happily though, the film doesn’t appear to have come off that entire saga looking any worse for wear at all. This is probably down to the fact that Marvel are very involved in the process and will always make sure a film holds together in their eyes, but considering the rewrites it has gone through the film marries comedy and action better than some of their efforts in the past (most notably ‘Iron Man 2’, where the comedy moments vastly overshadowed the ridiculous action sequences) ensuring that we get an ‘Ant-Man’ film that recognises its complete craziness while also providing us with a story to get our teeth stuck into, even if it does have its flaws.
And while it does work well, ‘Ant-Man”s strengths are definitely in the comedy category and Paul Rudd is great as a thief turned newbie superhero Scott Lang. He has always excelled at being both charming and dryly humorous, working as a perfect antithesis to Michael Pena’s chatterbox Luis and also to Michael Douglas’ considered performance as Hank Pym, the previous Ant-Man and retired superstar scientist who has to get back into action as a result of work done by former protégé Darren Cross, as played by Corey Stoll, that threatens to see the return of human miniaturisation, something he does not want to be weaponised. Rudd also works well with Evangeline Lilly who plays Pym’s daughter Hope, for whom this film is basically set-up, but we are given enough glimpses of her to know that Lilly is definitely cut out for the role, and it will be interesting to see where the character goes in future.
Benefiting from plenty of humour is what helps ‘Ant-Man’ to overcome its weaker moments that largely revolve around the fact that its story, while functional and interesting when it is examining Lang’s backstory and what he has gone through, crumbles when we are asked to get invested in Stoll’s villain. He’s entirely uninteresting, and it’s a shame because Douglas is on top form as Pym but has a plot thread that ultimately becomes a vehicle for Lang to test out his new superhero skills in time for something more important. Nevertheless, it’s fun to watch him do those action sequences, and the character interactions are on the whole good enough to facilitate the creaking plot. In terms of comic relief, it’s Michael Pena that shines as Luis, and flashback scenes, where he attempts to explain the situation to Scott, are amongst the funniest parts of the film. It’s a shame that the other so-called comic relief, played by Tip Harris and David Dastalmachian are so annoying, but Pena does enough for all of them.
Despite its flaws, ‘Ant-Man’ is an example of a Marvel film done right, with lots of eye-catching entertainment mixed in with oddball slapstick humour and witty dialogue. It is by no means a flawless film, but Peyton Reed can be proud to have made his best ever film and the way the project was salvaged after Wright’s departure is admirable.