FILM: Ant-Man

Certificate: PG-13
Running Time: 117 mins
Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll, Evangeline Lilly
Director: Peyton Reed
Genre: Superhero, Action, Sci-Fi
Country: USA

Deadbeat estranged dad Scott Lang (Rudd) needs something to help turn his life around in order to gain visitation rights with his daughter. At the same time Hank Pym (Douglas) is watching his one-time protege come to a technological breakthrough which, in the wrong hands, could take the world to a crisis point.  The stakes couldn’t get any bigger, the hero any smaller… sorry… I went there.
OCD Cleaners ups the stakes in home hygiene
Marvel’s Ant-Man has been a long time coming and with multiple creative changes of face (exit Joe Cornish & Edgar Wright, enter Peyton Reed & Adam McKay) it looked as though it could be this summer’s big budget atrocity[1] but amidst that clash of creative ideals, that fusion of British idiosyncrasy and American high-concept came something very different… and yet the same.  Let me explain.

What Ant-Man does extremely well is play on the understanding of genre expectations, simultaneously delivering and subverting “the norm”.  The potential future of civilization is at stake.  In that respect it is no different to Avengers: Age of Ultron[2] [review here] but rather than have its final act played out in a city elevated above the clouds, it is played out on the small scale.  The mini adventure, the personal crisis (ie. the life of his daughter).  Throughout Ant-Man, it is the little picture that is emphasized which is refreshing as we, as individuals, respond better to the “how does this affect me?” query.  Add the comedic timing of Paul Rudd and the straight-man qualities of Evangeline Lilly (as Hope Van Dyne) and what you have is a chemistry that’s as much Lethal Weapon as it is Batman and Robin (the principle, not the terrible, terrible “film”).  Visually the film is a real feast.  The shrunken action sequences are incredibly well choreographed, and perfectly framed.  Remember the criticism leveled towards Christopher Nolan for his fight scenes in BatmanBegins?  Imagine that lack of clarity with a central character less than two centimeters tall and you begin to have an understanding of how masterful Peyton Reed’s visual actually is.
They see me rollin', they hatin'...
Paul Rudd is great as the larger than life every-man hero… I did it again… sorry.  There’s a humanity to his performance that fleshes out the illogical that lives within every superhero narrative.  He’s a quick-thinking, quick-witted working class hero in need of a break.  Michael Douglas gives a commanding performance as Hank Pym, the first Ant-Man, not only is a wonderful job done in his 1989 flashback scene but he looks every inch the leading man after his bout with cancer and I seriously hope that any sequel not only has room for further exploration of his character, his relationship with his daughter, and the narrative about his wife… ok and maybe a little jaunt back out in the suit for good measure.

Evangeline Lilly does a lot of the heavy lifting in this movie.  She’s the connection between Darren (Stoll) and her father (Hank).  She’s the connection between Hank and his past, which he is still reeling from but she is also the connection between Hank and Scott.  A lot of this movie, when you consider it, plays out through her point of view and though I like the fact that Marvel are pacing themselves with her evolution into Wasp I do think there was room in the film for her to costume-up and self actualize.  Is it another example of Marvel’s anti-female hero position?  Let’s not go there, it’s well covered already and readers of our Avengers and Age of Ultron reviews already know our position on that.

With references to the Avengers, the presence of Falcon and even awareness of the events involving the grinning gas can, Ultron himself, Ant-Man feels like the most universally inclusive Marvel film to date but it is not without its problems.  A recent blog post by serial killer George R. R. Martin hit the nail squarely on the head with regards to the biggest problem with our tiny friend… we’ve seen it all before.
The safety word is "banana"!
Ant-Man’s nemesis in this first foyer, Yellow Jacket, matches his ability, echoes his desire and goes toe-to-toe with him.  It’s very reminiscent of the Iron Man movies, it has more than a hint of The Incredible Hulk (swapping out the Bronx for a little girl’s bedroom), and to be honest feels like a movie that belongs to a previous decade of the cinematic evolution of superheroes.  Will it get a sequel?  Yeah, most definitely and it deserves one too but it does pose a question.  How is it Ant-Man succeeds following the same formula that Hulk follows and fails?  You really can’t point to the special effects budget anymore as it takes just as much money to shrink a guy down to run between the shoelaces of a house party as it does to have him rage up, turn green and pummel a tank.  When you consider it took four screenwriters to deliver the finished Ant-Man script, only for it to be very far from groundbreaking could the big revelation be that Marvel just don’t know what to do with Dr. Banner?  Don't want to share the wealth with Universal?  Are we getting close? Perhaps one of these explains their lack of belief in the Black Widow?  Though it doesn’t explain how Thor has a third movie scheduled to deliver more of the same.

It’s rare that a comic book franchise will introduce a hero and not go with his/her first-gen identity.  It’s jumping straight into Batman Beyond or the first big screen Spider-Man being Miles Morales and though I can understand what Marvel needed to do in order to have Ant-Man available for Civil War it’s a shame that we weren’t treated to a Hank Pym Ant-Man against a Cold War backdrop… or at least more of Hank Pym before the helmet was handed over.  A period Ant-Man could have been the movie that Captain America: The First Avenger was trying to be.
How'd you get the mustard out?
Ant-Man sings the same song as Iron Man (1&2), The Incredible Hulk and even Thor, though it does it in a different way with arguably a much more enjoyable rhythm.  Only time will tell whether Lang will have a cinematic future or guest starring along Bruce Banner in collective outings.

[1] Have we forgotten about The Fantastic Four already?
[2] Only not as tired.


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