Marvel’s cinematic universe gets smaller in the latest release, as we are formally introduced to the Ant-Man – both versions. Many have questioned why Ant-Man was the latest superhero to grace our big screens, and after seeing Ant-Man I think that question was justified. Mild spoilers to follow.
Now, Ant-Man isn’t a bad movie – in fact it’s probably one of Marvel’s best movies for a long time. But that’s the problem – Marvel. Their films are largely all the same.
We’re introduced to an ordinary guy. The ordinary guy develops superhuman powers (through radiation, spider bites, a suit). One of the guy’s friends steals this ability and mimics it for themselves. Ordinary guy must save the city from the bad guy. Ordinary guy succeeds, and is indoctrinated into the Avengers.
That is the basic plot of Ant-Man. Unfortunately, it’s also the basic plot of Iron Man, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. In a story as old as time, we’ve seen it countless times before.
And even those movies that don’t serve as an origin story (The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier), the basic premise is still the same. Good guy must beat bad guy. And quite frankly it’s getting dreary.
Ant-Man is both the same, and quite different. It’s infused with humour (some of which works in spades, and some of which doesn’t) but the plot is rushed and hard to invest in. Paul Rudd’s surprisingly good take on Scott Lang is ensconced upon the notion that the recently-released criminal will do anything to see his daughter Cassie (who is simply adorable). But this is forced down our throats in a few short scenes which doesn’t allow it time to prosper.
This problem recurs. Scott, inevitably, resorts to crime once more in order to see his daughter, and this ultimately results in him becoming the Ant-Man, all of which is orchestrated by the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym. Quite why Pym chooses Scott is still in the air, as is the notion in which he draws him in. It’s not given time to prosper, and there is an assumption that the general viewer is brain-dead enough to just accept what is.
But we’re not all like that.
If you can get over this, you’ll enjoy the rest of Ant-Man. Director Peyton Reed has tried his utmost to create a fresh spin on an origin movie, in that Ant-Man is basically a great heist movie. And this works in its favour, as it infuses a fresh spin on a superhero. Scott Lang isn’t your typical hero, but he becomes one – kind of, anyway.
The supporting cast is generally up and down. Evangeline Lilly works well as Hope van Dyne, when she isn’t flirting with Scott. What’s wrong with not having a love interest? There is a sense that there is so much more to come from this character – particularly when glimpsed in the mid-credit sequence – so we’ll reserve judgement on her for now.
But villain Darren Cross isn’t given much time to develop – in particular when he dons the Yellowjacket suit. He is your typical villain after money and power and, as Game of Thrones scribe George R. R. Martin recently described him, he is a big yawn. He most definitely isn’t the new Loki.
Judy Greer, as Scott’s ex-wife, isn’t given much screen time at all, unfortunately. But Michael Douglas as the original Ant-Man is simply brilliant. Douglas is, naturally, exceptional in this role, and I really hope that in future movies he is given his time to shine as a superhero. But it’s Michael Peña who’ll be remembered most as Luis. He is a breath of fresh air, and induces many laughs from the audience.
Like I said previously, humour plays a big part of this movie, and some sequences excel. In one particular scene we see a shrunken down Ant-Man battling a shrunken Yellowjacket in a suit case accidentally triggering Siri and playing a song by The Cure. Another sees the now infamous Thomas the Tank Engine sequence, in which everything appears grandiose and explosive, but when seen from Cassie’s perspective it’s a simple case of a toy train falling from its tracks.
There’s humour and heart at play here – unfortunately the former vastly outweighs the latter. Ant-Man has been shoehorned into the Avengers in blasé ways – there’s a cameo from one particular Avenger that is particularly forced. There’s a sense that Marvel Studios are trying to force the viewer into accepting Ant-Man by crossing him over with the Avengers sooner rather than later. They have invested money into this movie, and want it to succeed. Stick around for the post-credit sequence to see how he’ll be involved.
So yes, Ant-Man is a middling movie, but it’s certainly not Marvel’s worst. That accolade surely goes to Iron Man? I have a sense that an inevitable sequel will be better – Hank Pym, his daughter, and his lost wife, will make this movie, I feel. From a shaky origin, things are certainly looking better. And bigger.